DfCC — Week 4 Reflection
Over the last few years, I’ve become quite interested in the Stoic philosophers. Especially under quarantine, I’ve found their guidance for approaching the daily challenges of life as a human being to be both grounding and invaluable.
So I was excited to dig a little further back into the philosophical timeline when presented with readings about Aristotle’s thoughts on akrasia.
One of the things I love most about philosophy is reading a concept that rings true several millennia past its writing. Aristotle’s notion of akrasia is just such a topic, and I think it is directly relevant when designing with climate change in mind.
It is easy to find examples of both varieties of akrasia within the climate change realm. Examining astheneia, or weakness, may help us understand why well-intentioned consumers (who Tonkinwise might deride as “Global Consumers”) aren’t all rushing out in their EVs to shop for a vegan dinner at the farmer’s market. And by examining propeteia, or impetuosity, perhaps we can understand consumers’ voracious appetite for ever-more stuff.
If akrasia and propetia each come in varieties of “pleasure” and “anger”, I think designers for climate change ought to be primarily concerned with the “pleasure”.
Although we can logically conclude that restraint, conservation, and other forms of delayed gratification are critical to humanity’s survival, it seems that the pleasureful akrasia is often successful at derailing our progress. For instance, we recognize that emissions from animal agriculture are an enormous contributor to climate disruption, and yet many (and many more to come) still desire and indulge in a cheeseburger or two. Still others don’t even think twice about the broader implications, and make the cheeseburger a staple of their diet.
But designers are equipped with many skills that can bring more minds to see beyond the pleasure and through to the bigger picture.
Perhaps by closing that gap, designers can help well-intentioned people to the enkratic.