THE COLUMBIA SOCIETY FOR COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY
HAGOP SARKISSIAN (Baruch College)
Please join us at Columbia University's Religion Department on FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14 at 5:30PM for his lecture entitled:
“On Wielding Moral Sway: Influence and Manipulation in Social Networks”
Many of us value our independence, yet none of us is an independent actor in any profound sense. Rather, we are deeply affected by others in our local and extended networks in subtle yet significant ways. What's more, we return the favor--influencing the trajectory of others’ lives (whether we intend to or not). These facts, recently articulated in the behavioral and health sciences, raise certain questions. Do we have (previously unacknowledged) responsibilities to others if we do, in fact, continually exercise such influence on them—even if at a distance? Should we shape and mind our influence? If so, do we risk being paternalistic, even manipulative? From our perspective today, rooting out patterns of influence and then wielding them toward specific goals might seem unsavory. Nevertheless, I will argue that such strategies may make perfect sense once we become a) vividly aware of the predictable patterns of such resonant influence, and b) convinced that escaping such influence is a foolish enterprise. And whereas we are only recently coming to grips with this phenomenon, several early Confucian texts seem to take it as a fundamental orientation, which motivated an ethics centered on the notions of self-regulation, sway, and harmony. Indeed, wielding moral sway is, from this perspective, a hallmark of the virtuous person. I argue that classical Confucianism, while a tradition of thought quite distant from us, nonetheless contains important resources for understanding how we can better resonate with others and, in turn, how we can turn such resonance into human harmony.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14
Rm. 101, 80 Claremont Ave, Columbia University