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  • a g n i t i o the duke university undergraduate journal of philosophy

    fall 2006 volume I :: issue I

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  • A G N I T I O The Duke Undergraduate

    Journal of Philosophy

    Editor-in-Chief Eric Weinstein

    Faculty Advisor Andrew Janiak

    Associate Editors Carolina Astigarraga

    Tony Manela Matthew Rich

    Editorial Board Members

    Matt Danforth Melissa Fundora

    Kyle Knight Josh Parker

    Matthew Slayton Alex Wang

    Jeremy Welch

    The editors would like to thank the following people and organizations for helping to bring this project to fruition: Michael Ferejohn, Owen Flanagan, Gven Gzeldere, Janelle Haynes, Andrew Janiak, Moli Jones and The Publishing Place, David Sanford, Marissa Weiss, David Wong, the Philosophy Department, the Office of Student Activities and Facilities, the Student Organization Finance Committee, Duke Student Government, the Undergraduate Publications Board, the John Spencer Bassett Memorial Fund, and the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Agnitio is an Independent C publication of the Undergraduate Publications Board of Duke University. Previously published material and simultaneous submissions cannot be accepted. The anonymity of all authors is maintained throughout the review process. All correspondence, including submissions, should be directed via electronic mail to the Editor-in-Chief at, or via standard mail to: Agnitio, Duke University, P.O. Box 93668, Durham, NC 27708-3668. This issue was made possible by financial contributions from the John Spencer Bassett Memorial Fund, the Duke University Philosophy Department, and the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

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  • table of contents :: agnitio Machiavellianism, Sociopathy and the Drive for Power 4 Leonardo Christov Moore Duke University Abstract: Past research indicates that Machiavellian behavior is a) a model of successful leadership based on observation and historical analysis b) a reliable metric for predicting character traits associated with dominant individuals c) the hallmark of a distinctive neurochemical and behavioral profile associated with power seeking in a social arena d) analogous to sociopathy in its negation of social influences or empathic considerations and e) shown with game theoretical and behavioral studies to be a stable evolutionary strategy with a corresponding niche within societal power structures. I review these findings to show that sociopathic moral development tends to produce Machiavellian tendencies, in accordance with studies of sociopaths social interactions, and that this individually-oriented behavior should be facilitated (and by extension encouraged) in determined environments. Grief and Moral Responsibility in Contemporary America (Excerpt) 19 Thomas Feulner Stanford University Abstract: Grievers are in general held to somewhat diminished standards of moral responsibility. While it is important to make allowances for people in a time of grief, these allowances can lead to the alienation of the griever from the community. In order to curb this alienation, societies need to employ non-moral social expectations of grievers in an effort to reinforce the grievers status as a part of the community. Feeling that he is a part of the community will facilitate the grievers reintegration into normal society. In contemporary American culture, these non-moral social practices are lacking, and grievers are the worse for it. Although practical solutions for changing the culture of grief in America are difficult to implement, there are some things we can do to better serve grievers in our communities. Hume on Belief in External Bodies 42 Wesley Holliday Stanford University Abstract: In Treatise 1.4.2, Hume advances an explanation of the origin of our belief in an external world. The present paper defends Humes account against various charges of question-begging but ultimately argues for an alternative account inspired by Humes own views on space, found in Treatise 1.2.3.

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  • from the editor :: agnitio When I first conceived the idea of publishing an undergraduate journal of philosophy at Duke during the spring of my freshman year, I didnt think it would be difficult to pull off: a few pages of paperwork here, a handful of meetings there, and wed have funding, a full staff, university support, and our first issue in hand by the following fall term.

    That was just over two years ago, and admittedly, I was a little overambitious. Its been a long time coming, but with the help of a number of faculty members and one of the more dedicated undergraduate staffs on campus, here it is: Agnitio. Newly approved by the Undergraduate Publication Board and Duke Student Government, Agnitio (Latin for of knowledge or of recognition) will serve as a local forum for the discussion of any and all philosophical issues and topics between undergraduates from across the country. Our inaugural issue contains academic writing from students at Duke University and Stanford University, and we are currently working as hard and fast as we can to get the word out and secure submissions from even more colleges and universities across the United States. As our resources increase, we hope to bring you lengthier, more varied, more engaging issues with every passing semester, and I hope this publication will continue to serve you and the Duke community long after our first staff has graduated.

    Ive found during my time at Duke that when you study philosophy, you end up

    studying a little bit of everything art, music, law, biology, physics, linguistics, womens studies, and more which I think renders Agnitio uniquely qualified to represent the myriad academic pursuits and interests of Duke University undergraduates. So read on about the neurobiological basis of behavior and its relationship to Machiavellis The Prince, the trauma and handling of grief in America, and how David Hume viewed the existence of external objects. Better yet, submit work of your own for our next issue, join the staff, or consider majoring or minoring in philosophy. As Socrates once said, The unexamined life is not worth living.

    Lets see whats out there.

    Eric Weinstein Founder, Editor-in-Chief

    December 2006

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  • machiavellianism, sociopathy and the drive for power leonardo christov moore :: duke university


    Analyses of political and personal gain from Machiavellis The Prince to Sun Tzus The Art of

    War have emphasized a set of character traits that define a successful leader. These include a talent

    for manipulation, a cognitive, goal-oriented approach to social interactions, and an artful

    employment of deceit and self representation to further ones goals. Interestingly, the same traits

    associated above with political success and material gain bear an intriguing resemblance to those

    characterizing sociopathy. I will discuss the functional niche competitive power structures (i.e.

    politics, marketing) have granted to character traits otherwise ascribed to an aberrant personality

    disorder. Conversely, a parallel can be drawn between conditions favorable to cooperative and

    selfish behavior, and those in public life which have characterized the emergence of sociopathic,

    radically egoistic political behavior. I will first review the concepts of sociopathy, Machiavellianism

    and the game theoretical cheater/cooperator paradigm. Then, I will discuss some of the

    processes involved in decision making which allow for Machiavellianism to exist as a stable

    evolutionary strategy. This will lead to an analysis of the environmental factors that grant a niche to

    such a strategy, their relation to the establishment of norms in society, and the compatibility of the

    sociopathic personality with the demands of Machiavellian behavior.

    The teachings of Niccolo Machiavelli represent a careful analysis of centuries of political

    turmoil in which only the most adept at attaining and maintaining power survived. In them he sets

    out a set of tactics and character traits associated with a pragmatic approach to interpersonal

    interactions, in which personal goals are set and given highest priority in all social considerations.

    Strategies are reviewed only in terms of their cost and their benefit, hinging on exploiting societal

    expectations to further personal gain. Contemporary research in game theory, primate studies,

    sociology, empirical psychology and others have found correlates between Machiavellian character

    traits and attractiveness, socioeconomic status and political success, all founded in the emotional and

    rational mechanisms we employ in organizing group behavior. Within an environment that

    encourages cooperation to preserve societal integrity, Machiavellian behavior presents an

    alternative, cheater strategy that appears to be fueled by a deficiency or negation of the social

    emotions that impel most of us towards prosocial behavior (under normative constraints). In game

    theory, this personality type is characterized by a refined ability to exploit cooperators by

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  • transmitting appropriate, compliant intentions but performing otherwise. The pressure within

    cooperative groups to detect and ostracize a cheater may select for those most successful at

    interpersonal manipulation and deceit. Some authors propose that Machiavellianism prospers as an

    adaptive strategy within environments largely populated by mixed-strategy interactionists whose

    socialized expectations and adherence to norms make them prone to deceit and manipulation.

    Contemporary research into polit