Practical Philosophy Seminar: Sebastian Watzl
"Meditation and the Ethics of Distraction"
Sebastian Watzl is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Oslo.
Meditation and Mindfulness practices are advertised and implemented on a large scale (estimated to be worth more than 1 Billion USD in the US alone). Those practices are promoted as tool to help us cope with practical problems that are the result of our age of distraction: from reducing stress, and anxiety, to increasing compassion, and dealing substance abuse or weight gain. I argue that this focus on how to change us (and our children) is misguided. Rather, we should focus on changing them: being distracted is not in itself bad. What is morally problematic is that someone else is distracting us from what is in fact important for us and gains de facto control over our mind. Our age of distraction is an age of distractors: powerful individuals and companies that engage in mental manipulation and threaten our autonomy. The massive commodification of attention is morally problematic, and our moral focus should be on how to change and regulate the attention market.