Emeritus Staff of Philosophy


Prof.dr. Michiel Korthals

Michiel Korthals (1949) studied Philosophy, Sociology and German at the University of Amsterdam and the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg (Germany).

Korthals is interested from early on in communication and democracy, both theoretically and practically. He is convinced that these concepts required more philosophical attention and societal realization. After his dissertation on the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School, showing a democratic deficit, he focused on educational and ethical aspects of these concepts. In linking theories of social and individual development with morality and ethics, and following Piaget and Habermas he studied the concept and practices of learning processes.

At Wageningen University from 1993 onwards, Korthals contributed to the development of a new discipline, food and agricultural philosophy and ethics, by showing that agriculture and food are not only means to survive but also ethical and cultural factors in understanding of and giving meaning to human life and life in general. As a consequence, agricultural and food technologies are seen as incorporating ethical and social and cultural assumptions, which implies that no innovation in that field can do without ethical and cultural assessment and realization proposals. Food Philosophy and Food Ethics are now a common subdiscipline in Philosophy.

Korthals has had many managerial functions, like Director of Social Sciences Department, WUR, and until recently chairman of the Supervisory Board of the FREE (Foundation for the Restoration of European Ecosystems), which is about 1500 Highlanders, Konik horses, Wisents and Rode Geuzen. He is chairman of Wouter Schatborn Foundation for new energy and member of the Board of Hoge Veluwe. In recent years he often performs with readings and poems about food, agriculture and nature.

The last five years, his research focuses on the relationship between global and local water, agriculture and environment, intellectual property, Global Warming, and hunger and malnutrition. In general, his academic interest covers bioethics (in particular food, animals and the environment), deliberative and democratic theories and pragmatism (Dewey).

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