Though it’s taken awhile, my chapter “Virtues and Psychology: Do We Have Virtues and How Can We Know?” is now available (somewhat) online. It is part of the Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management (Alejo José G. Sison, ed.). It is currently preview only, but your library may have access. Either way, here’s the abstract:
Attribution of virtues and vices is commonplace. Saying someone has a virtue helps us explain her behavior and form expectations about how she will behave in the future. Built on the universality of these attributions, virtue ethics has had a long tradition in philosophy, with Aristotle standing at the pinnacle, as well as a modern resurgence. Recently, however, empirical evidence has cast doubt on the existence of virtues and vices. People’s behavior, it seems, is governed more by morally irrelevant situational factors than by robust, internal dispositions like virtues. Yet a new line of argument is beginning to emerge that virtue ethics is still relevant even if virtues do not exist.
I have a new publication, “Human values and the value of humanities in interdisciplinary research,” recently published in Cogent Arts & Humanities. It’s open access, so check it out!
The timing was rather fortuitous that as I finish final revisions for my forthcoming article on gossip in The Monist (“Character, Caricature, and Gossip”), news breaks about soon-to-be-released app Peeple. The Washington Post billed it as “Yelp, but for humans.”
This is a terrible idea, as the internet quickly pointed out [here, here, here, here, and here]. Others can review you whether or not you’ve created a profile on the site. You can’t opt-out. You can dispute a negative comment or rating, but not remove it.
Rather than rehashing all reasons that Peeple is a terrible idea (and see here for a prior comedic exploration of why it is), I want to focus on what this tells us about the importance of context for gossip.
The “Confederate Flag”1 should be taken down immediately, at the South Carolina capitol and on any other state grounds (in SC or elsewhere). That it took a racist terrorist attack on Emanuel AME Church and the death of nine people to bring this point into the national conversation is a lamentable and reprehensible. I’m hardly alone in this call. There are a number of petitions ( here, here, and here for instance) that one can sign (and I urge you to do so). Here I want to offer a philosophical analysis and rejection of a common argument against removing it.
My article “Reversing the Side-Effect Effect” has just come out in Philosophical Studies 172 (1): 177-206. This was authored with Paul Stey and Mark Alfano. In the paper, we demonstrate that we can control the effect by changing what norm is made salient. Norms set expectations it appears. If one’s side effect violate those norm-based expectations, we tend to say that side effect was intentional. There are a number of philosophical issues this raise pertaining to intentionality and other psychological states like belief, knowledge, and desire. You can read the extended summary here in my previous post.
Good news, everyone! Markus Christen, Mark Alfano, and I have another paper forthcoming from our Intellectual Humility Grant. Next month, we will present our paper “The Semantic Space of Intellectual Humility” at the European Conference on Social Intelligence in Barcelona. It will then be published in the conference’s proceedings.
In this paper, we employ psycholexical approach to the study of intellectual humility (IH). This method collects a term’s synonyms and antonyms and then compares the similarity of all those terms. As you can see from the image here (larger version available in the paper), we can then map the terms based on their similarity with each other. In this mapping procedure (superparamagnetic agent mapping) terms are attracted to other similar terms and repel those that are different. Clusters emerge. Looking just at the synonyms, we found three clusters that we labeled the Discreet Self, the Inquisitive Self, and the Sensible Self. Each provides insight into different ways one can be intellectually humble. Put another way, IH is a multi-faceted virtue and our method has revealed three of those facets.
For more (especially about IH’s antonyms), check out the paper. It turns out that IH can also be understood as situated in the mean between various vices. This is close to what Aristotle might have predicted, only we found there were more than two vices.
I don’t usually post about papers until they’ve been accepted, but since my co-author (Mark Alfano, Oregon) has already posted, so I’ll share as well. We have completed and submitted a paper that offers an intention-based analysis of the speech act of bragging. This includes the new act, the humblebrag.
You can read the current draft on his site.
Julia Driver (Uneasy Virtue, 2011: 16ff, 114-5) claims there is a paradox of self-reference for modesty, but not humility. That is, it’s self-contradictory to say, “I’m modest,” but not “I’m humble.” She doesn’t give much argument other than to claim that humility has to do with being of an inferior status, so one can correctly attribute that status to oneself. But you can’t claim to be modest without contradiction. I’m not convinced, but let’s set that aside. What is the relationship between humility and modesty? Are they the same, closely related, or completely different? Modesty is the second synonym listed for ‘humility’ listed on thesaurus.com. So they seem at least related. Google Ngrams is one of my new favorite toys. It checks its database of over five million books for the frequency of a term (or terms). Plugging in ‘humility’ and ‘modesty,’ you get the following:
This suggests to me that the two concepts have fallen (and risen back a bit) together in social importance (assuming how much they’re talked about in books is any indication of that). So it seems they’re related at least and not altogether different. Maybe then there is a paradox of self-reference for humility. What do you think? What do these terms mean and are they any different?
We are now one year in to our two-year grant to study Intellectual Humility: The Elusive Virtue. So we thought it was time for an update, especially since there was our mid-point conference in St. Louis this week with all the intellectual humility (IH) grant awardees presenting as well. We’ve done a lot in our first year, much is still going on, and some exciting work remains for our second year.
If you haven’t yet seen it, Google’s new toy/research tool Ngrams is amazing! You can track the frequency of a word or terms appearance over time in the millions of books Google has digitized. There are so many academic uses of this tool that we haven’t even begun to think of yet. My colleagues and I working on intellectual humility have already consulted it to look at the frequency of some of intellectual humility’s synonyms and antonyms, in order to give us a better conception of how familiar with a term people are.
My friend and colleague, Mark Alfano (Oregon), has also done some interesting preliminary research on various virtues and other common terms in moral psychology. He concludes by turning to Nietzsche, who argued in Genealogy of Morals that there two different moralities: good and bad on the one hand and good and evil on the other. Nietzsche claims the latter is older, but has been replaced by the former due the slave revolt that was the rise of Christianity in Europe. Nietzsche, of course, despises the slave morality of good and evil. Instead, he calls for a return to the aristocratic notions of good and bad. Mark Alfano, seeing the Ngram below, thinks Nietzsche would be pleased, as it could been seen as evidence of precisely the shift in morality Nietzsche wanted. Let’s consider this idea more closely.