"Philosophy as Therapy for Recovering (Unrestrained) Omnivores"

In Andrew Chignell, Terence Cuneo, and Matthew C. Halteman, eds., Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments about the Ethics of Eating, New York: Routledge, 2016. (2016)
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Abstract
Recourse to a variety of well-constructed arguments is undoubtedly a significant strategic asset for cultivating more ethical eating habits and convincing others to follow suit. Nevertheless, common obstacles often prevent even the best arguments from getting traction in our lives.  For one thing, many of us enter the discussion hampered by firmly-entrenched but largely uninvestigated assumptions about food that make it difficult to imagine how even well-supported arguments that challenge our familiar frames of culinary reference could actually apply to us. When an argument contests our cherished food ways, we are inclined almost reflexively to dodge, downplay, or dismiss it, and all the more anxiously if we suspect it’s a good one. Moreover, even when we find such arguments convincing and resolve to change, we often discover to our chagrin that, when the buffet is open, we lack the will to act on our convictions. Whether the obstacle is a lack of imagination or a failure of will, the way to concrete moral progress is blocked.           Our aim here is to consider how other modes of philosophical inquiry can help us to overcome these two obstacles that arise at the margins of philosophy’s argumentative contributions to food ethics.  In part I, we diagnose these obstacles as common moral malaises—we call them the malaise of imagination and the malaise of will—that create existential unease for moral agents that can curtail their ability to eat in accordance with what they learn from philosophical arguments. We then propose that other modes of philosophical inquiry can serve as therapy for these malaises. In part II, we argue that philosophical hermeneutics (exemplified by Hans-Georg Gadamer) can treat the malaise of imagination by helping us to excavate and revise hidden prejudices that interfere with our ability authentically to engage arguments that challenge entrenched assumptions about food.  In part III, we argue that philosophy as care of the self (exemplified by Pierre Hadot) can treat the malaise of will by helping us to identify habits of thought and action that hamper concrete progress toward new dietary ideals and to replace them, through repetitive exercises, with transformed habits. In a brief conclusion, we identify some benefits of this approach.
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