Institute of Philosophy debate offers food for thought

Wednesday 19 February 2014

The relationship between food and philosophy will be explored at an event to be held at the School of Advanced Study (SAS), University of London this week (February 21).

Virtues of the Table: An Evening Discussion on Ethical issues raised by Food Choices is organised by the Institute of Philosophy (IP) and brings together Julian Baggini, a leading philosopher, writer and ‘conscientious omnivore’, Ben Reade, research chef and head of Copenhagen’s Nordic Food Lab (NFL), and Naomi Sykes, an archaeologist and husbandry expert.

The two-hour debate will focus on the dilemmas and contradictions of the food world, including sourcing, stewardship and sustainability in food production. It coincides with the launch of Julian Baggini’s latest publication, The Virtues of the Table: How to Eat and Think, in which he picks apart the assumptions we make about the food in front of us and challenges orthodoxies such as ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ labels which are designed to make us think a product is traditional.

Ben Reade is a leading advocate of extending food choices, and his exploration of ancient Nordic grains, berries, indigenous microbes, insects and seaweeds has helped put the Copenhagen food scene on the map. Nordic Food Lab was founded by Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyers, the founders of restaurant Noma. He has helped spearhead a new style of international cuisine – the next step in the research based experimental cuisine practiced by UK chefs such as Heston Blumenthal – and is hopeful his experiments will not only contribute to the creation of new dishes and flavours, but could help solve bigger problems like feeding the rapidly growing global population.

The line-up of speakers is completed by Dr Naomi Sykes, an expert in the history of deer. Through her work with Nottingham University’s Fair Game initiative, she promotes responsible deer management and the virtues of wild venison as a ‘locally sourced, seasonal, healthy and ethical food’. This event, which provides an opportunity for a full debate on the ethics of food choices, concludes with a reception where Julian Baggini’s will be signing copies of his book.

Dr Ophelia Deroy, associate director of IP and senior researcher at the Institute’s Centre for the Study of the Senses says: ‘Moral philosophers are used to asking, What is the good life? But it is timely to ask further what makes food good – even before it reaches our plates – and what makes a good consumer. The Institute of Philosophy is delighted to host this event which will focus on ethical consumption, sustainable agriculture and our relationship to fellow animals.’

Virtues of the Table: An Evening Discussion on Ethical issues raised by Food Choices, is on Friday 21 February, 18.00–20.00 in Room G22/26, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. For further information and to attend, please RSVP to with ‘21 Feb acceptance’ in the subject header.

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Notes for editors:

1. For further information and to request an interview please contact Dee Burn at the School of Advanced Study at or +44 (0)20 7862 8670. Images available on request.

2. The Institute of Philosophy was founded in 2005, building upon and developing the work of the Philosophy Programme from 1995–2005. The Institute’s mission is to promote and support philosophy of the highest quality in all its forms, both inside and outside the University, and across the UK. Its activities divide into three kinds: events, fellowships and research facilitation. The Institute of Philosophy is a member institute of the School of Advanced Study, University of London.

3. The Centre for the Study of the Senses (Censes) at the Institute of Philosophy has an international Scientific Board comprising philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists. The aim of the centre is to foster interdisciplinary research on the senses by identifying research groupings to pursue specialised topics of benefit to the participating disciplines. Censes is leading a major research project, Rethinking the Senses, funded under the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Science in Culture theme.

4. The School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London is the UK’s national centre for the promotion and facilitation of research in the humanities. The School brings together 10 prestigious research institutes to offer unparalleled academic opportunities, facilities and stimulation across a wide range of subject areas for the benefit of the national and international scholarly community. The member institutes of the School are the Institutes of Advanced Legal Studies, Classical Studies, Commonwealth Studies, English Studies, Historical Research, Latin American Studies, Modern Languages Research, Musical Research, Philosophy, and the Warburg Institute. The School also hosts a cross-disciplinary centre, the Human Rights Consortium, dedicated to the facilitation, promotion and dissemination of academic and policy work on human rights.