In On Being Awesome: A Unified Theory of How Not to Suck, I develop a theory of social virtue around the concept of a "social opening" and argue that a range of contemporary terms track various modes of success and failure with respect to social openings: ‘awesome’, ‘down’, ‘chill’, ‘sucks’, ‘wack’, ‘lame’, ‘douchebag’, and others. A basic idea is that the normative character of contemporary social life cannot be fully understood in traditional philosophical terms: ‘obligation’, ‘demand’, ‘duty’, ‘right’, ‘just’, ‘requirement’. ‘Sucks’ and ‘awesome’ (and their ilk) capture a special mode of interpersonal critique. Old modes of critique fall short because contemporary social life embodies a concern for cultivating, expressing, and appreciating individuality. This is partly an aesthetic affair, which flavors the modes of response and critique that constitute the normative framework. I detail how our interest in the "ethics of awesomeness" has influenced a range of post-’60s cultural practices, including art, charity, athletics, public life, and others.
“What is the opposite of an asshole? It’s the ‘awesome’ person who goes off script in the usual interactions, creating new opportunities for creative expression and social communion. Nick Riggle’s fun book is ‘awesome’ by its own definition. But don’t miss its profound ambition, which is to show how philosophy unearths the structure of ordinary language, defines the meaning of life in routine business, and poses the question of how best to live.”
—Aaron James, author of Assholes: A Theory
“It’s…hard to imagine that anyone else has thought so deeply about the nature of awesomeness: its meaning, its importance, and the ways that true awesomeness is under threat. In On Being Awesome, Riggle offers a careful dissection of the psycho-philosophical categories of sucking…but the book also works as a practical, and surprisingly inspiring, guide to better living.”
—Scientific American Mind
“"Nick Riggle quickly and convincingly makes the case for the pursuit of awesomeness (and the avoidance of suckiness, its mortal enemy) as a legitimate social aim...In a pluralistic world that fractures further by the minute, being awesome might be the only viable model for the future of our society.”
"Riggle’s book is a welcome addition to the trend of philosophy pitched to the public. Like Aaron James’s Assholes: A Theory and Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, Riggle’s On Being Awesome shows the promise of employing the tools of analytic philosophy to address the nuances of contemporary culture. The book on the whole is written in a clear, vernacular style that’s accessible to a general audience, but at the same time it doesn’t pull its philosophical punches. It’s also loaded with thought-provoking examples drawn from pop culture, civic life, sports, and the arts. More significantly, Riggle aims to craft the very sort of social opening that his book describes. In creating a rich theory of awesomeness, Riggle invites us to play along by adopting his lingo – “wack”, “chill”, and “squad” – but more importantly by looking at our lives as opportunities to do awesome things. The only question that remains is whether, you, the reader, are down. In short, it’s an awesome book – and, upon reading it, you’ll know exactly what that means."
—The Philosophers' Magazine
"Nick Riggle's new book is a roadmap to achieving awesomeness."
"Want to bring a little awesomeness into your life? Check out Dr. Riggle's hilariously insightful book."
“A deceptively fun-loving tour of philosophy’s most ancient question: how best to live. Riggle uses modern jargon to apply timeless philosophical truths to today’s problems.”
"...[M]ight be the most entertaining study of linguistics taxonomy in philosophy."