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‘On Being Awesome’ Author Riggle to Visit Hendrix College

NickRiggle_web.jpgCONWAY, Ark. (November 5, 2019) — The Marshall T. Steel Center for the Study of Religion and Philosophy this week will host visiting philosopher and author Dr. Nicholas Riggle for two public events at Hendrix College. Riggle, a professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego whose book On Being Awesome: A United Theory of How Not to Suck came out in 2017, will lead the Wednesday Afternoon Discussion, then give a public talk Thursday evening. Both events are free and open to all; descriptions are included below. There will be a limited giveaway of Riggle’s book at the Thursday evening event.

Dr. James Dow, who serves as director of the Steel Center, associate professor of philosophy, and chair of the neuroscience program at Hendrix College, says that Riggle’s analysis of “awesomeness” and “suckiness” is based in the theory of social openings: moments in which a person is given the option to take up or turn down an opportunity to inspire others. 

“A person is awesome when they create social openings that enable others to pursue their individuality in ways that create further social openings. For instance, a high five is both aesthetically engaging and ethically good behavior; it creates a social opening for others to have a sense of achievement and further attempt to include others in community,” Dow said. “Riggle’s recent research has turned to aesthetic conversations as a domain in which awesomeness could operate—that talking about beauty, art, and aesthetic experience can create social openings.”

The Virtues of Aesthetic Conversation: a Wednesday Afternoon Discussion, Nov. 6, 4 p.m., Ellis Hall

This is a conversation about conversation. Our discussions about aesthetic matters are complex, and we often end up in disagreements—about which TV shows are good and why, which bands are best, how to decorate the apartment, what food to serve and how to cook it, and so on. What are the virtues of aesthetic conversation? What are we aiming at when we have such discussions? 

Let’s Talk About Beauty: Invitations and Aesthetic Discourse: Thursday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. in Lecture Hall B of the Mills Center for Social Sciences; a reception in the Mills Library follows.

Normative discourse or talk of what we “ought to” or “should” do, is often said to be distinctive in aiming at convergence. When we talk about what we ought to do, think, believe, or feel, the thought goes, we aim to get everyone on the same page and “converge” in our beliefs, feelings, plans, etc. While this might be true of some normative domains, Riggle argues that it is not true of the aesthetic. Like much moral discourse, typical aesthetic claims seem to express feelings or have prima facie imperatival force. But the conversational aims of aesthetic discourse are distinctive. A symptom of this is the special type of speech act we typically perform in aesthetic discourse. Understanding the speech act requires understanding the force of aesthetic imperatives, and among the several options a few stand out: demand, request, recommendation, and invitation. To adjudicate between these options, Riggle presents an account of the normative character of aesthetic discourse and argues that the invitation reading fares best. On this view, typical aesthetic claims include invitations to appreciate. It turns out that the “end” of aesthetic discourse is community, in a sense, not convergence, and so we should reject theories of aesthetic conversation that emphasize convergence.

For further information on Riggle’s visit to the Hendrix campus, contact Dow ( or Tammy Vanaman (

About Hendrix College

A private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas, Hendrix College consistently earns recognition as one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges. Its academic quality and rigor, innovation, and value have established Hendrix as a fixture in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings. Founded in 1876, Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. To learn more, visit