Adventures in Ethics and Science

Chris at Mixing Memory points to research that suggests musical preferences provide a window to the personality. I haven’t seen the research yet but, at Chris’s prompting, I’ll throw myself into the ring as an experimental subject by listing 10 songs I like an awful lot*:

  1. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Knock Me Down
  2. Ani Di Franco, Gravel
  3. Public Enemy, Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man
  4. Sleater-Kinney, Good Things
  5. Steely Dan, My Old School
  6. Billy Bragg, St. Swithin’s Day
  7. Nina Simone, My Baby Just Cares for Me
  8. The Beatles, I’m Only Sleeping
  9. Descendants, Wendy
  10. Dar Williams, In Love But Not at Peace

There are the data. In light of Chris’s post, what do they tell you about my personality?
*I’m constitutionally unable to settle on an all-time top 10. These are my top 10 for the stetch of time during which I composed this post.


  1. #1 ceresina
    March 12, 2007

    Given the caveat mentioned in the footnote, I think we need more data at this particular point in the investigation before we can make any reasonable hypotheses. 😉

  2. #2 Sean Carroll
    March 13, 2007

    I know you’re not supposed to say this, but Flavor Flav was indeed a better rapper than Chuck D.

  3. #3 Janet D. Stemwedel
    March 13, 2007

    To Chuck D.’s credit, though, he’s avoided the VH-1 Celebreality vortex.

  4. #4 Sean Carroll
    March 13, 2007

    I only said he was a better rapper. Along many other dimensions, Chuck D comes out looking a lot better than Flav.

  5. #5 Ted
    March 13, 2007

    That list is just too eclectic, and tries hard to be edgy….

    Peripherally, since you’re a student of philosophy, I’d say that the modern songwriters as philosophers are discounted and not given enough credit in the area of philosophic influence.

    It’s much more likely that I would repeatedly listen to the philosophy of Jackson Browne, Dylan, Springsteen, TVZ or John Prine and that their ideas about freedom, dignity, individualism, money, compassion, etc would influence me to a greater degree than readings by Hume, Locke, Plato, etc which are sort of incidental, forced and short lived.

    So far, I have logged literally thousands of hours listening to the ideas of these pop culture icons, and in comparison to the recognized philosophers (as defined by the academics), they have been much more influential in self-definition and personality building; they are passive and permeating. The dead guys are more like homework, and pretentious at that.

    Of course, it’s probably because the dead white guys of western philosophy have not been put to a catchy tune, but wouldn’t it make sense that our outlook is related to someone yammering pleasantries in our ear, coupled with our self-flattery, convincing us that yes, we are just like that?

    I’m not sure that every pop artist with a tune or contract falls into that category though. But certainly, the body of works from some of the folksies that I mentioned above tend to be thoughtful enough to fall into the category of philosophy that can be compared to the dead white greats.

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