Philosophy Faculty Publications and Presentations

The Promise in Disasters: Reducing Epistemic Deficits of Food Systems for Sustainability

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As Paul Thompson has argued, agriculture, and food systems more generally, can be usefully analyzed with tools from the philosophy of technology. Don Ihde’s framework of multistability of possible relationships with technology suggests Thompson is right when he argues for the possibility of societies reforming their food systems to be more sustainable, participatory, and just through a focus on agrarian ideals. Ihde’s framework also suggests that for those of us who interact with food systems as consumers, these technologies are in a “background relationship” with us, in which the technologies of food systems are ignored if they are functioning properly. This background relationship can thus create epistemic deficits which pose a serious impediment to sustainability reforms. I examine this impediment and the opportunities in the disturbance of a system to reduce communities’ and individuals’ epistemic deficit. One recent example of disturbance to the food system this paper will examine is the COVID-19 pandemic. No one would wish for exogenous disruptions like the pandemic, and positive change coming out of them is not inevitable, but this paper will suggest that it is at least possible that we can emerge from disturbance with the resources to make our food systems better.


© 2023 The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG

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The International Library of Environmental, Agricultural and Food Ethics