Vegetarians sometimes get challenged with questions along the lines of “If you think it’s unethical to eat animals, how about plants, maybe they have feelings too?” What are the ethical implications of/for a pea in a bowl of pea soup for example? Just such a question has been considered by Michael Marder, who is Ikerbasque Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz.
“Dialectically speaking, a bowl of pea soup consumed by a human being negates the independent, external existence of peas but, in so doing, it also elevates them, to the extent that they now come to fulfill a higher purpose as a source of energy for rational creatures. Along with the actual vegetal beings (the peas), their entire being is consumed without remainder, in that it gets assigned to a single end, extraneous to the plants themselves. Eating plants becomes an intermediary step toward digesting vegetal ontology, just as the secret goal of consumerism is not to possess this or that object but to consume the world in its totality.”
see: ‘Is It Ethical to Eat Plants’ in the journal Parallax, 19(1), 2013, pp. 29-37 (the special issue bon appétit, on the ‘complexities of the alimentary’)
Professor Marder has made a full copy of the paper available here:
He is currently working on a book entitled ‘The Philosopher’s Plant: An Intellectual Herbarium’ which examines Heidegger’s Apple Tree,
Hegel’s Grapes, Kant’s Tulip, Leibniz’s Blades of Grass, Avicenna’s Celery,
Maimonides’s Palm Tree, St. Augustine’s Pear, Plotinus’ Anonymous ‘Great Plant’, Aristotle’s Wheat, and Plato’s Plane Tree.
Also see: (on Improbable Research)
NOTE: The 2008 Ig Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to The Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH) and the citizens of Switzerland for adopting the legal principle that plants have dignity. [REFERENCE: "The Dignity of Living Beings With Regard to Plants. Moral Consideration of Plants for Their Own Sake"]