Books

Coincidences have been hailed as signs from God, messages from deceased loved ones, confirmations that a person is on the road to a more creative and fulfilling life, and illusions created by the pattern-seeking human brain. But few authors, whether believers or skeptics, have methodically tackled the hardest questions surrounding this enigmatic phenomenon. For instance,

  • How can we calculate whether a particular coincidence is too improbable to be just chance?
  • What hard evidence is there that coincidences convey genuine messages from the dead, or from other entities on the “other side”?
  • Do ordinary people have the psychic ability to create coincidences, for themselves or others?
  • Why do coincidences sometimes harm or deceive?

Philosopher Sharon Hewitt Rawlette systematically analyzes a vast array of evidence supporting many different hypotheses about the source and significance of coincidences. She makes a compelling case that coincidences point to a meaningful reality transcending the known laws of science, but she also demonstrates the futility of searching for a one-size-fits-all approach to this phenomenon. Personal encounters with coincidences draw us deep into the mysteries of life, and while mathematical and scientific tools have a part to play in their analysis, ultimately the key to the meaning of a coincidence lies in the response it evokes in the human heart.

This revolutionary treatise starts from one fundamental premise: that our phenomenal consciousness includes direct experience of value. For too long, ethical theorists have looked for value in external states of affairs or reduced value to a projection of the mind onto these same external states of affairs. The result, unsurprisingly, is widespread antirealism about ethics.

In this book, Sharon Rawlette turns our metaethical gaze inward and dares us to consider that value, rather than being something “out there,” is a quality woven into the very fabric of our conscious experience, in a highly objective way. On this view, our experiences of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, ecstasy and despair are not signs of value or disvalue. They are instantiations of value and disvalue. When we feel pleasure, we are feeling intrinsic goodness itself. And it is from such feelings, argues Rawlette, that we derive the basic content of our normative concepts—that we understand what it means for something to be intrinsically good or bad.

Rawlette thus defends a version of analytic descriptivism. And argues that this view, unlike previous theories of moral realism, has the resources to explain where our concept of intrinsic value comes from and how we know when it objectively applies, as well as why we sometimes make mistakes in applying it. She defends this view against G. E. Moore’s Open Question Argument as well as shows how these basic facts about intrinsic value can ground facts about instrumental value and value “all things considered.” Ultimately, her view offers us the possibility of a robust metaphysical and epistemological justification for many of our strongest moral convictions.