I was having a discussion with a friend about video games, and she said, "Just imagine what we could accomplish if people took the time they invested in video games and invested it in something meaningful!"
Now, setting aside the question of what is meaningful, she makes an interesting point. Obviously, the point applies equally well to television, film, music, and entertainment in general - video games are just one kind of entertainment media among many.
So my question is this: do we have the right to devote some of our time to entertaining ourselves, when we could instead be devoting that time to fighting global warming, AIDS, violence, poverty, depression, cancer, and any other number of ills? How can we justify entertainment for as long as suffering continues to exist?
This is a really important question, but it is also one that too many people think is self-answering--as if it is simply obvious that if we are not feeding the poor or curing the sick (or whatever) we are simply being selfish and immoral. There are a couple of ways to resist this extreme position. (1) Supererogation is what ethicists call it when something goes "above and beyond the call of duty"--what is more like heroic than morally required. A moral theory (or command) that requires supererogation is regarded as faulty, because by any such theory or command, it will turn out that perfectly decent human behavior (like me teaching a class on Socrates) is immoral, simply because I could be doing something more likely to cure the sick or feed the poor (or whatever). What's more, (2) A theory or command that mandates such high standards at all times would, in all likelihood, make us all miserable , because we could never take a break, never seek simple (and innocent)...