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Michael Prinzing
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  1. The Revisionist’s Rubric: Conceptual Engineering and the Discontinuity Objection.Michael Prinzing - 2018 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 61 (8):854-880.
    ABSTRACTThis paper is about conceptual engineering. Specifically, it discusses a common objection to CE, which I call the Discontinuity Objection. According to the Discontinuity Objection, CE leads to problematic discontinuities in subject and/or inquiry – making it philosophically uninteresting or irrelevant. I argue that a conceptual engineer can dismiss the Discontinuity Objection by showing that the pre-engineering concept persists through the proposed changes. In other words, the Discontinuity Objection does not apply if the proposal involves identity-preserving changes. Two existing views (...)
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  2. Positive Psychology is Value-Laden—It's Time to Embrace It.Michael Prinzing - 2020 - Journal of Positive Psychology.
    Evaluative claims and assumptions are ubiquitous in positive psychology. Some will deny this. But such disavowals are belied by the literature. Some will consider the presence of evaluative claims a problem and hope to root them out. But this is a mistake. If positive psychology is to live up to its raison d’être – to be the scientific study of the psychological components of human flourishing or well-being – it must make evaluative claims. Well-being consists in those things that are (...)
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  3. Explanatory Perfectionism: A Fresh Take on an Ancient Theory.Michael Prinzing - 2020 - Analysis (4):704-712.
    The ‘Big 3’ theories of well-being—hedonism, desire-satisfactionism, and objective list theory—attempt to explain why certain things are good for people by appealing to prudentially good-making properties. But they don’t attempt to explain why the properties they advert to make something good for a person. Perfectionism, the view that well-being consists in nature-fulfilment, is often considered a competitor to these views (or else a version of the objective list theory). However, I argue that perfectionism is best understood as explaining why certain (...)
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  4. Friendly Superintelligent AI: All You Need is Love.Michael Prinzing - 2017 - In Vincent C. Müller (ed.), The Philosophy & Theory of Artificial Intelligence. Berlin: Springer. pp. 288-301.
    There is a non-trivial chance that sometime in the (perhaps somewhat distant) future, someone will build an artificial general intelligence that will surpass human-level cognitive proficiency and go on to become "superintelligent", vastly outperforming humans. The advent of superintelligent AI has great potential, for good or ill. It is therefore imperative that we find a way to ensure-long before one arrives-that any superintelligence we build will consistently act in ways congenial to our interests. This is a very difficult challenge in (...)
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    Going Green is Good for You: Why We Need to Change the Way We Think About Pro-Environmental Behavior.Michael Prinzing - 2020 - Ethics, Policy and Environment:1-18.
    Awareness and concern about climate change are widespread. But rates of pro-environmental behaviour are low. This is partly due to the way in which pro-environmental behaviour is framed—as a sacrifice or burden that individuals bear for the planet and future generations. This framing elicits well-known cognitive biases, discouraging what we should be encouraging. We should abandon the self-sacrifice framing, and instead frame pro-environmental behaviour as intrinsically desirable. There is a large body of evidence that, around the world, people who are (...)
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    How to Study Well-Being: A Proposal for the Integration of Philosophy with Science.Michael Prinzing - forthcoming - Review of General Psychology.
    There are presently two approaches to the study of well-being. Philosophers typically focus on normative theorizing, attempting to identify the things that are ultimately good for a person, while largely ignoring empirical research. The idea is that empirical attention cannot be directed to the right place without a rigorous theory. Meanwhile, social scientists typically focus on empirical research, attempting to identify the causes and consequences of well-being, while largely ignoring normative theorizing. The idea is that conceptual and theoretical clarity will (...)
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    Pathological Moralizing: Is Moral Judgment a Commitment Device?Michael Prinzing - 2020 - Ethics 130 (2):228-236.
    Eric Campbell has argued that we should abolish moral discourse on the grounds that making moral judgments leads to “potentially severe practical pathologies”, including hypocrisy and self-delusion. However, his account of moral judgments only plausibly describes deontological judgments. Thus, his argument only supports deontological abolitionism. This view is certainly interesting. But it is not as extreme as moral abolitionism. Moreover, I argue that Campbell’s account, when reconstructed as an argument for deontological abolitionism can play only a very limited dialectical role.
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  8. The Meaning of “Life’s Meaning”.Michael Prinzing - 2021 - Philosophers' Imprint 21 (3):1-14.
    Life’s meaning is a deeply important yet perplexing topic. It is often unclear what people are talking about when they talk about life having “meaning”. This paper attempts to clarify things by articulating a schema for understanding claims about meaning. It defends a theory according to which X means Y iff Y is a correct interpretation of X—i.e., if Y is a correct answer to an interpretive question, Z. I argue that this (perhaps surprising) claim has impressive explanatory power. Applying (...)
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    The Ordinary Concept of a Meaningful Life: The Role of Subjective and Objective Factors in Third-Person Attributions of Meaning.Michael Prinzing, Julian De Freitas & Barbara Fredrickson - forthcoming - Journal of Positive Psychology.
    The desire for a meaningful life is ubiquitous, yet the ordinary concept of a meaningful life is poorly understood. Across six experiments (total N = 2,539), we investigated whether third-person attributions of meaning depend on the psychological states an agent experiences (feelings of interest, engagement, and fulfillment), or on the objective conditions of their life (e.g., their effects on others). Studies 1a–b found that laypeople think subjective and objective factors contribute independently to the meaningfulness of a person’s life. Studies 2a–b (...)
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