Books

The Source and Significance of Coincidences

Appearing April 2019

Cover

From the back cover:

Depending on what book you read, coincidences may be hailed as signs from God, messages from your deceased loved ones, confirmations that you are on the road to a more creative and fulfilling life, or illusions created by the pattern-seeking human brain. But few writers, whether believers or skeptics, have methodically tackled the hardest questions surrounding coincidences: for instance,

  • How can you calculate whether a particular coincidence is too improbable to be chance?
  • Is there any hard evidence that coincidences convey genuine messages from the dead, or from other entities on the “other side”?
  • Why do some coincidences mislead people into making bad decisions?
  • Is it possible that we cause some or all of the coincidences we experience?

In this book, philosopher Sharon Hewitt Rawlette systematically analyzes the evidence for a vast array of hypotheses about the source and significance of coincidences, including chance. While the evidence she presents makes a highly compelling case that there is a meaningful reality transcending the known laws of science, it also demonstrates the futility of searching for a one-size-fits-all approach to coincidences. 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, Rawlette shows that the key to the meaning of a coincidence ultimately lies in the response it evokes in the human heart.

 

The Feeling of Value: Moral Realism Grounded in Phenomenal Consciousness

June 2016

Purchase on Amazon

Front Cover

Winner of New York University’s Dean’s Outstanding Dissertation Award

“[E]xceptionally bold and philosophically absorbing…a real achievement…the kind of muscular, intuitively motivated philosophical stance that brings the subject to life.”

—from the foreword by Thomas Nagel

From the back cover:

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.

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