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Le ragioni del vegetarismo. Etica e politica

Anno XXII, n. 98, luglio-settembre 1987
Centro Einaudi


The reasons behing vegetarianism

Ethical vegetarianism – seen as a doctrine the importance of which may be recognisable in a moral conception, in a theory of human nature and a social vision that are strictly correlated – has become the object of growing attention for contemporary philosophy (an example of this is the current debate on the right of non-humans to live). The attempt to reconsider the vegetarian creed on new bases has allowed, on the one hand, the old stereotyped image – that of a moral for 'beautiful souls' in precarious balance between asceticism and eccentricity – to be left behind. On the other hand, it has permitted investigation, in rigorous philosophical terms, into the limits and conditions of its application and identification of its theoretical foundation and moral reasons. In the same way, comparison with another widespread stereotype – the vision of vegetarianism as an unfeasible utopia – has revealed that, at the centre of the current debate, the problem is still open whereby vegetarianism has the chance of passing from utopia to realism, and hence of entering the political dimension. The shift from an ethic of intention to an ethic of responsibility is currently under way, side by side with the transition from a prevalently individualistic to a socialli-oriented viewpoint giving priority to important issues of public philosophy. Without wishing to take anything away from utopia and its function, what we are seeing is an attempt to provide vegetarianism with a political conscience modelled round its ethical conscience. Against this backdrop, it is possible to record growing commitment towards objectives that are both ethically prestigious and politically important – from the problem of world hunger to the protection of the environment.