College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Full Title of Thesis or Dissertation

Autotrophy of the Other: On Food and Hospitality

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree



food, agriculture, hospitality, Plant Studies, ethics


The book is, as the title suggests, about food and hospitality, and the way that plants make both of them possible. It argues that the history of western philosophy -- from its conceptions of the soul, of politics, of the home, etc. -- has worked to veil and occlude the existence of plants, and through this also the importance of both food and the domestic space. The title refers to the way that all autonomy is, at best, an illusion which is subtended by the existence of other, a fact which is disclosed most clearly when we look at how our basic life functions (eating and dwelling) require a close and often uncomfortable relationship to beings which appear to be radically different than ourselves. It's my doctoral dissertation, but it was written to be relatively accessible to anyone that cooks, grows, or eats food. It's a book that's interested in the meaning of " good food," and traces the meaning of "goodness" through the work of cooks, farmers, and hosts, those individuals that facilitate our nourishment. It's also a love letter to plants, and looks at the way that the western philosophical tradition has marginalized both the work of nourishment and hospitality (both in its marginalization of the work of cooks, farmers, hosts, migrant workers, women, and others) and those beings (plants) which ultimately make nourishment and dwelling possible on earth in the first place through photosynthesis, a bringing together of the elements in the production of the flesh of the world. It tries to take seriously the ethical problem opened up by the fact that our lives are constructed out of the death of others, the extinguishing of the life of another earthling. Rather than arbitrarily setting a line between plants and animals in the manner of veganism, the book considers how it is possible to extend ethical consideration to the plants we eat, as a means of beginning to think an ethics of eating as such.

Available for download on Friday, July 09, 2032