Consider “Consider the Lobster”

a lobster to considerEric shared an essay written by David Foster Wallace in 2004, which covers the Maine Lobster Festival on assignment for Gourmet magazine. He says it’s a very fast read with 20 short pages and the whole thing is definitely worth going over, but if you want to save some time the discussion material won’t start until the lower paragraph of page 242.

Questions for discussion:

  • Do you think Wallace is hesitant to show sympathy toward non-human creatures in his essay? Why or why not? Do you share these feelings?
  • How do you feel that the misinformation on lobster pain reception in the festival’s literature (p. 245) came to be? Do you think it was a misunderstanding driven perhaps by cognitive dissonance, or an active lie?
  • What do you think of the question Wallace raises on the last footnote of p. 247 about meat euphemisms?
  • Do you agree with the two critera (neurological hardware and behavior under pain) given on p. 248 for determining whether a living creature is our moral duty to consider?
  • With all the complications to consider with comparative neurology, do you feel it is fair to draw ethical conclusions based on animal pain reception? If not, on what grounds should we base our decision of whether or not to eat animals?
  • Wallace’s article was only published in Gourmet after a series of heavy edits, including the omission of the last several paragraphs. Why do you think the editor removed these paragraphs? Do you think Wallace’s tone was accusatory, or just curious?
  • It’s important to note that Wallace is a meat-eater. Was he being hypocritical with his ending?

The Reading and Media Group meets every Thursday at 7 p.m. in the second floor lounge of Memorial Union. New readers are always welcome.


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