Brian Robinson

Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Category: News

CFA: Moral Psychology of Amusement

Call for Abstracts

Abstracts are sought for a collection on the moral psychology of amusement, as part of Rowan and Littlefield International’s current series of volumes on the moral psychology of various emotions (Mark Alfano, series editor). The aim of the volume is to provide interdisciplinary perspectives on amusement, so a wide range of disciplines and methodologies are welcome.

Possible topics include:

  • Consideration of some of the causes or consequences and the moral implications of those causes or consequences,
  • Morally relevant ways that amusement interacts with other emotions,
  • Morally appropriate or inappropriate uses of one’s own amusement
  • Examination of the contexts in which it is morally permissible to induce (or not) amusement in others,
  • A cross-cultural analysis of amusement,
  • Amusement and feminism,
  • Ways in which amusement can subvert or aid our moral reasoning,
  • Amusement as a means of oppression,
  • The dangers of amusement, or
  • An analysis of what about jokes amuses us.

Deadline for Abstracts: May 15, 2018

Full details available here. 

A New Start

Welcome to my updated website. Last week a nasty .php error brought down my whole site. After staring at and fighting with the code for a few hours, I gave up. It was easier just to back up old posts and start anew. So here we are.

If you’re looking for something you’ve seen here before, but can’t find it, I haven’t re-posted it yet. I’m working to restore most of my old posts that got read. So please be patient as I restore them a few at a time in my rare spare moments.

Measuring Intellectual Humility

As a culmination of our intellectual humility grant in 2013, my co-authors (Mark Alfano, Kathryn Iurino, Paul Stey, Markus Christen, Feng Yu, and Danial Lapsley) have just published our new multi-dimensional measure of intellectual humility. Over five studies (N=3,651), two languages, and five years went into producing this paper in PLoS One, where we present our validate tool for measuring the trait of intellectual humility in people. Here’s the abstract:

This paper presents five studies on the development and validation of a scale of intellectual humility.This scale captures cognitive, affective, behavioral, and motivational components of the construct that have been identified by various philosophers in their conceptual analyses of intellectual humility. We find that intellectual humility has four core dimensions: Open-mindedness (versus Arrogance), Intellectual Modesty (versus Vanity), Corrigibility (versus Fragility), and Engagement (versus Boredom). These dimensions display adequate self-informant agreement, and adequate convergent, divergent, and discriminant validity. In particular, Open-mindedness adds predictive power beyond the Big Six for an objective behavioral measure of intellectual humility, and Intellectual Modesty is uniquely related to Narcissism. We find that a similar factor structure emerges in Germanophone participants, giving initial evidence for the model’s cross-cultural generalizability.

New Job: Texas A&M University-Kingsville

I’m very excited to announce that I’ve accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Texas A&M University-Kingsville, starting this fall. I’ll be joining Jeff Glick and Emil Badici as the philosophers in the Department of History, Political Science and Philosophy.

Gossip and Its Limits

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. Continue reading

Philosophy in the Doldrums? Hardly

Brian Leiter recently shared this excerpt from Harry Frankfurt’s contribution to Portraits of American Philosophy:

Harry FrankfurtI believe that there is, at least in this country, a more or less general agreement among philosophers and other scholars that our subject is currently in the doldrums. Until not very long ago, there were powerful creative impulses moving energetically through the field. There was the work in England of G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell and of Gilbert Ryle, Paul Grice, and Herbert Hart, as well as the work of various logicial positivsts. In the United States, even after interest in William James and John Dewey had receded, there was lively attention to contributions by Willard Quine and Donald Davidson, John Rawls and Saul Kripke. In addition, some philosophers were powerfully moved by the gigantic speculative edifice of Whitehead. Heidegger was having a massive impact on European philosophy, as well as on other disciplines–and not only in Europe, but here as well. And, of course, there was everywhere a vigorously appreciative and productive response to the work of Wittgenstein.

The lively impact of these impressive figures has faded. We are no longer busily preoccupied with responding to them. Except for a few contributors of somewhat less general scope, such as Habermas, no one has replaced the imposingly great figures of the recent past in providing us with contagiously inspiring direction. Nowadays, there are really no conspicuously fresh, bold, and intellectually exciting new challenges or innovations. For the most part, the field is quiet. We seem, more or less, to be marking time. (pp. 125-126)

With respect, I think Frankfurt couldn’t be more wrong. Philosophy is hardly in the doldrums. This comment both misrepresents the contemporary status of our discipline and typifies an antiquated notion of what constitutes non-doldrum, energetic, thriving, and creative philosophy. Continue reading

Moving to Michigan State

I am happy to announce that this fall I will be joining the faculty at Michigan StateMichigan State University as a post-doctoral Research Fellow. I will be joining the NSF-funded Toolbox Project under Michael O’Rourke. toolbox_logo   Continue reading

Reversing the Side-Effect Effect

Some of you are already familiar with the Side-Effect Effect by now. In a new article forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, Paul Stey, Mark Alfano, and I demonstrate that we can reverse the effect and therefore explain what the effect is as never before possible.

Tony Hayward

Tony Hayward – former CEO of BP (credit: Justin Thomas)

First discovered by Joshua Knobe (and hence sometimes called the Knobe Effect), the effect’s hallmark is an asymmetric attribution of some psychological state or other. In Knobe’s original study, the chairman of the board alternately harms or helps the environment as a side-effect of a new profit-increasing program. Knobe found an asymmetric pattern of attributions of intentionality in the two cases: the folk said he intentionally harmed the environment, but he didn’t intentionally help it. Since this seminal work, a literature on the effect has developed, expanding it in terms of the states asymmetrically attributed (intentionality, desires, beliefs, knowledge, etc.) and the type of norm involved (moral, legal, prudential, aesthetic, descriptive, etc.). As the literature on the effect has expanded, it has become increasingly difficult to precisely characterize the nature of the effect. While it initially looked like people were more willing to say a morally bad side effect was intentional, that interpretation doesn’t hold up since the asymmetry is present in studies involving on non-moral norms. So what is the Side-Effect Effect anyway? How do we describe it? We can already say that the effect refers to the asymmetric attribution rates for various psychological states, but based on what? When are the attribution rates higher or lower? Continue reading

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