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Mark Alfano: Mapping Human Values

Lecture by Mark Alfano (Delft) organized by the Department of Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy

What people say about the dead tells us a great deal about their values. Given a brief space to summarize the entire life of a deceased relative or friend, the authors of obituaries may be expected to signal as concisely and strikingly as possible to their readers which of the most important, communally-accepted values the deceased manifested. Using data-mining techniques, we gathered and performed text analyses on over 13,000 obituaries of ordinary Americans to extract patterns of evaluative judgments.

Primary value-clusters include sports, learning, art, martial values, research, family, and business. Using network graphing and related analyses, we have found evidence for distinct clusters of values in different communities across the country, as well as the extent to which different values are associated with different generations, the extent to which different values are associated with men and women, and the extent to which values are geographically isolated. This is part of a larger project that I'm currently working on, which will eventually use data-mining tools to explore millions of obituaries around the world.

Mark Alfano

Mark Alfano is associate professor of philosophy at Delft University of Technology. He works on moral psychology, broadly construed to include ethics, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of psychology, and also maintains an interest in Nietzsche. His papers have appeared in numerous journals, including Philosophical Quarterly, The Monist, Erkenntnis, Synthese, and the British Journal for the History of Philosophy. His books include Character as Moral Fiction and Moral Psychology: An Introduction, and he is currently writing a research monograph on Nietzsche and editing two volumes on virtue ethics and virtue epistemology.

When & where?

Wednesday 23 September 2015, 3-5 pm
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Last modified:01 September 2015 2.43 p.m.