178 pages, no illustrations
Over the past ten years, increasing philosophical attention has been paid to the food industry and the varieties of eating in twenty-first century society. With that increased attention, vegetarianism and veganism have experienced rapid adoption. In addition to the health oriented rationales for these eating lifestyles, there is also a strong philosophical dimension to the phenomenon of increased vegetarianism. A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism offers up a profound critique of the non-omnivore's view of the world and the place of the human within it.
Andrew F. Smith, himself a longtime vegetarian, asserts that the conceptual framework that philosophers – and most people – draw on to defend vegetarianism does not hold up to significant scrutiny. Drawing on the research in plant science, systems ecology, environmental philosophy, and cultural anthropology, he concludes that the purported distinctions between omnivores and vegetarianism are arbitrary. According to Smith, these distinctions are representative of a benighted view of humankind as somehow outside the web of life. He outlines the implications that these manufactured distinctions have for how we view food and ourselves as eaters. If our species is to survive and thrive, Smith asserts, we must adopt a new worldview that does not rely on such arbitrary and hollow divisions.
"Smith offers a powerful and careful argument that contests moral, philosophical, and cultural arguments for vegetarianism and veganism. This is a beautifully readable work. The author's openness to his own struggles and his reflexivity about the processes by which he has reached his conclusions make it easy to follow along. At the same time Smith requires readers to reflect and work hard. Wonderful! Why isn't more academia like this?"
– Graham Harvey, The Open University, UK
"Andrew F. Smith proceeds with well-grounded premises that defy the binary between the animal and plant worlds. I highly recommend this book for its thoughtful investigation of the 'closed-loop' system of life."
– Naomi Zack, University of Oregon, USA
"This is one of the most important books I've read in the past two decades. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, or neither, it will change your mind in significant ways (it did mine). And you'll enjoy the process, even if it means relinquishing some assumptions you once considered far too self-evident to be questioned."
– Daniel Quinn, author of Ishmael
1. Unsettling Questions
2. Plant Sentience
4. The Closed Loop
5. Two Objections, One Accommodation
6. Loose Ends Bibliography
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Andrew F. Smith is an assistant professor of English and philosophy at Drexel University, USA. His current research is in environmental philosophy and social and political philosophy. His first book is The Deliberative Impulse: Motivating Discourse in Divided Societies (2011), and he has published broadly on rationality, religion in the public sphere, biblical literalism, homelessness, and food deserts.