Monday, June 5, 2017 at 7pm in the Swift Hall 3rd Floor Lecture Hall, University of Chicago. An audience Q & A will be followed by a reception in the Swift Hall Common Room. This talk is free and open to the public.
We’re presenting a short series of abstracts of the work-in-progress our scholars will present and discuss at their June 2017 Working Group Meeting. Heather C. Lenchis Associate Professor and Associate Head in the Department of Psychology at Texas A&M University and scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
People try to make decisions that will improve their lives and make them happy, and to do so, they rely on affective forecasts–predictions about how future outcomes will make them feel. The greater the emotional impact people expect a future outcome to have, the more effort and resources they invest in attaining or avoiding it. Understandably then, inaccuracy in affective forecasting has been identified as a major obstacle to making good decisions. Decades of research suggest that people are poor at predicting how they will feel and commonly overestimate the impact that future events will have on their emotions. Although the simplicity of this idea is intuitively attractive, recent studies have revealed that people are actually very good at forecasting some features of their emotional reaction. This investigation tested a new theoretical model that explains past inconsistent results demonstrating that sometimes people overestimate, sometimes underestimate, and are sometimes accurate in their forecasts. The investigation clearly differentiates forecasts of emotional intensity, frequency, and duration for the first time in the real-world setting of a controversial presidential election. Participants accurately forecast the intensity of their reaction, but overestimated how frequently they would feel emotions about the election and how much their mood would be impacted by the election. Consistent with our theoretical model, bias in forecasts of emotion were predicted by cognitive features. Overestimating the importance of the election resulted in overestimating the intensity of responses; overestimating the frequency of thinking about the election resulted in overestimating the frequency of responses; and overestimating the relevance of the election to personal goals predicted overestimating the impact of the election on mood. By allowing researchers to achieve greater precision about the features of emotion being predicted, this study clarifies when and why people overestimate, underestimate, and accurately predict their emotional reactions. Addressing this question is essential, not only for a theoretical understanding of how people think about their futures, but also for understanding how to intervene to improve decisions.
The results inform interventions designed to improve decision-making in applied domains including health, public policy, education, and economics. People making important decisions–such as whether to undergo surgery, listen to public health warnings, or pursue a specific career– will be better informed if they can accurately predict how the outcomes of their decisions will make them feel. Thus, interventions that improve forecasting are critically important for helping people make informed choices with implications for the length and quality of their lives.
*This is a collaborative project with Linda J. Levine, and is funded by the National Science Foundation (#1451297)
*A similar abstract was submitted for the December 2016 meeting; however, discussion of these primary findings was delayed in favor of presenting several serendipitous results given the surprising outcome of the election.
We’re presenting a short series of abstracts of the work-in-progress our scholars will present and discuss at their June 2017 Working Group Meeting.
Josef Stern is the William H. Colvin Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Chicago and from 2009-14 he was Inaugural Director of the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies.
Holiness is one of the least understood of the (religious) virtues, and there has been little discussion of it in contemporary philosophy of religion or in theological ethics. In part this may be due to the fact that, unlike all other divine attributes such as ‘merciful’ or ‘just’ that apply primarily to humans or creatures and only derivatively to God, the predicate ‘holy’—in Hebrew ‘qadosh’—is unique in applying primarily to God and only by extension to individuals, places, and times—hence, we have little grasp of its meaning as a divine attribute. This essay focuses on two conceptions of holiness, based on the biblical prescription “You shall be holy (pl.: qedoshim), for I, the Lord your God, am holy (sing: qadosh)” (Lev. 19, 2), put forth by the two great Moses of medieval Jewish thought, Moses Maimonides and Moses Nahmanides. Maimonides attempts to de-supernaturalize an earlier conception of holiness that treats it as an occult, magical, theurgic, “spiritual” power that holy people and things possess or as a kind of metaphysical or natural perfection. In its place, he proposes to reduce holiness to perfect performance of all the commandments in the Mosaic Law, commandments that he in turn re-interprets as practices that prepare the individual for an incorporeal, purely intellectual life in imitation of God. Nahmanides responds to this Maimonidean conception by arguing, first, that perfect performance of the commandments allows for scandalous behavior “between the lines of the law”—for what he calls a “scoundrel within the permissible domain of the law”—hence, for a life that is anything but holy. Second, he proposes an alternative conception according to which the prescription to be holy is meant as a corrective to precisely this kind of abuse of the law and, in turn, enables a life that is more perfect than perfect performance of the commandments. The last part of the paper explores two ways in which holiness might achieve this end and what such a life would be like.
Talbot Brewer is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Virginia and a Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life. He specializes in ethics and political philosophy, with particular attention to moral psychology and Aristotelian ethics. He is the author of numerous essays, including “Reflections on the Cultural Commons” (in Nestor García, ed, Being Human in a Consumerist Society, 2014), “Two Pictures of Practical Thinking” (in Jost and Wuerth, eds, Perfecting Virtue, 2011), “Is Welfare an Independent Good?” (Social Philosophy & Policy 26, 2009), “Three Dogmas of Desire” (in Chappell, ed, Values and Virtues, 2007), “Virtues We Can Share: A Reading of Aristotle’s Ethics” (Ethics 115, 2005), “Two Kinds of Commitments (And Two Kinds of Social Groups)” (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66, 2003), and “Maxims and Virtues” (The Philosophical Review 3, 2002). He has been a visiting professor in the Harvard University Philosophy Department and has authored two books, the most recent of which is The Retrieval of Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2009). He is currently at work on two books, one on Aristotelian action theory and its intersection with ethics, and another on a phenomenon that he calls “tragedies of the cultural commons”.