The Philosophy of Food. Recipes Between Arts and Algorithms


Deadline for submission 30 April 2020

Recipes are the bedrock of culinary cultures. Through recipes the knowledge of how to cook safe, nutritious and tasty dishes spreads across generations, cultures, and regions. We talk about food in terms of recipes, and we cook based on recipes of our own inventions or modifications of them. In short, food and eating as we know them are dependent on the existence of recipes.

Nowadays cookbooks form a major sector of the publishing industry. TV shows and media treat recipes in a manner more and more akin to items of popular culture like songs and movies. Recipes are also becoming recognized as meriting legal and cultural protection: recipes associated with so-called geographical indications (e.g. gorgonzola and Parmigiano cheese) are protected by intellectual property rights, and UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list now contains recipes.

Furthermore, food issues are not only increasing in popularity; in a very urgent sense, they are also at the forefront of important global health and environmental problems. A theory of recipes helps policy makers, thinkers and educators to be better conversant in these problems. For instance, dieting is best characterized in terms of ingredients and recipes, so that addressing obesity as well as eating disorders requires a better understanding of recipes. Or, to offer another example, the biodiversity found within foods consumed by humans was preserved and fostered also thanks to recipes; a theory of recipes would help us reconstruct an important chapter of human evolution and also to evaluate the biodiversity within current human diets.      

The increasing importance of recipes in our societies is not matched by a philosophical study of them. Indeed, there are important contributions from anthropology, sociology, gender studies, and food studies to the nature of recipes and their social implications (e.g., The Recipes Reader. Narratives, Contexts, Traditions, edited by Janet Floyd and Laurel Forster, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln: 2010). To be needed, however is a theoretical framework through which adequately express questions and positions that drive the public debates concerning recipes.

            Part of such task of developing philosophical framework for recipes has been taken up (e.g., Borghini, A., 2015, What is a Recipe?, Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Ethics, 28, pp. 719-738, Heldke, L., 1988, Recipes for Theory Making, Hypatia, 3 (2), pp. 15-29). Nevertheless, there are still major gaps in the philosophical research on the topic. Particularly instructive for our understanding of recipes is to debate how recipe-making compares to forms of major and minor arts as well as to algorithmic sets of instructions employed in technical fields such as engineering, medicine, or biochemistry. Thus, in particular, this special issue aims to study the relations between recipes and other forms of human activities. Topics to be addressed in the special issue include:


-  Recipes in the kitchen and recipes for biochemistry/medicine

-  Recipes and algorithms in mathematics

-  Recipes and architecture drawing/urban planning

-  Recipes and sets of instructions in engineering

-  Recipes and musical works

-  Recipes and dance

-  Recipes and art installations

-  Recipes and crafts


Manuscripts can be submitted following the hyperlink “Make a Submission” at the journal website

Deadline for submission 30 April 2020