Share / Discuss

Ethical Epiphany

Disruption helped him discover himself

With everything Caleb Ward ’07 studied at Swarthmore, from improvisational jazz to political theory, he sought to better understand why moments of disruption matter so much.

In fact, he changed his own life, postgraduation, when he disrupted his nonprofit career path to book a shoestring six-month trip through Asia.

“I returned thinking about moments of encounter in which we make moral decisions, and how those moments can be so uncertain and slippery,” he says. “I realized I wanted to study ethics in moments of encounter—not just overarching questions of responsibility and justice, but also the concrete challenges of responding to another person.”

Today a third-year doctoral student in philosophy at Stony Brook University in New York, Ward researches a variety of ethical concerns, including issues of sexual consent. He’s also become an internationally recognized figure in the growing field of food ethics, co-editing Global Food, Global Justice: Essays on Eating Under Globalization and The Routledge Handbook of Food Ethics, to which he contributed a chapter reframing the ethics of eating as a human organism.

“It’s fascinating—as something humans have in common with all animals, food is this fundamental encounter around which we’ve spun a web,” he says. “We’ve woven food into our lives so thoroughly that it defines cultural, religious, and even gender identities; it’s right in the middle, too, of how we think about health and the relationship between body and mind.” 

As he continues his work—and dissertation—Ward is weighing the possibility of additional research in Germany and India, but he has a goal much closer to home first.

 “I’m new at teaching, so I’m working hard to become as creative as I can,” he says. “Besides, in terms of what I want to do philosophically, the classroom is the perfect place for disruption and moments of unexpected encounter.”