Philosophy of Food

Philosophy of Food

Course dates:
4 August, 2020 to 20 August, 2020
990 €
Social Sciences
Application deadline:
Monday, 15 June, 2020
University of Helsinki
Helsinki, Finland

This course examines food from a multidisciplinary perspective, making use of anthropology, biology, ecology, sociology, psychology, economics, and philosophy. Students of these fields – advanced Bachelor’s level or at the Master’s level – are warmly invited to take this course. It is recommended for students in their 3rd year or beyond.

This course examines philosophical and ethical aspects of human interactions with the natural world, especially regarding the sustainable production of food. With a rapidly growing population and consumption, humans affect the environment in ever-more detrimental ways. Roughly half of the Earth’s habitable land is dedicated to food, and about three-quarters of this for livestock. Food production is set within a larger context of environmental ethics: how do we value nature? We will examine such concepts as intrinsic value, species protection, and wilderness. Ultimately we must ask: How can humanity attain ‘strong sustainability’, which allows both ourselves and nature at large to flourish in the long run?

The course is led by Dr Pasi Heikkurinen (DSc in Econ), Senior Lecturer at the University of Helsinki, and Dr David Skrbina (PhD in Phil), most recently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Michigan, both specialists in sustainability, philosophy and food.

This course introduces students to the new concept of a ‘philosophy of food’, as an aspect of the broader notions of sustainability and environmental ethics. Students will learn basic concepts in philosophical ethics, especially the concepts of intrinsic value, instrumentality, deep ecology, and strong sustainability. Food production will be cast in terms of trade-offs with nature, and with respect to human health and well-being. Notions of sufficiency, luxury, and needs vs wants will be explained, particularly in the context of a modern technological society. Students will develop skills that enable them to analyse food as a philosophical problem and find holistic solutions to the prevailing unsustainability of the food system.

The course consists of lectures, in-class discussions, group work, readings, and a variety of short written assignments. On two or three class days, students will visit local restaurants as a part of their class session.


  • Degree and PhD students: Early Bird 900 EUR (until 28 Feb 2020) / normal fee 990 EUR
  • Professionals: Early Bird 1400 EUR (until 28 Feb 2020) / normal fee 1490 EUR
  • Students of the University of Helsinki and the students doing their exchange at the University of Helsinki before or directly after summer school 1 ECTS=15 EUR
  • Helsinki Summer School and University of Helsinki
  • Alumni receive a 50 EUR discount of the course fee, provided they do not already study at the University of Helsinki.