MWS Podcast 45: Tim Kasser on the role of human identity in meeting environmental challenges

Tim Kasser is Professor of psychology at Knox College in Illinois and author of various books on materialism, values, well being and environmental sustainability including ‘The High Price of Materialism’ and ‘Psychology and consumer culture’. He’s going to talk to us today about a book he co-authored with Tom Crompton entitled ‘Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity’ , how they see this as being often a missing link in environmental campaigning and how this all might relate to the Middle Way.

You can download a free version of the book here

MWS Podcast 45: Tim Kasser as audio only:
Download audio: MWS_Podcast_45_Tim_Kasser

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About Barry Daniel

I live in the Lake District in the UK where I run a guesthouse with my partner Kate and my cat Manuel. I enjoy painting, hillwalking, reading, visiting and entertaining friends, T’ai Chi and playing the guitar. I’m engaged to a certain degree in the local community, as a volunteer with Samaritans and I’m a fairly active member of the local Green party. I’ve had a relatively intuitive sense of the Middle Way most of my adult life but it found a greater articulation and a practical direction through joining the society. It’s also been interesting and great fun engaging with other people with a similar outlook. My main contribution to the society is conducting the podcast interviews, something that gives me a lot of satisfaction and that I’ve learnt a lot from.

One thought on “MWS Podcast 45: Tim Kasser on the role of human identity in meeting environmental challenges

  1. A very interesting podcast. I can have much sympathy for Tim’s approach, though I tend to conceptualise the issues a bit differently. For one thing I am a bit sceptical about a potential over-reliance on the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, but I was glad to hear later on in the podcast Tim give his ‘slice of pie’ analogy, suggesting that he does recognise some of the limitations in the concepts he’s using. I would prefer to talk about extrinsic motivations as relatively unintegrated desires, meanings and beliefs, and intrinsic motivations as relatively integrated ones. In that way one is using an incremental scale to discuss these issues rather than creating a potential polarity, and also seeing extrinsic motivations as actually constructive parts of intrinsic ones rather than being in some way separate from them or opposed to them.

    I realised from this that I do tend to emphasise intrinsic motivations a lot myself, because I see integrated desires, meanings and beliefs as needed temporarily or to some extent in order to develop that integration further. I ‘d agree with Tim that most people do have what I’d describe as more integrated motivations already, mixed in with less integrated ones, so the results of his research in that regard didn’t surprise me. However, I’d also suggest that it’s possible to appeal to extrinsic motivations in ways that emphasise their incompleteness and their need of integration rather than as complete fulfilments. For example, one can appeal to the need for food and a ready supply of food, and then encourage people to think about how that supply of food can be made more sustainable and reliable in the longer-term. Rather than entirely rejecting the strategy of using extrinsic motivations to promote environmental causes I’d suggest it’s more useful to look at whether those initially extrinsic motivations have an element of openness about them that can lead people further towards more adequate recognitions. That would depend on whether extrinsic motivations are being presented in ways that assume metaphysical absolutes of some kind.

    For me this also re-emphasises the point that people need to develop more integrated attitudes in order to care sufficiently about environmental issues. Environmental issues are thus really not separable from the need for the wider practice of the Middle Way.

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