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Kick This Rock: Climate Change and Our Common Reality | Michael Lynch | The Stone

June 5th, 2017

The 18th-century critic, Samuel Johnson, once tried to refute the Irish philosopher George Berkeley’s view that nothing is material by kicking a rock. “Thus I refute him!” he reportedly declared. For a long time, I thought this proved that Johnson should have kept to literary criticism and left philosophy to the professionals. Berkeley’s view, after all, was that everything we perceive is an idea — rocks (and rock-kicking) sensations included.

Read the full article at The Stone here.

Congratulations to Associate Prof. Micki McElya (H&C Core Faculty) whose book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

Finalist: The Politics of Mourning: Death and Honor in Arlington National Cemetery, by Micki McElya (Harvard University Press)

For a luminous investigation of how policies and practices at Arlington National Cemetery have mirrored the nation’s fierce battles over race, politics, honor and loyalty.Politics of Mourning, McElya

‘Intellectual humility’ could be key to becoming a better person, scientists say | Andrew Griffin at the Independent

The study is rare in looking at the ‘wallflower among personality traits’

“Showing “intellectual humility” – recognising that you might be wrong about what you believe – is a reliable marker of how good people are at making choices and understanding, according to a new study.

The personality trait is little studied but doing so could shed light on how people make decisions in politics, health and other arenas, according to the researchers from Duke University.”

Read the full article by Andrew Griffin here at the Independent.

 

Get to Know Our Fellows: Four Questions with Maura Priest

Maura Priest is a residential research fellow with the Humanities Institute’s Humility and Conviction in Public Life Project

H&C: What is your academic background and what is your current position in UCHI/at UConn/Your Home Institution?

MP: I received my PhD and Master’s Degree in philosophy from the University of California, Irvine. I received my BA in philosophy (political science minor) from California State University, Fullerton.

H&C: What is the project you’re currently working on?

MP: I am currently working on two projects. The first is a mix of epistemology, ethics, and political philosophy. I seek to understand how ethical virtues function at the group and collective level. I focus in particular on intellectual humility, epistemic greed, and disagreement. I am also working on a project on manipulation. I want to define manipulation and explain the different variants of the character trait. I then explain how this trait can cause epistemic and moral harm in interpersonal relations. Lastly, I look at manipulation in respect to both private and governmental institutions. I am particularly interested in political manipulation and manipulative advertising.

H&C: How did you arrive at this topic?

MP: I have always been interested in the intersection of ethics, politics, and epistemology. I believe that the epistemic enterprise is an ethical enterprise, and that political institutions are bound by ethical and epistemic constraints. Hence ethics, epistemology, and political theory interact in important and underdiscussed ways. We cannot, for instance, fully understand moral virtue unless we understand epistemic virtue. Neither can we form moral and just political institutions without a clear understanding of the ethics of epistemology. This is because political institutions are highly epistemic in nature, i.e., electing the proper governing officials and creating just and fair laws supervenes on knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

H&C: What impact might your work have on a larger public understanding of your topic?

MP: I think my work is particularly relevant given the current political environment. For instance, although this might seem a time for academics to become cynical about the public and their ability to make just democratic choices, it is important to remain humble and listen to the perspectives of those with whom we strongly disagree. Unfortunately, at times like this, it is especially tempting to throw epistemic norms to the wayside for what might seem like the greater epistemic and moral good. However, a world in which manipulation and epistemic dishonestly become common in and around the university is a world even worse than the one we live in today. It is important to not let despair impede intellectual humility at the individual or group level. It is also critical that we are able to recognize vices like manipulation and epistemic arrogance for what they are. With this recognize such traits can be justly condemned by persons who refuse to stoop to the same level.

February 7th, Political Theory Series | Nancy Fraser

The Crisis of Care

Nancy Fraser, The New School

  • Paper workshop, 2/7/12, 1:30-3pm. UCHI Conference room, Babbige Library 4th floor.
    Please contact Fred Lee <fred.lee@uconn.edu> for a copy of the paper.

From Exploitation to Expropriation: On Racial Oppression in Capitalist Society

  • Public Lecture, 2/7/17, 3:30-5pm, Class of 1947 Room.

Abstract: Exploitation-centered conceptions of capitalism cannot explain its persistent entanglement with racial oppression. In their place, I suggest an expanded conception that also encompasses an ongoing but disavowed moment of expropriation; in so doing, I disclose (1) the crucial role played in capital accumulation by unfree, dependent labor and (2) the equally indispensable role of politically enforced status distinctions between free, exploitable citizen-workers and dependent, expropriable subjects. Treating such political distinctions as constitutive of capitalist society and as correlated with the “color line,” I demonstrate that the racialized subjection of those whom capital expropriates is a condition of possibility for the freedom of those whom it exploits.

Nancy Fraser is Henry A. and Louise Loeb Professor at the New School for Social Research and is Vice-President and President-Elect of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division. She is also Professor II at the Centre for Gender Research at the University of Oslo and holds the Chair in «Global Justice» at the Collège d’études mondiales, Paris. Her most recent books are Domination et anticipation: pour un renouveau de la critique, with Luc Boltanski (2014); Transnationalizing the Public Sphere: Nancy Fraser debates her Critics (2014); and Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis (2013).

Sponsored by the Political Theory Workshop, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, Asian/Asian American Studies, Political Science, Philosophy, Sociology, and the University of Connecticut Humanities Institute.

Leaders are more powerful when they’re humble, new research shows, From The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2016/12/08/leaders-are-more-powerful-when-theyre-humble-new-research-shows/?postshare=4791481405984062&tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.85b4922d43faWhither humility?

For years now, social critics (myself included) have decried a rising tide of American narcissism. We’ve warned against an overpraised, entitled, privileged culture. Get those participation trophies off my lawn! Yet, with the costs of narcissism well-known, some researchers are shifting their focus to narcissism’s antithesis–humility. These scientists want to discover if there are benefits to being humble. For instance, does humility improve academics or relationships or company bottom lines? Earlier this year, on Face the Nation, President-Elect Donald Trump said he was more humble than people knew, but he chose not to show it as a business strategy. Are humble leaders less successful? How might humility affect moral character? What might we lose, living in a less humble world?

Though there’s much research to be done, what scholars have already learned is enough for us to pause on our selfie-sticks and reflect.

Dictionaries often describe humility as low self-esteem, self-degradation and meekness. In a 2016 College of Charleston survey, 56% of 5th and 6th graders said that the humble are embarrassed, sad, lonely or shy. When adults are asked to recount an experience of humility, they often tell a story about a time when they were publicly humiliated.

The most humble rarely describe themselves as humble (that seems arrogant to them), but studies have shown that they aren’t embarrassed, humiliated or ashamed. No, they’re secure in their identity and higher in well-being. The humble are doing just great, thank you very much.

True humility, scientists have learned, is when someone has an accurate assessment of both his strengths and weaknesses, and he sees all this in the context of the larger whole. He’s a part of something far greater than he. He knows he isn’t the center of the universe. And he’s both grounded and liberated by this knowledge. Recognizing his abilities, he asks how he can contribute. Recognizing his flaws, he asks how he can grow.

Humility’s benefits turn out to be surprisingly concrete.

Read full article here

Fake News and the Internet Shell Game, Michael Lynch at the NYTimes | The Stone

November 28, 2016

“Only a few days after the presidential election, the Oxford English Dictionary crowned its international word of the year: post-truth. The dictionary defined it as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” To say that the term captured the zeitgeist of 2016 is a lexigraphical understatement. The word, the dictionary’s editors explained, had “gone from being a peripheral term to being a mainstay in political commentary.” ”

Read the full article here.

Democracy and Disagreement by Michael Lynch at UConn Today

““The best lack all conviction,” William Butler Yeats noted, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Rarely has the Irish poet’s famous warning against the perils of dogmatism seemed more apt. As a nation, we are so deeply divided that our disagreements extend past values, past even the facts, to the very meaning of what a fact is. As a result, many in the United States believe there is no point in talking to the other side. Why bother, when you already know you are right and they are wrong?”

Read the full story at UConn Today.

“Democratic Rehab” by Scott F. Aiken and Robert B. Talisse at 3Quarks Daily

Monday, November 07, 2016

“When we tell people that we write about logic and politics, we let our interlocutors make the big joke. There is no logic in politics! It’s a funny joke, for sure. But it’s also tragic. And the tragedy is double-barreled. First, good reasons should be behind decision making. Without good reasoning, policy will likely be an irrational hash. There may be no logic in politics, but there ought to be. Second, the politics referred to in the quip is the politics of our democracy. And in a democracy what’s true of the politics is often true of the participants. This includes not only the candidates, politicians, lobbyists, and media personalities, but the citizens as well. And it’s hard to deny that we, the democratic citizens, are not users of logic when it comes to politics. The joke’s on us.”

– Read the full article here at 3Quarks Daily