You are what you eat, the expression goes, but philosophers have, until recently, given little thought to questions related to food, though our eating has ethical implications, certainly. In this session, we are going to take a philosophical look at various approaches to eating and their ethical consequences. Let’s start with a few definitions.
Omnivore. One who consumes plant foods, meat, and dairy.
Locovore. One who consumes whole foods (as opposed to processed foods) produced locally.
Vegetarian. One who consumes plant foods and dairy (milk, eggs, and products made from these) but not meat.
Vegan. One who consumes plant-based foods but no meat and no dairy.
There are many other possibilities, of course. There are raw foodists, who eat only food that has been prepared without cooking. There are fruitarians, or frugivores, who live only on fruit. There are pescetarians, who eat plant foods, dairy, and fish but not other meat. There are people who live on low-carbohydrate diets, ones who live on so-called “paleolithic” diets consisting of foods that they believed to have been eating by our hunter/gatherer ancestors, people who eat only plant foods that can be harvested without killing the plant, and so on. All these will be open to discussion, though we’ll try to focus on the major groups listed above.
We shall discuss the ethical implications of these various food choices, which include matters related both to
A. direct benefits and harm to ourselves and to other creatures and
B. indirect benefits and harm to ourselves and to other creatures via effects on the environment.
A little task in preparation for our discussion at the next Meetup:
Most Imaginative "Invent an Extraterrestrial" Contest
I've long been a fan of corny classic science fiction: the 1950s and '60s stuff like The Incredible Shrinking Man and The Attack of the 50-foot Woman, the original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Forbin Project, and so on
It's amusing to look at the alien extraterrestrials envisioned by those early sci-fi filmmakers. They have arms and legs and heads and speak English and sometimes even sport bouffant hairdos and hotpants. And they have telephones inside the cockpits of their flying saucers--the kind your grandmother used to have, with the rotary dial and the attached handset.
Similarly when L. Ron Hubbard (who wrote bad sci-fi space operas before he went into the religion biz), invented his Scientology story about Xenu the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy, he had the dictator dropping H-bombs out of DC-8-like airliners.
In other words, many of those sci-fi auteurs suffered from serious failures of imagination. They couldn't think far beyond their own noses.
For this task, I want you to come up with a description of a sentience that is TRULY alien--obviously highly evolved but RADICALLY different from humans. This is an exercise in stretching your imagination--in trying to envision the generally unenvisionable, to imagine the unimaginable.
What sort of alien would be so truly alien that on encountering this being (singular?), humans would at first (and perhaps for a very long time or forever) have no notion what they were dealing with--that is, that they were dealing with a highly evolved entity?
Put on your sci-fi hat for this one, folks, and at the Meetup, after we've heard everyone's cool ideas, I'll explain what the hell this assignment has to do with our topic, though you will have probably figured that out beforehand. Try to limit your description to a hundred words or less so that we can have time to hear from several of the budding Douglas Adams's among us.
Warm regards to all,
And may the Muse have her way with you!
P.S. Years ago, I write a grammar and composition textbook series for a state textbook adoption in Texas. The adoption committee asked the publisher to ask me to take all variants of the word imagination of the text, because it is evidently commonly believed by many in Texas that imagination is a code word for some kind of nefariousness because it has the word magi, or sorcerer, as its root.
Heaven forbid that kids actually use their imaginations!
I'm not making that up. Really happened. Bizarre bunch of Homo ignorans. . . .