Foucault and the Ethics of Eating


  • Chloë Taylor University of Alberta



In a 1983 interview, Michel Foucault contrasts our contemporary interest in sexual identity with the ancient Greek preoccupation with diet, arguing that sex has replaced food as the privileged medium of self-constitution in the modern West. In the same interview, Foucault argues that modern liberation movements should return to the ancient model of ethics, of which diet was a prime example, as aesthetics or self-transformative practice. In this paper I take up Foucault's argument with respect to the Animal Liberation Movement and the dietetics of ethical vegetarianism. Contra Foucault, I suggest that diet has not been replaced by sexuality in the modern West, and that food choices, along with and intertwined with sexuality, continue to function as practices of self-constitution in both disciplinary and aesthetic fashions. I then consider the implications of this argument for the Animal Liberation Movement, exploring ways in which it might (and to some degree already does) take on aesthetic rather than moral strategies in order to pursue what Foucault once described as “an ethics of acts and their pleasures which would be able to take into account the pleasure of the other.”

Author Biography

Chloë Taylor, University of Alberta

Chloë Taylor is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta. She works in the areas of social and political philosophy, feminist philosophy, philosophy of sex and gender, animal ethics, and philosophy in art and literature. She is the author of The Culture of Confession from Augustine to Foucault: A Genealogy of the ‘Confessing Animal’ (Routledge 2008) and is currently working on a book on sex crimes from a Foucauldian perspective as well as a project on Foucault and food.




How to Cite

Taylor, C. (2010). Foucault and the Ethics of Eating. Foucault Studies, (9), 71–88.