When we know plastic is bad for the environment why do we still use it? Penelope, Age 8

Philosopher's reply

Dear Penelope,

Thank you for your excellent question. Iris would like it. Why do humans do things they know are bad? Partly because most bad things have some good, too. If plastic was completely bad, people would stop using it. But it does some good, also. Still, let’s agree that there are alternatives that could do the good without the bad. Then, why not change?

People often don’t pay attention to how something matters. They know plastic is bad, but they are used to using it, so they don’t think about how bad it is. But as Iris once wrote “where virtue is concerned we often … grow by looking.” That is, to improve things, you have to make the effort to focus on it, over and over, until you develop the real desire to change. When it comes to plastic, that really means urging people, corporations, and governments to pay attention!

Philosophically yours, Gary Krenz

Philosopher's profile

Gary Krenz

University of Michigan, USA

I first encountered Iris Murdoch’s work well into my career. It was a profound encounter. Here was, in many ways, “my” philosophy, but with more clarity and style. Her appreciation of the messiness of moral reality, of moral life as responsibility and responsivity to others, her emphasis on consciousness and attention not as transcendental structures but as the very real and flawed activity of very real and specific human beings — from all of this I drew and draw new and renewed inspiration.

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