Announcement of Ph.D. in Education Dissertation Proposal Defense: Aaron David Rabinowitz Ph.D. Candidate
Everything is luck, all the way down. Everything we experience and everything we don’t experience. Everything about us, from the uncontroversial cases of hair color and height to the more controversial cases of beliefs and values, they are all 100% luck. These forms of constitutive luck combine with the luck of circumstances and consequences to blanket every part of our lives. This argument, which I call “luckpilling”, is a deeply taboo perspective that cuts against our evolved psychology and social norms. Despite these challenges, I believe luckpilling students in a healthy way is crucial to a life of flourishing and to our path forward as a species. The projects of social progress that built the “modern” world were driven in large part by the growing recognition of the pervasiveness of luck. Conversely, conservative resistance to increasing our understanding of the causes of human behavior is driven in large part by cognitive dissonance between our sense of fairness and the fact that we live in an unjust world. Many individuals adopt harmful worldviews involving belief in free will and meritocracy because these worldviews allow them to rationalize the injustice they see around them as deserved. I begin my argument with the philosophy of luck where I defend the (lack of) control account of luck on the grounds that is philosophically superior and forces us to confront the problem of moral luck. I then address the psychology and politics of luck to make clear the challenges and benefits of luckpilling. Finally, I present a new pedagogy of luck that educators with no formal philosophical training can use to help students work though these difficult issues in a wide range of academic domains. I argue that we should replace the compulsive meritocratic thinking that is driving students to workaholism and burnout with a luckpilling approach that emphasizes intrinsic motivators, compassion, and humility while avoiding fatalism or nihilism. I understand the urge to try to help students using narratives about free will and perseverance, but they’re better off knowing the truth about our unjust world so they can be empowered to improve it.