Michael S. Brownstein
- Associate Professor
- City University of New York, John Jay College
On the Virtues and Vices of Spontaneity
Heroes are often admired for their ability to act without having “one thought too many,” as Bernard Williams put it. Likewise, the unhesitating decisions of masterful athletes and artists are part of their fascination. Examples like these make clear that spontaneity can represent an ideal. However, recent literature in empirical psychology has shown how vulnerable our spontaneous inclinations can be to bias, short-sightedness, and irrationality. How can we make sense of these different roles that spontaneity plays in our lives? By integrating dual process theories of the mind and research on implicit social cognition with philosophical theorizing, this project offers a unified account of spontaneity in mind, action, and ethics.
Epistemic tribalism dominates political discourse about issues of the utmost importance—climate change, the role of a free press, civil liberties, economic distribution, and more. That is, instead of evaluating whether public policies are backed by solid evidence, political leaders and their constituents evaluate whether a policy coheres with their own group’s goals and values. The consequences of epistemic tribalism are wide-ranging, well-documented, and dire. “Detribalizing Epistemology” investigates the nature of epistemic tribalism and effective techniques for combating it.