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In this paper I offer a philosophical analysis of the act of ‘liking’ a post on social media. First, I consider what it means to ‘like’ something. I argue that ‘liking’ is best understood as a phatic gesture; it signals uptake and anoints the poster’s positive face. Next, I consider how best to theorise the power that comes with amassing many ‘likes’. I suggest that ‘like’ tallies alongside posts institute and record a form of digital social capital. Finally, I consider whether ‘likes’ have ultimately improved online discourse. I argue that while the ‘liking’ function itself is relatively innocuous, public ‘like’ tallies introduce a corrosive motivation to online communication. By making the prospect of increased social capital perpetually salient to us, they encourage us to prioritise high levels of engagement over meaningful engagement.
Some of the world's most powerful corporations practise what Shoshana Zuboff (2015; 2019) calls ‘surveillance capitalism’. The core of their business is harvesting, analysing and selling data about the people who use their products. In Zuboff's view, the first corporation to engage in surveillance capitalism was Google, followed by Facebook; recently, firms such as Microsoft and Amazon have pivoted towards such a model. In this paper, I suggest that Karl Marx's analysis of the relations between industrial capitalists and workers is closely analogous to the relations between surveillance capitalists and users. Furthermore, three problematic aspects of industrial capitalism that Marx describes – alienation, exploitation and accumulation – are also aspects, in new forms, of surveillance capitalism. I draw heavily on Zuboff's work to make these parallels. However, my Marx-inspired account of surveillance capitalism differs from hers over the nature of the exchange between users and surveillance capitalists. For Zuboff, this is akin either to robbery or the gathering of raw materials; on the Marx-inspired account it is a voluntary sale. This difference has important implications for the question of how to resist surveillance capitalism.
Technological developments have led to the digitization of certain sectors of the economy, and this has many authors looking ahead to the prospects of a post-work society. While it is valuable to theorize about this possibility, it is also important to take note of the present state of work. For better or worse, it is what we are currently stuck with, and as the COVID-19 pandemic has ensured, much of that work is now taking place online. Though a ‘return to normalcy’ is on the horizon, part of that normalcy involves online work, which is itself a significant change in the lives of many workers. Here I develop an account of work on which work is teleologically structured. This gives the result that working is something we can fail at doing, even when we try, and we can also be unsure of whether we've succeeded or failed. The shift of certain work from in-person to online modes generates a persistent uncertainty for workers in affected professions. Because our ability to work is something we typically value, this uncertainty has significant negative consequences for a worker's self-conception. Indeed, it is analogous to disorders of agency and generates a kind of alienation.
This paper presents a functional genealogy of essentialist authenticity. The essentialist account maintains that authenticity is the result of discovering and realizing one's ‘true self’. The genealogy shows that essentialist authenticity can serve the function of supporting continuity in one's individual characteristics. A genealogy of essentialist authenticity is not only methodologically interesting as the first functional genealogy of a contingent concept. It can also deepen the functional understanding of authenticity used in neuroethics, provide a possible explanation for the prevalence of the idea of an essentialist true self and justify the use of the ideal of authenticity. First, essentialist authenticity is defined and explained through the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Second, a general need to have steady characteristics is derived from basic human practices. Third, circumstances that make it more challenging to steady oneself are identified and shown to have become more prevalent in the age of modernity when the ideal of authenticity emerged. Finally, it is shown how essentialist authenticity helps to steady the self.
What should one do when one's philosophical conclusions run counter to common sense? Bow to the might of ordinary opinion or follow the indiscriminate force of philosophical reason, no matter where it leads? A few strategies have recently been proposed which suggest we needn't have to make this difficult choice at all. According to these views, we can accept the truths of common sense whilst simultaneously endorsing philosophical views with which they seem to conflict. We can, for instance, accept it as true that the Taj Mahal is in India, whilst also eliminating the Taj Mahal from our ontology. I argue that these strategies generate a new conflict with common sense and thus undercut one of the central motivations that drives them. I also argue for the stronger claim that these kinds of ‘truth-salvaging’ strategy are incapable in principle of reconciling theory with common sense. This does not mean that they must be abandoned, for there may be good independent reasons for endorsing them, but it does eliminate one of their most promising advantages. The upshot of the paper will be two-fold. First, one of the major motivations for endorsing these kinds of strategy will be severely undermined. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it will mean that for those who think philosophy should be strictly constrained by common sense, all radical ontological views will effectively be off the table.
For an agent to be motivated by a normatively perverse reason is to be motivated by a normative or evaluative thought as such which, if true, would count as such against the action that it motivates the agent to perform, or against the attitude that it motivates the agent to take. For example, that an action is morally wrong or prudentially bad counts, as such, against performing the action. When the thought that an action is morally wrong or prudentially bad (bad for me) motivates me as such to perform the action, my motivating reason is normatively perverse. If being motivated by normatively perverse reasons is possible, then what, if anything, is wrong about it? I present and reject some accounts of what may be wrong about normative perversity (wrong reasons, malfunctioning attitudes, practical irrationality, instability, evaluative ignorance). In the course of this discussion some desiderata emerge. Then I defend the suggestion that normative perversion is socially undesirable, in that it undermines certain valuable interpersonal and intrapersonal relations. Entering and maintaining these relations is constitutive of valuing people as beings to whom reasonable justification is owed. I show how this account satisfies the desiderata.