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Lisa Thomas-Smith on Moral Habits

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
This episode originally was published on December 17, 2021, and reposted here on May 10, 2024.

Self in Society Podcast #25
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Drawing on her dissertation work on moral habits, philosopher Lisa Thomas-Smith (now at Clemson) discusses the nature of and need for habits, methods for improving our habits, cultural influences on people's habits, recent cultural shifts for better and worse, and more.

Time Stamps
00 Intro
1:02 What moral habits are and why we need them
5:30 Cognitive limits and habits
8:04 Habits of thought and of action
9:33 The power and challenge of changing habits of thought
11:11 The bootsrapping problem of habit change
13:01 Compulsive versus goal-directed habits
15.54 When to ask for help
17:30 Are we more capable of self-formation that Aristotle recognized?
19:51 What is character and how important is it?
24:30 Praise and blame given the power of habit
30:23 Being open to change
36:27 Principles and habits
41:54 Biology and culture
47:43 Rationalist moral theories and habits
53:00 How hard is it to form new habits?
59:12 Changing the environment / Starting with a value
1:05:35 Is our culture getting better at overcoming bigotries?
1:10:31 Troubling cultural signs / Individualism and sociality
1:15:45 Political corruption and distrust
1:22:37 The state of academia
1:29:14 Limited diversity in philosophy
1:34:14 Reaching people when they're young
1:41:00 Ayn Rand, rationality, and habits
1:46:08 What's next / Wrap-up

Lisa recommends the following books:
Atomic Habits, James Clear
Good Habits, Bad Habits, Wendy Wood
Tiny Habits, B. J. Fogg
The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
Livewired, David Eagleman

Ari mentioned the books The Constitution of Knowledge (Jonathan Rauch) and The Scout Mindset (Julia Galef).

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