Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Blog Moving

I've moved my blog from blogger to my own website. You can find old posts there and all that's too come.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Forthcoming Chapter in Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management

I have recently accepted an invitation to contribute a chapter to the forthcoming Handbook of Virtue Ethics in Business and Management edited by Alejo Sison and to be published by Springer. My chapter will be titled: "Virtues and Psychology: Do We have Virtues and How can We Know?" Here's the abstract:

In this chapter I will first briefly review the Neo-Aristotelian conception of a virtue, primarily as espoused by Hursthouse, MacIntyre, Annas, and Sreenivasan. In short, a virtue is a multi-track disposition to reliably exhibit a certain type of behavior (e.g., honesty) in a wide variety of situations in the right circumstances. Second, I will present two independent challenges arising from social psychology to the empirical plausibility of the Neo-Aristotelian account: situationism and the fundamental attribution error. The situationist John Doris and Gilbert Harman offer a host of psychological findings that collectively dispute the idea that people can demonstrate cross-situational reliability in their behaviors. Situational factors, such as whether we just found a dime or how much spare time we have, tend to dictate our behavior much more than any supposed character traits like virtues (or vices). Social psychology has also demonstrated that people have a strong tendency to attribute character traits (including virtues and vices) to others far too quickly and on far too little evidence, including on the basis of a single action. This common error (known as the fundamental attribution error) then raises the larger question of how much evidence is required to know that someone else does possess a virtue. Third, I will sketch various responses to these challenges raised by social psychology. The Neo-Aristotelians (Annas and Hursthouse, for instance) have generally responded by claiming that their notion of virtue has been misunderstood and remains empirically plausible. Christian Miller, on the other hand, has undertaken a reconstruction of virtues that accords with these empirical findings. Finally, Mark Alfano has argued that even if virtues don’t exist, publicly attributing them to people can produce moral behavior.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Published: Virtue and Vice in the Business Context

Recently, I was the lead author of the paper "Virtue and Vice in the Business Context: An Empirical Investigation" with Paul Stey and Mark Alfano. It has just come out in the Journal of Business Ethics.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

www.intellectualhumility.com Launched

As part of the Intellectual Humility grant, I've just launched www.intellectualhumility.com. There you will find updates on the progress of my research team on our project Intellectual Humility: The Elusive Virtue. Later, we'll be adding a blog, where we also hope to post updates on the work being done by other research groups.

And in case you're wondering, the image on the homepage is a photo I took of the hedge maze at Scone Palace in Scotland.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Two-Year Grant Awarded

I'm very pleased to announce that my research team and I have been awarded a two-year grant to fund our research project Intellectual Humility: The Elusive Virtue. We're very excited for this opportunity and I will post here as our project unfolds. You can read the details of our project in my previous post.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Making the Case for Philosophy: Part 1 - Marketing

Many philosophy departments need a new marketing strategy. We need a new way to sell our product (a philosophical education). We need Don Draper. No, really we do.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Unpublished Thoughts: Thomson's Trolley-problem Problem

Welcome to the first in a new series of posts: Unpublished thoughts. Today, I'll take up a significant problem in Judith Jarvis Thomson's (2008) "Turning the Trolley."  She offers an argument intended to demonstrate the that Trolley Problem is in fact a non-problem. Her argument, however, is logically invalid.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Intellectual Humility: Grant Proposal

After seven months, my colleagues and I have completed and submitted our proposal for a two-year grant to study intellectual humility. We were named among the finalists last fall by Fuller Seminary, which will fund sixteen projects to investigate the science of intellectual humility. Our proposal claims that intellectual humility is the "elusive virtue," and so more difficult to examine than other virtues. The reason is simple: prima facie anyone who claims to be humble probably isn't. So it seems unlikely that self-reporting would be a reliable method for measuring the trait of intellectual humility. Therefore a new method of measuring this trait is needed, and we've got an idea on how to do exactly that.

Update (3/1/13): We have been awarded the grant! Work starts next month...

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Email troubles fixed

I just found out that my brian@brobinson.info email address has not been working properly. If you have tried (unsuccessfully) to reach me there, you can do so now or at by campus email address: robibri@gvsu.edu. Thank you and apologies for the confusion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Term Ends, but with Sadness

The fall term is over. It's been a very busy one, and there were many interesting and exciting things to report. But I can't now, though maybe later. I found out on Monday that one of my students was hit and killed by a car over the weekend. She was only 19. The class felt odd and empty with her empty chair this morning during the final exam. Though some students already knew, I didn't have the heart to tell the whole class before their final. But I did tell them afterwards. What a terrible, tragic way to end a semester.

In memoriam, Jessie Winterholler.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Back from META

I've just returned from a great, short visit with the philosophy crowd at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Midwest Experimental and Theoretical Association (META) invited me down to give a talk yesterday. I want to thank them not only the for the opportunity, but also the great questions. That's a sharp group of philosophers.

Since the work I presented there is still preliminary, I won't be offering an extended summary of the talk yet. The title was "Creating Heroes and Villains: Attributing Character Traits with Little Evidence." I focused on the Fundamental Attribution Error and the questions it raises for attributions of virtues and vices. I'll be developing this project more in the future, and so I hope to have more to report down the road after subsequent talks or an article.

On another note, the busy part of the term has hit and the teetering stack of papers and midterms to grade looks dangerously close to tipping over. So I won't be posting for a while as I grade most of the time between now and finals (since still more midterms will be arriving soon). I have promised installments in my Making the Case for Philosophy series, which will be coming next month after final exams. Until then...

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Another Article to be Published!

I love reporting good news.  I just had an article accepted for publication.

Update (3/29/13): The article has just come out online first here.

Last winter, I was the lead author for a paper titled "Virtue and Vice Attributions in the Business Context: An Experimental Investigation" (co-authored with Paul Stey and Mark Alfano).  We just got word that the paper has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Business Ethics special issue "Putting Virtues into Practice. A Challenge for Business and Organizations."

There will be, of course, some final tweaks and revisions before publishing.  But I'll post a (nearly) final draft soon.  In the meantime, you can read the summary of the talk in Buffalo on part of the paper.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Making the Case for Philosophy: Series Preview

My earlier post on Philosophy majors GRE scores has gotten me thinking.  We need to do a better job of selling our product, i.e., an education in philosophy.  That may be a crass way of putting it, but hopefully helpful.  While the climate for philosophy certainly varies from one university to the next, the general trend nationwide has been troubling.

So I've been thinking about how to change things.  What can we do as philosophy departments to attract more major, as well to make the case to skeptical administrators or bureaucrats to keep and support philosophy departments.  Over the next few weeks, I'll have a series of posts on this topic.  (Today is just the preview.)  Here are the three topics I'll be discussing in the upcoming posts:

  1. Marketing - How can we better market the great stuff we do already and how to attract more students?
  2. Benefits of philosophy - What new arguments can we come up with to explain and emphasize the advantages that come with studying philosophy?
  3. Tweaking the curriculum - How could we adjust the courses we teach to attract more students?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Virtue, Vice, and the Knobe Effect: or What Mark Alfano and I said in Buffalo


I’ve just returned from the Buffalo Experimental Philosophy Conference.1 Mark Alfano and I presented excerpts from our paper on "Virtue and Vice in the Business Context" (currently under review), focusing on attributions of compassion and callousness in the business context and how it mediates consumer behavior. (Our co-author Paul Stey, Ph.D. candidate and stat master, was not able to attend.)