Social Philosophy and Policy

Research Article

A CONCEPTUAL AND (PRELIMINARY) NORMATIVE EXPLORATION OF WASTE

Andrew Jason Cohena1

a1 Philosophy, Georgia State University

Abstract

In this paper, I first argue that waste is best understood as (a) any process wherein something useful becomes less useful and that produces less benefit than is lost—where benefit and usefulness are understood with reference to the same metric—or (b) the result of such a process. I next argue for the immorality of waste. My concluding suggestions are that (W1) if one person needs something for her preservation and a second person has it, is avoidably wasting it, and refuses to allow the first to make some greater use of it, the second may be morally wrong and that (W2) if one person needs something for her preservation understood according to her metric and a second person has it, is avoidably wasting it according to his own metric, and refuses to allow the first to make some greater use of it, the second is morally wrong.

Footnotes

I am grateful to the Social Philosophy and Policy Center for the impetus to write this essay, the folks at PublicReason.net for much input early on, and the other contributors to this volume for generous comments. Additionally, Andy Altman, Andrew I. Cohen, Bob Fudge, Jim Taggart, Chase Turner, and Matt Zwolinski all read earlier drafts and made very useful suggestions for improvement. Ellen Paul's comments on the penultimate draft helped me to improve the paper significantly. I appreciate all of the input from these and others named throughout.

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