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(2013) The ethics of consumption, Wageningen, Wageningen Academic Publishers.

Shaping the context and content of food choices

K. Grill

pp. 166-171

Food choices have great impact on our health and on our planet. However, while comprehensive regulation is in place to avoid direct poisoning of either ourselves or our environment, we have done little to combat more indirect and long-term harms. I propose that one good reason for our passivity in this regard is that reasonable people differ in their preferences for both environmental preservation and good health, as weighed against the taste and the symbolic value of food. From a liberal perspective, respect for reasonable preference for unhealthy and eco-destructive food provides a strong reason against frustrating those preferences by prohibition or other heavy-handed regulation. However, if preferences are our concern we must note how choices depart from preferences and we must distinguish between preferences for different sorts of things. Because of cognitive limitations and biases, our preferences are not always satisfied by our choices. Furthermore, preferences are typically in internal conflict. Preferences over foods should be distinguished from preferences over choice contexts and over choice contents in the form of available alternatives. Design of choice contexts, as well as the context of preference formation, does not necessarily frustrate our food preferences, but may rather influence what food preferences we have. People may reasonably prefer that both choice contexts and choice contents be conducive to choices that satisfy their long-term preferences for health and environmental preservation.

Publication details

DOI: 10.3920/978-90-8686-784-4_26

Full citation:

Grill, K. (2013)., Shaping the context and content of food choices, in H. Röcklinsberg & P. Sandin (eds.), The ethics of consumption, Wageningen, Wageningen Academic Publishers, pp. 166-171.

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