Is there a Duty to Be a Digital Minimalist?

Journal of Applied Philosophy 38 (4):662-673 (2021)
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The harms associated with wireless mobile devices (e.g. smartphones) are well documented. They have been linked to anxiety, depression, diminished attention span, sleep disturbance, and decreased relationship satisfaction. Perhaps what is most worrying from a moral perspective, however, is the effect these devices can have on our autonomy. In this article, we argue that there is an obligation to foster and safeguard autonomy in ourselves, and we suggest that wireless mobile devices pose a serious threat to our capacity to fulfill this obligation. We defend the existence of an imperfect duty to be a ‘digital minimalist’. That is, we have a moral obligation to be intentional about how and to what extent we use these devices. The empirical findings already justify prudential reasons in favor of digital minimalism, but the moral duty is distinct from and independent of prudential considerations.

Author Profiles

Tim Aylsworth
Florida International University
Clinton Castro
University of Wisconsin, Madison


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