Sadler Seminar - What to eat? Values and food choice

Image of paperwork and drinks on table.

Daily food choice is shaped by numerous values. This interdisciplinary seminar series seeks to encourage conversations and collaboration between philosophy, psychology and related disciplines.

Series convenors

Aaron Meskin (PRHS, Leeds); Pam Birtill (Psychology, Leeds); Wandi Bruine de Bruin (Centre for Decision Research, Leeds)

Project overview

Daily food choice is shaped by numerous values: aesthetic, ethical, religious, political, cognitive, and so forth.

How do those values interact with one another? What are the psychological mechanisms by which these values play a role in food choice? Why do people find it so difficult to act in accordance with their value commitments regarding food, and what explains deviations from food values? How should we evaluate mismatches between food values and action, and which interventions motivate people to act in accordance with their food values? How can answers to these empirical questions shed light on normative issues about eating?

We propose to focus on this cluster of questions in a year-long Sadler Seminar Series.

There is a significant body of philosophical research that deals with the importance of ethical values to eating. The best-known example of this work is the debate about animal welfare and eating meat that began with Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, but there is also a body of philosophical work on ethical issues concerning the consumption of GMO foods, food safety, and marketing.

In addition there is a long history of work in philosophical theology about gluttony, temperance and food avoidance. Furthermore there is a large body of empirical work within the fields of psychology and marketing on the relationship between values, attitudes, and food choice.

Although philosophical and theological research is increasingly informed by the sciences, and empirical work on values often relies on a philosophical framework, cross-disciplinary collaboration between philosophers and scientists on the topic of values and food is relatively rare.

This interdisciplinary seminar series seeks to encourage conversations and collaborations between philosophy, psychology and related disciplines, and aims to enhance our understanding of the role that values play in food choice.

Read a brief online photo essay on topics related to these themes.


Monday, 16 October between 2-4pm - Values and flavour: does ethically produced food taste better?

Monday, 13 November between 2-4pm - Values and food avoidance

Friday, 8 December between 11am-1pm - Food, Climate Change, Rationing

Monday18 June Between 1-3pm - Gluttony: two medieval perspectives