At some point in your life you’ve probably said that someone is either awesome or that they totally suck. I know I have. But what does that mean in a philosophical sense? One philosopher thinks it’s all about open mindedness in social situations.
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How does one define something as subjective as being awesome or sucking? Nick Riggle, a former pro skater who holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from NYU, thinks he has the answer in his new book On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck. He explains his theory to Gareth Cook at Scientific American:
…”awesome” is often being used in a distinctive social sense to talk about people and actions that bring people together in a certain way… being awesome is being good at creating “social openings” — moments of mutual appreciation between people when they break out of their norms and routines by expressing their individuality in a way that gets others to express theirs.
Basically, you’re awesome when you’re comfortable being yourself and you make others feel comfortable doing the same. It’s all about letting people be who they want to be and not making a big deal about it in social situations. Makes sense, but then what does it mean to “suck”:
Someone sucks when they reject a social opening for no good reason.
Riggle notes that sucking is the same as being a blowhard, braggart, or perhaps the best way to put it, a killjoy. Essentially, sucking is thinking you’re too cool for school. You’re closing the world off to your individuality while simultaneously shutting down others’ expression of individuality.
Riggle gives an example of a pro basketball game where a song plays and people are shown on the jumbo screen. Being awesome is taking part and singing along when it’s your turn on screen — maybe even dancing around or reenacting the music video.
Sucking is sitting there and refusing to take part because you “don’t think it’s cool” or you don’t want to look silly. So sing along, people. You can choose to be awesome.