cod. 1010016

Academic year 2023/24
1° year of course - Second semester
- Roberto Giorgio MAIER
Academic discipline
Indefinito/interdisciplinare (NN)
"altre conoscenze utili per l'inserimento nel mondo del lavoro"
Type of training activity
24 hours
of face-to-face activities
3 credits
hub: PARMA
course unit

Learning objectives

Knowledge and understanding
The students, at the end of the course, will be aware of the complexity of the nature-culture system and will be able to avoid short-sight simplifications. Through the encounter with some philosophical models, they will be able to recognize the anthropological implication of the agri-food system.
Applying knowledge and understanding
The students will be able to understand how specific issues in food production and consumption affect human identity and behaviour. They will understand the importance of the Triple Base Line (people-planet-profit) in sustainability. They will be aware of the importance of transdisciplinarity, which means recognizing the pertinence of external competences and the ability to communicate with them.
Making judgements
The students will not be given a unique point of view on ethics: each student will be invited to use his personal ability to judge. However, they will be asked to listen also the anthropological issues which emerge in ‘odd’ proposals in the agri-food production. At the end of the course, the students will have at their disposal some basic tools to face bioethical issues and to participate to the bioethical debate.
Communication skills
The students will discover how any communication happens in a complex system made of cultural and ideal premises, sometimes hidden in the language itself. They will therefore learn to recognize the linguistic obstacles which provoke incommunicability and they will be invited to prepare a hospitable dialogue towards other’s instances.
Learning skills
At the end of the course, any student will be able to continue autonomously the investigation, moving from the provided bibliography or from bibliographic paths that he will be able to start.


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Course unit content

The course aims at establishing the foundations for environmental ethics, moving from a wide philosophical and anthropological perspective. In the beginning of the Ecological Movement, the accusation towards anthropocentrism highlights how the nexus man-earth (culture-nature) is a key point. This node has been expressed in different ways through ages: from the ancient cosmologies to the modern de-sacralization of nature, up to a reborn interest in contemporary philosophy, particularly in phenomenology.
On the other side, a new scenario appears with the ‘technocratic paradigm’ of post-modernity; many issues were unknown to traditional ethics. The course will thematize the nexus nature-culture, focusing in the agri-food system (anthropological side, production, distribution).
A peculiar attention will be devoted to the tension among different productive models (conventional, organic, biodynamic agriculture), providing both a yardstick and the syntax for a possible dialogue, in which both the scientific rigour and the concern for anthropological issues do not lack.
Finally, some hours will be dedicated to the study of the anthropological meaning of nutrition, in the tension between need and sense, competition and sharing, individual and society. Food taboos and animal rights will also be presented.

Full programme

Introduction to anthropology: anthropology as fundament and reliability of experience in front of the present systemic crisis. The end of the Cartesian dream: Sciene and Technology Studies (STS), Post Normal Science (PNS).
The nexus nature-culture in history: ancient cosmologies and the sacred in nature; the idea of nature in the 12th Century. The modern paradigm: Descartes’ subjectivity and the absoluteness of truth. The unrelated subjectivity and the insignificance of experience.
The fall of modernity and of naturalisms (impressionism, dodecaphony, quantic physics). Phenomenology as a philosophical method. The return to experience.
The paradigm of sustainability - Planet: Ecology as a science and ecology as an issue.
From habitat to ecosystem, the Darwin paradigm. A crumbling world.
Deep and Shallow ecology in the US (Arne Naess): ecosophy, animal rights, transformative value of nature.
The European criticism to consumerism and to the technical system (Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich). The weakening of individual freedom and the fight for rights.
Contemporary framework: the paradigm of sustainability (Agenda 2030) and the integral ecology (Laudato si’).
The paradigm of sustainability – People: implicit models of society: the republic of the wisemen, the Leviathan, Utopia. Embodiments in the Agri-food System. Overcoming bad models through an analysis of human experience (enjoyment-limit-labour)
The paradigm of sustainability - Profit: The sense and the nature of money, its functions, the relationship between business and reality. Examples in the Agri-Food System: back to reality
Nutrition is not dining. «Man is what he eats» (L. Feuerbach) and «any man makes the absolute by eating» (J. P. Sartre): nutrition and convivium. Phenomenology of human banquet. Justice, gift, wisdom. Food movies. Food waste and human feast: beyond the opposition. Food taboos and their origin.
Case studies. GMO - food waste – Citizen science.


UN, “Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development” (2015);
Papa Francesco “Laudato si’” (Rome 2015);
M. Tallacchini, “Etiche della terra. Antologia di filosofia dell’ambiente”, Vita & Pensiero (Milano 1998);
A. Naess, “The Bases of the Deep Ecology Movement”, in "Ecology of Wisdom”, Counterpoint Press, (Berkley 2008);
B. Norton, “Why Preserve Natural Variety?”, Princeton University Press, (Princeton 2014);
J. Derrida, “The Animal That Therefore I Am”, Fordham University Press (New York 2008);
M. Merleau-Ponty, “Nature. Course Notes from the College de France”, Northwestern University Press (Evanston 2003);
R. Zoboli - F. Botturi, “Through the Convivium. Food and Nutrition Between Needs and Cultures”, Vita & Pensiero (Milano 2015);
R. Maier, “The Game of Sophia. Economy, Ecology and Human Dwelling”, Educatt (Milano 2015).

Students will receive the Lecturer’s notes.

Teaching methods

The course consists mainly in frontal lectures, with power-point projections; for a wider understanding of the history of culture, some artworks will be analyzed; open discussions on case studies and short group works will be also proposed

Assessment methods and criteria

There will be a final exam (approved/not approved)

Other information

Attending the lectures is mandatory