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Hagop Sarkissian
CUNY Graduate Center
  1. Folk Moral Relativism.Hagop Sarkissian, John Park, David Tien, Jennifer Wright & Joshua Knobe - 2011 - Mind and Language 26 (4):482-505.
    It has often been suggested that people's ordinary understanding of morality involves a belief in objective moral truths and a rejection of moral relativism. The results of six studies call this claim into question. Participants did offer apparently objectivist moral intuitions when considering individuals from their own culture, but they offered increasingly relativist intuitions considering individuals from increasingly different cultures or ways of life. The authors hypothesize that people do not have a fixed commitment to moral objectivism but instead tend (...)
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  2. Is Belief in Free Will a Cultural Universal?Hagop Sarkissian, Amita Chatterjee, Felipe de Brigard, Joshua Knobe, Shaun Nichols & Smita Sirker - 2010 - Mind and Language 25 (3):346-358.
    Recent experimental research has revealed surprising patterns in people's intuitions about free will and moral responsibility. One limitation of this research, however, is that it has been conducted exclusively on people from Western cultures. The present paper extends previous research by presenting a cross-cultural study examining intuitions about free will and moral responsibility in subjects from the United States, Hong Kong, India and Colombia. The results revealed a striking degree of cross-cultural convergence. In all four cultural groups, the majority of (...)
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  3. Consistent Belief in a Good True Self in Misanthropes and Three Interdependent Cultures.Julian De Freitas, Hagop Sarkissian, George E. Newman, Igor Grossmann, Felipe De Brigard, Andres Luco & Joshua Knobe - 2018 - Cognitive Science 42 (S1):134-160.
    People sometimes explain behavior by appealing to an essentialist concept of the self, often referred to as the true self. Existing studies suggest that people tend to believe that the true self is morally virtuous; that is deep inside, every person is motivated to behave in morally good ways. Is this belief particular to individuals with optimistic beliefs or people from Western cultures, or does it reflect a widely held cognitive bias in how people understand the self? To address this (...)
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  4. Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs: The Problems and Promise of Situationism in Moral Philosophy.Hagop Sarkissian - 2010 - Philosophers' Imprint 10.
    Moral philosophers of late have been examining the implications of experimental social psychology for ethics. The focus of attention has been on situationism—the thesis that we routinely underestimate the extent to which minor situational variables influence morally significant behavior. Situationism has been seen as a threat to prevailing lay and philosophical theories of character, personhood, and agency. In this paper, I outline the situationist literature and critique one of its upshots: the admonition to carefully select one’s situational contexts. Besides being (...)
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  5.  85
    Is the 'Trade-Off Hypothesis' Worth Trading For?Mark Phelan & Hagop Sarkissian - 2009 - Mind and Language 24 (2):164-180.
    Abstract: Recently, the experimental philosopher Joshua Knobe has shown that the folk are more inclined to describe side effects as intentional actions when they bring about bad results. Edouard Machery has offered an intriguing new explanation of Knobe's work—the 'trade-off hypothesis'—which denies that moral considerations explain folk applications of the concept of intentional action. We critique Machery's hypothesis and offer empirical evidence against it. We also evaluate the current state of the debate concerning the concept of intentionality, and argue that, (...)
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  6.  2
    Aspects of Folk Morality: Objectivism and Relativism.Hagop Sarkissian - 2016 - In Wesley Buckwalter & Justin Sytsma (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to Experimental Philosophy. London, UK: pp. 212-224.
    Most moral philosophers work under the assumption that ordinary folk morality is committed to objectivism—that ordinary folk view morality in absolute terms. This datum serves to constrain and shape philosophical metaethics, since those working in this field feel compelled to make sense of it. In this chapter, I discuss why philosophers take on this commitment. I also outline the relevant experimental research exploring whether, and to what extent, ordinary folk think of morality in absolute terms. Finally, I turn toward a (...)
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  7.  5
    Naturalizing Ethics.Owen Flanagan, Hagop Sarkissian & David Wong - 2007 - In Walter Sinnott Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology, Vol. 1: The Evolution of Morality: Adaptations and Innateness. Cambridge, MA, USA: pp. 1-26.
    In this essay we provide (1) an argument for why ethics should be naturalized, (2) an analysis of why it is not yet naturalized, (3) a defense of ethical naturalism against two fallacies—Hume’s and Moore’s—that ethical naturalism allegedly commits, and (4) a proposal that normative ethics is best conceived as part of human ecology committed to pluralistic relativism. We explain why naturalizing ethics both entails relativism and also constrains it, and why nihilism about value is not an especially worrisome for (...)
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  8.  23
    Objectivity.Ross Colebrook & Hagop Sarkissian - 2018 - In Todd K. Shackelford & Vivian A. Weekes-Shackelford (eds.), Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science.
    In this entry, we outline the ways in which evolutionary theory has implications for the objectivity of morality.
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  9.  22
    Moral Objectivism and a Punishing God.Hagop Sarkissian & Mark Phelan - 2019 - Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 80:1-7.
    Many moral philosophers have assumed that ordinary folk embrace moral objectivism. But, if so, why do folk embrace objectivism? One possibility is the pervasive connection between religion and morality in ordinary life. Some theorists contend that God is viewed as a divine guarantor of right and wrong, rendering morality universal and absolute. But is belief in God per se sufficient for moral objectivism? In this paper, we present original research exploring the connections between metaethics and particular conceptions of God among (...)
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  10.  7
    Ritual and Rightness in the Analects.Hagop Sarkissian - 2013 - In Amy Olberding (ed.), Dao Companion to the Analects. pp. 95-116.
    Li (禮) and yi (義) are two central moral concepts in the Analects. Li has a broad semantic range, referring to formal ceremonial rituals on the one hand, and basic rules of personal decorum on the other. What is similar across the range of referents is that the li comprise strictures of correct behavior. The li are a distinguishing characteristic of Confucian approaches to ethics and socio-political thought, a set of rules and protocols that were thought to constitute the wise (...)
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  11.  6
    Supernatural, Social, and Self-Monitoring in the Scaling Up of Chinese Civilization.Hagop Sarkissian - 2015 - Religion, Brain and Behavior 5 (4):323-327.
    An invited commentary on Ara Norenzayan's Big Gods: How Religion Transformed Cooperation and Conflict, focusing on whether early China constitutes an exception to his general theory.
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  12.  93
    Recent Approaches to Confucian Filial Morality.Hagop Sarkissian - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (9):725-734.
    A hallmark of Confucian morality is its emphasis on duties to family and kin as weighty features of moral life. The virtue of ‘filiality’ or ‘filial piety’ (xiao 孝), for example, is one of the most important in the Confucian canon. This aspect of Confucianism has been of renewed interest recently. On the one hand, some have claimed that, precisely because it acknowledges the importance of kin duties, Confucianism should be seen as an ethics rooted in human nature that remains (...)
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  13.  8
    Is Self-Regulation a Burden or a Virtue? A Comparative Perspective.Hagop Sarkissian - 2014 - In Nancy Snow & Franco V. Trivigno (eds.), The Philosophy and Psychology of Character and Happiness: An Empirical Approach to Character and Happiness. New York, NY, USA: pp. 181-196.
    Confucianism demands that individuals comport themselves according to the strictures of ritual propriety—specific forms of speech, clothing, and demeanor attached to a vast array of life circumstances. This requires self-regulation, a cognitive resource of limited supply. When this resource is depleted, a person can experience undesirable consequences such as social isolation and alienation. However, one’s cultural background may be an important mediator of such costs; East Asians, in particular, seem to have comparatively greater self-regulatory strength. I offer some considerations as (...)
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  14.  11
    Confucius and the Superorganism.Hagop Sarkissian - 2018 - In Philip J. Ivanhoe, Owen Flanagan, Victoria Harrison, Hagop Sarkissian & Eric Schwitzgebel (eds.), The Oneness Hypothesis: Beyond the Boundary of Self. New York, NY, USA: pp. 305-320.
    In this paper, I describe a sense of oneness that, while having its roots in a tradition of thought far removed from our own, might nonetheless be of relevance to persons today. It is not a oneness with all of humanity, let alone with all the creatures under the sky or all the elements of the cosmos. Nevertheless, it is a sense of oneness that transcends one’s own person and connects one to a larger whole. I will be calling this (...)
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  15.  7
    What is the Nature of Morality? A Response to Casebeer, Railton and Ruse.Hagop Sarkissian, Owen J. Flanagan & David Wong - 2007 - In Walter Sinnott Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology, Vol.1: The Evolution of Morality: Adaptations and Innateness. Cambridge, MA, USA: pp. 45-52.
    A response to comments by William Casebeer, Peter Railton, and Michael Ruse on "Naturalizing Ethics" (2007).
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  16.  14
    Cultural Evolution and Prosociality: Widening the Hypothesis Space.Bryce Huebner & Hagop Sarkissian - 2016 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1 (39):e15.
    Norenzayan and colleagues suggest that Big Gods can be replaced by Big Governments. We examine forms of social and self-monitoring and ritual practice that emerged in Classical China, heterarchical societies like those that emerged in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and the contemporary Zapatista movement of Chiapas, and we recommend widening the hypothesis space to include these alternative forms of social organization.
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  17.  12
    Naturalizing Ethics.Owen Flanagan, Hagop Sarkissian & David Wong - 2016 - In Kelly James Clark (ed.), The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism. London, UK: pp. 16-33.
    In this essay we provide (1) an argument for why ethics should be naturalized, (2) an analysis of why it is not yet naturalized, (3) a defense of ethical naturalism against two fallacies—Hume’s and Moore’s—that ethical naturalism allegedly commits, and (4) a proposal that normative ethics is best conceived as part of human ecology committed to pluralistic relativism. We explain why naturalizing ethics both entails relativism and also constrains it, and why nihilism about value is not an especially worrisome for (...)
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  18.  5
    Review of Foundations for Moral Relativism. [REVIEW]Hagop Sarkissian - 2017 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 14:116-119.
    Review of David Velleman's Foundations for Moral Relativism.
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  19.  5
    고전 유교에서의 감정: 내면과 외면" ("Emotions in Classical Confucianism: Inside and Out").Hagop Sarkissian - 2012 - In 유교 도교 불교의 감성이론 (Theories of Emotion in Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism). Seoul:
    Classical Confucian thought is full of discussion of human emotions, reflecting a preoccupation with the inner life-how one ought to feel 'on the inside', as it were. Yet alongside these passages are others that seem, by contrast, to be concerned with matters external to one's emotions and psychology: how one ought to dress, speak, walk, and talk. Yet passages such as these, which draw attention to details of individual expression and comportment, are not at all tangential when it comes to (...)
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  20.  5
    因小得大: 情境论于道德哲学的困难与可能 (Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs: The Problems and Promise of Situationism in Moral Philosophy).Hagop Sarkissian - 2012 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture 9.
    This is a translation of "Minor Tweaks, Major Payoffs" (2010) prepared by 黃玉娥 for the Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture for a special issue edited by Brian Bruya on cognitive science and early Chinese philosophy.
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  21.  30
    The Darker Side of Daoist Primitivism.Hagop Sarkissian - 2010 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 37 (2):312-329.
    The Primitivist (responsible for chapters 8-11 of the heterogeneous Zhuangzi) has largely been interpreted as just another exponent of the philosophy of the Laozi or Daodejing. This is a shame, because the Primitivist is an idiosyncratic thinker whose theories do not simply reiterate those found in the Laozi. In this essay, I argue that even though the Primitivist embraced some of the values of the Laozi’s brand of Daoism, (e.g. simplicity, harmony with nature, being rid of knowledge, etc.) he would (...)
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  22.  13
    Neo-Confucianism, Experimental Philosophy and the Trouble with Intuitive Methods.Hagop Sarkissian - 2018 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (5):812-828.
    ABSTRACTThe proper role of intuitions in philosophy has been debated throughout its history, and especially since the turn of the twenty-first century. The context of this recent debate within analytic philosophy has been the heightened interest in intuitions as data points that need to be accommodated or explained away by philosophical theories. This, in turn, has given rise to a sceptical movement called experimental philosophy, whose advocates seek to understand the nature and reliability of such intuitions. Yet such scepticism of (...)
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  23.  3
    Folk Moral Relativism.Hagop Sarkissian, John J. Park, David Tien, Jennifer Wright & Joshua Knobe - 2014 - In Joshua Knobe & Shaun Nichols (eds.), Experimental Philosophy: Volume 2. New York, NY, USA: pp. 169-192.
    It has often been suggested that people’s ordinary folk understanding of morality involves a rejection of moral relativism and a belief in objective moral truths. The results of six studies call this claim into question. Participants did offer apparently objectivist intuitions when confronted with questions about individuals from their own culture, but they offered increasingly relativist intuitions as they were confronted with questions about individuals from increasingly different cultures or ways of life. In light of these data, the authors hypothesize (...)
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  24.  8
    Folk Platitudes as the Explananda of Philosophical Metaethics: Are They Accurate? And Do They Help or Hinder Inquiry?Hagop Sarkissian - 2017 - Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research 34 (3):565-575.
    The field of metaethics, the branch of moral philosophy that examines the nature and status of morality, is rich in theoretical diversity. Nonetheless, a majority of professional philosophers embrace a subset of theories that affirm the existence of objective moral facts. I suggest that this may be related to the very method that philosophers use to construct metaethical theories. This method involves analyzing how ordinary people think and argue about morality. Analysis of ordinary moral discourse is meant to reveal common (...)
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  25.  19
    Situationism, Manipulation, and Objective Self-Awareness.Hagop Sarkissian - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (3):489-503.
    Among those taking the implications of situationism seriously, some have suggested exploiting our tendency to be shaped by our environments toward desirable ends. The key insight here is that if experimental studies produce reliable, probabilistic predictions about the effects of situational variables on behavior—for example, how people react to the presence or absence of various sounds, objects, and their placement—then we should deploy those variables that promote prosocial behavior, while avoiding or limiting those that tend toward antisocial behavior. Put another (...)
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