Play, Virtue, and Well-Being: Is Consumerist Play a Bad Habit?

  • Angus BrookEmail author
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 18)


The concept and activity of play has been a recurring theme in ethics and moral philosophy, particularly in the normative theories of natural law and virtue ethics. This paper explores the moral dimensions of consumerist play–forms of play in which objects or means of play are designed to be purchased and consumed–from the perspective of virtue ethics. The paper will test out a hypothesis that consumerist play leads to bad habits of playing and thus hampers or is detrimental to human well-being. As a whole, the chapter intends to provide justification to support the argument that we have genuine grounds for concern that a person whose play is predominately an engagement in consumerist play is likely to fail to grasp the meaning and nature of play and thus fail to appropriately fulfil its function in their attempts at playing. Like a person in the grip of greed, who takes wealth as an end rather than a means, a person in the vice-like grip of consumerist play is likely to take the point of play as a means or object to be consumed rather than to engage in a free exploration of identity, re-creation, and renewal within the context of human well-being.


Virtue Ethic Moral Dimension Human Function Consumerist Culture Human Play 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Annas, J. (2000). Ancient philosophy: A very short introduction. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Aquinas, T. ([c1265–1274] 1948/1981). Summa Theologiae (The Fathers of the English Dominican Province, Trans.). Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press.Google Scholar
  3. Arendt, H. (1998). The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aristotle. (1995a). De Anima. In J. Barnes (Ed.), The complete works of Aristotle, volume I (J. A. Smith, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Aristotle. (1995b). Nicomachean ethics. In J. Barnes (Ed.), The complete works of Aristotle, volume II (W. D. Ross, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Aristotle. (1995c). Politics. In J. Barnes (Ed.), The complete works of Aristotle, volume II (B. Jowett, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bauman, Z. (2007). Consuming Life. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  8. Caillois, R. (2001). Man, play, and games. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cicero. M.T. (1913). On Duties (W. Miller, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cooper, T. (2010). The significance of product longevity. In Longer lasting products: alternatives to the throwaway society. Farnam, NE: Gower Publishing.Google Scholar
  11. Finnis, J. (1980). Natural law and natural rights. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Gadamer, H.-G. (2004). Truth and method. New York: Continuum Books.Google Scholar
  13. Graeber, D. (2011). Consumption. Current Anthropology, 52(4), 489–511.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Grisez, G., Boyle, J., & Finnis, J. (1987). Practical principles, moral truth, and ultimate ends. The American Journal of Jurisprudence, 32, 99–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hill, J. A. (2011). Endangered childhoods: How consumerism is impacting child and youth identity. Media Culture Society, 33(3), 347–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Huizinga, J. (1980). Homo Ludens: A study in the play-element in culture. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  17. Hursthouse, R. (2013). Virtue ethics. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, 2013 fall edition. Accessed 31 July 2015.
  18. MacIntyre, A. (2009). Dependent rational animals: Why human beings need the virtues. London: Duckworth Publishers.Google Scholar
  19. Marx, K. (1975). Excerpts from James Mill’s elements of political economy. In Early writings. Hammondsworth, UK: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  20. Marx, K. (1976). Capital (Vol. 1). Hammondsworth, UK: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  21. Parry, R. (2009). Ancient ethical theory. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (archives). Accessed 31 Jul 2015.
  22. Patterson, T. C. (2009). Karl Marx, anthropologist. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers.Google Scholar
  23. Ramsay, H. (2005). Reclaiming leisure: Art, sport, and philosophy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rojek, C. (2004). The consumerist syndrome in contemporary society: An interview with Zygmunt Bauman. Journal of Consumer Culture, 4(3), 291–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Royce, R. (2011). Suits, autotelicity, temporal reallocations, game resources and defining “play”. Sport, Ethics and Philosophy, 5(2), 93–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Shim, J. K., & Siegl, J. G. (Eds.). (1995). Consumption goods and services. In Dictionary of economics. Oxford, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. Suits, B. (1977). Words on play. Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, 4(1), 117–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Winnicott, D. W. (1999). Playing and reality. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Philosophy and TheologyThe University of Notre Dame AustraliaSydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations