University of Chicago philosophy and law professor Brian Leiter recently conducted a poll on his blog, Leiter Reports, that sought to measure the eating habits of philosophy students and teachers. More than 2,000 votes were cast. Here are some of the findings:

  • Eight percent of respondents were vegans (a rate 10-20 times higher than the population at large);
  • Twenty-five percent were vegetarians (a rate about 8 times higher than the population at large);
  • Sixty-seven percent were carnivores;

Yet, as one could expect given that the survey involves philosophers, things are more complex than they appear. Almost one-quarter of vegetarians, and one half of carnivores, said they had ethical doubts about their eating practices. Leiter suspects that the vegetarians with doubts think they really ought to be vegans. On the other hand, carnivores are likely mulling over the arguments for a vegetarian lifestyle.

Perhaps the most surprising finding was that only five percent of respondents said ethical reasons were central as to why they eat meat. Think about that for a moment: sixty-seven percent of philosophers eat meat, but only five percent claim that their reasons for doing so are very important to them. 

If you’re interested, Leiter has more insight and a discussion going on his blog.