The Four Levels of Apology

Apologies are crucial for relationships. Apologizing allows for forgiveness and anger reduction, among other things (McCullough et al 2014). It took my spouse and I awhile to realize that we did not understand ‘I’m sorry’ in the same way. So, eventually, we agreed to distinguish between four levels of apology. These levels capture each of our concepts of ‘apology’ (as well as some related concepts). Later on, we drew up another set of distinctions to gauge the badness of what we apologize for. In this post, I’ll explain the distinctions and how they help our relationships.

1. Four Levels of Apology

My spouse and I like speaking precisely. “Precision of language!” we tease one another (Lowry 2002). So how precise are we when it comes to apologies and responsibility?† Well, depending on how responsible we feel, we will offer one of four levels of apology: Continue reading The Four Levels of Apology

Is Philosophical Reflection Ever Inappropriate?

I am sometimes that stereotype of a socially inept philosopher. I fail to realize the difference between hyperbole or sarcasm, on the one hand, and seriousness, on the other hand.1 I say things that are technically correct, but socially incorrect. And I take casual claims way too seriously. In short, I go into philosophical reflection mode when I’m probably not supposed to:

(X and Y are discussing plans for the weekend.)

[X]: I don’t know, man. That sounds like a bad idea.

[Y]: That’s cuz it is a bad idea!


(Nick overhears this.)

Me: Uhh, I don’t know about that. Sounding like a bad idea doesn’t make it a bad idea. Surely bad sounding ideas can be—

[X]: Chill out, Nick. No one actually thinks that it’s a bad idea just because is sounds like a bad idea. It’s just a thing people say.

Learning From The Socially Inept Philosopher

Two things about my social ineptitude stand out to me:

  1. My inept responses are often instances of overthinking.
  2. Overthinking seems to prevent me from realizing something that would have otherwise been obvious.

My overthinking seems to be a form of philosophical reflection. And if that is right, then my ineptitude might demonstrate that philosophical reflection is sometimes inappropriate. In what follows I’ll mention two examples of misunderstanding the use of philosophical reflection. This will lead me to a provisional conclusion: philosophical reflection is ill-suited for certain social situations. 

The Philosophers’ Mistake

Philosophers spend their days thinking critically. This often involves suspending judgment(s) until they’ve had a chance to reflect. So when philosophers are faced with a claim — even in casual conversation — it would be understandable for the philosopher’s first response to be some form of philosophical reflection (…at least that’s what I tell myself when I am socially inept).

Philosophical reflection is not always bad, of course. Sometimes it’s crucial! It can help us identify Continue reading Is Philosophical Reflection Ever Inappropriate?