Public discourse is often caustic and conflict-filled. This trend seems to be particularly evident when the content of such discourse is around moral issues (broadly defined) and when the discourse occurs on social media. Several explanatory mechanisms for such conflict have been explored in recent psychological and social-science literatures. The present work sought to examine a potentially novel explanatory mechanism defined in philosophical literature: Moral Grandstanding. According to philosophical accounts, Moral Grandstanding is the use of moral talk to seek social (...) status. For the present work, we conducted six studies, using two undergraduate samples (Study 1, N = 361; Study 2, N = 356); a sample matched to U.S. norms for age, gender, race, income, Census region (Study 3, N = 1,063); a YouGov sample matched to U.S. demographic norms (Study 4, N = 2,000); and a brief, one-month longitudinal study of Mechanical Turk workers in the U.S. (Study 5, Baseline N = 499, follow-up n = 296), and a large, one-week YouGov sample matched to U.S. demographic norms (Baseline N = 2,519, follow-up n = 1,776). Across studies, we found initial support for the validity of Moral Grandstanding as a construct. Specifically, moral grandstanding motivation was associated with status-seeking personality traits, as well as greater political and moral conflict in daily life. (shrink)
[First paragraphs: This essay takes its practical orientation from my experiences as a member of a philosophy reading group on death row at Riverbend Maximum Security Penitentiary in Nashville, Tennessee. Its theoretical orientation comes from W. E. B. Du Bois’ lecture-turned-essay, “Criteria of Negro Art,” which argues that the realm of aesthetics is vitally important in the war against racial discrimination in the United States. And since, according to Michele Alexander’s critically-acclaimed The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age (...) of Colorblindness, the prison system should be the primary front today in this war, my essay’s ultimate aim is t/o articulate a new criterion of the present-day “Negro” art being created by a prison population that is still overwhelmingly constituted by persons of color. In my first section, I will show how Du Bois’ insights in “Criteria of Negro Art” remain relevant today, especially in the prison context, and argue that it is thus appropriate for my new criterion to be shaped by his distinctive conception of “propaganda.” In my second section, through a close reading of two texts by Michel Foucault (the pivotal thinker of modern imprisonment), I will flesh out this new criterion, “self-torsion,” defined as the effect of prisoners’ attempts at self-care within a prison system that distorts those attempts into further exploitation of both prisoners and the outside world that imprisons them. And my final section, in an attempt to illustrate this new criterion’s efficacy as a form of propagandistic resistance to contemporary racism, will deploy self-torsion as a critique of two artworks created by imprisoned members of my reading group at Riverbend penitentiary. (shrink)
Even if the question, “What is the meaning of life?” is coherent, the fact remains that it is vague. Its vagueness largely centers on the use of the term “meaning.” The most prevalent strategy for addressing this vagueness is to discard the word “meaning” and reformulate the question entirely into questions such as, “What is the purpose of life?” or “What makes life valuable?” among others. This approach has philosophical merit but does not account for the intuitions and sub-questions driving (...) the original question as plausibly as does an interpretation that I call the narrative interpretation. I will argue that the question, “What is the meaning of life?” should be understood as the request for a narrative that narrates across those elements and accompanying questions of life of greatest existential import to human beings. (shrink)
Much more than just an anthology, this survey of humanity's search for the meaning of life includes the latest contributions to the debate, a judicious selection of key canonical essays, and insightful commentary by internationally respected philosophers. Cutting-edge viewpoint features the most recent contributions to the debate Extensive general introduction offers unprecedented context Leading contemporary philosophers provide insightful introductions to each section.
Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest among analytic philosophers in life's meaning, but this surge of work is nearly all by naturalists theorizing from non-theistic starting points. To answer the need for a theistic philosophical perspective, God and Meaning features leading thinkers in analytic philosophy of religion and theology exploring important issues in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and biblical theology that intersect with life's meaning.
It is a common pessimistic worry among both philosophers and non-philosophers that our lives, viewed sub specie aeternitatis, are meaningless given that they make neither a noticeable nor lasting impact from this vast, cosmic perspective. The preferred solution for escaping this kind of pessimism is to adopt a different measure by which to evaluate life’s meaningfulness. One of two primary routes is often taken here. First, one can retreat back to the sub specie humanitatis perspective, and argue that life is (...) meaningful only when viewed within the local context of human values, cares, and concerns. Or, second, one can distinguish between perspectives and standards for meaningfulness, arguing that the latter are independent of the former and are the most appropriate means by which evaluations of life’s meaningfulness are made. Importantly, none of these issues can be sufficiently addressed without first answering a prior question, and one that is surprisingly under-addressed in the literature: What is the sub specie aeternitatis perspective? Unfortunately, many philosophers who employ this perspective do so without carefully defining or clarifying it, or, if they do clarify what it means, they only note its time and spatial components. I will argue that, in addition to these components, this perspective includes something like a modal component (following Thomas Nagel), and an ontological Normative component. I will then apply this more nuanced understanding of the sub specie aeternitatis perspective to the question of whether perspectives can be distinguished from standards for meaningfulness. (shrink)
Principled discussions of civil rights became inherently less likely as a direct result of the observation by Earl Warren, in Brown v. Board of Education, that, respecting freedmen, “Education of Negroes was almost non-existent, and practically all of the race were illiterate,” and in proportion as that observation increasingly became the foundation of common opinion on the subject. Warren's observation was not true in any meaningful or non-trivial sense. Nevertheless, it served to perpetuate the myth of a backward people needing (...) help to catch up instead of the truth of a people being held back. That is the perspective – the disadvantaged group perspective – that ultimately infected all discussion of civil rights, even after the designation of so-called “disadvantaged groups” had been extended beyond American blacks. To define civil rights, we may well begin with what all mankind would likely recognize. Thus the dictionary definition of “civil rights” stands: “the rights that belong to all individuals in a nation or community touching property, marriage, and the like.” In that definition the term “rights” may be further expanded to mean “legitimate claims,” following the definition of right as law – as “a claim or title or interest in anything whatever that is enforceable by law.” This definition applies with minimal distinction of regimes intruding and, therefore, without the host of recent complications in the United States that create the impression that civil rights have something to do with pluralism. Previously, the generic definition was thought to exhaust the meaning of the term in the United States. (shrink)
In the past two decades, reinforcement learning has become a popular framework for understanding brain function. A key component of RL models, prediction error, has been associated with neural signals throughout the brain, including subcortical nuclei, primary sensory cortices, and prefrontal cortex. Depending on the location in which activity is observed, the functional interpretation of prediction error may change: Prediction errors may reflect a discrepancy in the anticipated and actual value of reward, a signal indicating the salience or novelty of (...) a stimulus, and many other interpretations. Anterior cingulate cortex has long been recognized as a region involved in processing behavioral error, and recent computational models of the region have expanded this interpretation to include a more general role for the region in predicting likely events, broadly construed, and signaling deviations between expected and observed events. Ongoing modeling work investigating the interaction between ACC and additional regions involved in cognitive control suggests an even broader role for cingulate in computing a hierarchically structured surprise signal critical for learning models of the environment. The result is a predictive coding model of the frontal lobes, suggesting that predictive coding may be a unifying computational principle across the neocortex. (shrink)
This study employed the Duquesne method of phenomenology to explore eight participants' experiences of not belonging. These experiences began with a discomforting sense of difference that then developed into self-conscious, wary behavior. This experience was followed by attempts at interpersonal transformation whose success led to an episodic view of not belonging and whose failure led to a more dramatic, personalized, isolating, and permanent view of not belonging. Such a view was also accompanied by a profound transformation in how the participants (...) experienced themselves, others, and their social environments. Among the most interesting findings in this research were the descriptions of isolated belonging—a pattern of relating involving many interpersonally distant relationships—and consistent, generalized not belonging—an experience where not belonging is the primary mode of interpersonal relation. (shrink)
The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) has been the subject of intense interest as a locus of cognitive control. Several computational models have been proposed to account for a range of effects, including error detection, conflict monitoring, error likelihood prediction, and numerous other effects observed with single-unit neurophysiology, fMRI, and lesion studies. Here, we review the state of computational models of cognitive control and offer a new theoretical synthesis of the mPFC as signaling response–outcome predictions. This new synthesis has two interacting (...) components. The first component learns to predict the various possible outcomes of a planned action, and the second component detects discrepancies between the actual and intended responses; the detected discrepancies in turn update the outcome predictions. This single construct is consistent with a wide array of performance monitoring effects in mPFC and suggests a unifying account of the cognitive role of medial PFC in performance monitoring. (shrink)
We examine the following consequentialist view of virtue: a trait is a virtue if and only if it has good consequences in some relevant way. We highlight some motivations for this basic account, and offer twelve choice points for filling it out. Next, we explicate Julia Driver’s consequentialist view of virtue in reference to these choice points, and we canvass its merits and demerits. Subsequently, we consider three suggestions that aim to increase the plausibility of her position, and critically analyze (...) them. We conclude that one of those proposed revisions would improve her account. NOTE: I will self-archive the paper after the 24 month embargo period ends. If you want a copy, just email me. (shrink)
In virtue of what are later and an earlier group members of one and the numerically same tradition? Gallie was one of the few philosophers to have engaged with issues surrounding this question. My article is not a faithful exegesis of Gallie but develops a terminology in which to discuss issues surrounding the numerical identity of a tradition over time, based on some of his insights.
In two parts this essay studies the subject, the predicate, and their relation by examining their relations in logic and their functioning in language. Strawson unites the two discussions by arguing that the logical relations can be integrated with the linguistic functions by a generalization of the latter.