Are Healthy Eating Policies Consistent with Public Reason?

Matteo Bonotti, Anne Barnhill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


States are increasingly implementing policies aimed at changing people’s dietary habits, such as fat taxes, food bans, and nudges. In this article, we ask whether healthy eating policies are consistent with public reason, the view that state laws and policies should be justified on the basis of reasons that all citizens can accept at some level of idealisation despite their different conceptions of the good. What we intend to explore is an ‘if. . ., then. . .’ line of thought: if one is committed to public reason, then may one consistently endorse healthy eating policies? First, we illustrate multiple ways in which contemporary societies are characterised by a reasonable pluralism concerning conceptions of health and values attached to eating practices. Second, we critically assess the implications of three main conceptions of the structure of
public reason, i.e. ‘shareability’, ‘intelligibility’ and ‘accessibility’, for the public justifiability of healthy eating policies. We conclude that healthy eating policies are only consistent with public reason under the ‘accessibility’ conception, i.e. if they are based on reasons grounded in shared epistemic and moral evaluative standards, as long as such reasons reflect a reasonable balance of political values and do not overly prioritise or neglect any of these values.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-522
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Applied Philosophy
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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