Professor Ken Burak explores an overarching feature of our society -- perhaps of any society, actual or possible, secular or religious -- namely, rewards and punishments, what psychologists call Extrinsic Motivation. A society that gets its participants to do what it wants them to do (learn, work, follow its rules...) through the use of bribes (rewards) and threats (punishments), whether meted out by gods or parents, priests or teachers, police or employers, is a society that runs on, is fueled by, fear. It seems both inevitable and perhaps necessary. The 2001 Disney movie Monsters, Inc. is worth analyzing in this regard, both because it creates a society that literally, materially runs on the fuel of fear, but also because it offers us a challenge: what if a society that runs on joy and love, rather than fear and coercion, is not only possible, but actually more productive of the things we want?
Ken Burak is a Full Professor of Philosophy at Northampton Community College and a Visiting Faculty Member at Lehigh University. He received a PhD in Philosophy from DePaul University, a Masters in Philosophy from Katholeike Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, and a BA in Philosophy from Penn State University. He is the author of Logic and Resistance: Reading Hegel in the Age of the War on Terrorism and the Chapter "Help! My Philosophy Teacher Made Me Touch My Toes!" in Yoga for Everyone: Bending Mind and Body.
Learn more about Dr. Burak and his work by visiting his faculty profile.