Virtue Talk Podcast: Philosopher Nancy Snow on virtue, ethics, and human flourishing

virtuetalklogorsClick the link below to hear our scholar and philosopher Nancy Snow discuss her current and far-ranging research, initiatives, and the impact of  working with psychologists and theologians in our project is having in ways she considers the idea of virtue, ethics, and moral education, and human flourishing.

Nancy Snow | Virtue Talk



Nancy Snow at the December 2015 working group meeting of the scholars of Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
Nancy Snow at the December 2015 working group meeting of the scholars of Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Nancy Snow is Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing at University of Oklahoma. Read more here.


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Interview with Tom Angier, Summer Session Participant

Tom in treno

This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Tom Angier is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Cape Town.


Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Tom Angier: I grew up in rather insignificant spots in southern England, though my mother is Canadian and I did a PhD in Toronto. 


VW: Tell me about your research.

TA: My main research is in Aristotelian and neo-Aristotelian ethics and political theory. The reason is that I think the ancients, and Aristotle in particular, supply the most fruitful and realistic framework for thinking about human practice. One of my projects is to explore and resurrect the metaphysically rich framework of Aristotle’s practical philosophy. For instance, I’ve recently written a paper arguing that Aristotle’s ethics is fundamentally theocentric, something downplayed (indeed denied) by generations of philosophers. More widely, I have done work on the 19th century philosopher Kierkegaard, and also on Alasdair MacIntyre. Recently I have been asked to translate a text by Knud Logstrup, a 20th century Danish philosopher who deserves a much wider audience in the Anglophone world.


VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s Virtue
& Happiness seminar?

TA:  I’m most looking forward to meeting people with similar intellectual interests, and to learning from experts in the field. It is rare that the notion of interdisciplinarity is genuinely honoured and acted on in academia, and our week together promises to be cross-disciplinary in a very fruitful way. What’s more, I have never visited Notre Dame or Chicago, but have heard a lot about them – this has whetted my appetite for the seminar series all the more.


VW: What are your non-academic interests?

TA: My non-academic interests centre on music, current cultural critique, humour, hiking, keeping fit, and drinking Belgian beer.

Interview with Charles Lockwood, Summer Session Participant


This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Charles Lockwood is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Oberlin College.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Charles Lockwood: I grew up in Atlanta, and most of my family still lives in Georgia or in neighboring states. I spent my college and grad school years living in New England with some short stints living abroad along the way, and last year, I moved with my wife and 14-month-old son to Ohio, where I’m currently teaching in the religion department at Oberlin College.


VW: Tell me about your research.

CL: I locate my research at the intersection of ethics, theology, and philosophy of religion in the modern West. My current book project focuses on the theological and philosophical legacies of Immanuel Kant’s notion of autonomy, situated in relation to debates about
secularization and modernity. I’m especially interested in Kant because his emphasis on autonomy figures so strongly in both theological and philosophical narratives about modernity, and yet assessments of Kantian autonomy (as a either a good or bad thing) vary enormously. Kant’s emphasis on autonomy is also closely linked to his thinking about virtue, and while Kant parts ways at points with Aristotelian and other forms of virtue ethics, I’m also interested in how his approach to virtue can be brought into conversation with thinkers such as Aristotle. My hope is to highlight the ways that religious considerations shape Kant’s own understanding of virtue, particularly in terms of his understanding of the relationship between divine transcendence and immanent human activity.


VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s Virtue
& Happiness seminar?

CL: Aside from the chance to meet and have invigorating conversations with a lot of scholars sharing similar interests, I’m especially drawn to the seminar’s interdisciplinary structure (drawing as it does on theology/religious studies, philosophy, and psychology), as well as its focus on multiple traditions of reflection about virtue, including Aristotelian and various Christian construals of the moral life, as well as non-Western traditions. It’s often been noted that Kant seems to draw on empirical observations at various points in developing his ethical theory (especially in his reflections on radical evil and how such evil might be overcome), and I am eager to see how contemporary empirical work in psychology might present new insights for ethical theorizing. I am also interested in contributing to the seminar by bringing Kant into conversation with Aristotelian and various Christian conceptions of virtue.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

CL: My main non-academic interests these days involve my young son, and the daily excitement of watching him grow has been a source of enormous joy.  I’m also an amateur singer, and my wife and I joined a community choir at Oberlin last year. It’s been our first chance to sing together since college, where we met in a singing group. I also try to squeeze in a run every so often (although my son’s schedule often throws a wrench in those plans!).


Video: Jennifer A. Frey, “Transcendence”

University of South Carolina’s Breakthrough Magazine features our own PI Jennifer A. Frey in their article “Happiness Granted” and video (below).

“USC assistant professor of philosophy Jennifer Frey and co-PI Candace Vogler of the University of Chicago landed just such a princely sum this past fall, and they’re hardly bummed about it. Their pursuit of happiness, however, is really just beginning.” Read full article here.

Interview with Anne Baril, Summer Session Participant

Baril 2

This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Anne Baril is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Mexico.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Anne Baril: Originally from Minnesota, I now live in New Mexico.


VW: Tell me about your research.

AB: I have research interests in ethics, epistemology, and their intersection.  I am especially interested in exploring the role of the epistemic virtues in the good life.  The development and exercise of traits like open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, intellectual charity, and intellectual generosity are important for living well- both for becoming good people, and for living good, satisfying lives.  I argue this in my current central research project.


VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s Virtue & Happiness seminar?

AB: Having recently started my first job, I am looking forward to the opportunity to be a student again.  All of the sessions and topics sound fascinating, and certain to be helpful to me in my own research.  And—I’ll admit—I’ve looked up the other students online, and they sound amazing!  Can’t wait to meet them and discuss all things happy and virtuous.


VW: What are your non-academic interests?

AB: My daughter was born in February, and she is just getting to the age to enjoy storytime, sing-alongs, and walks in the woods with our dog, so right now those are my favorite activities!  With going out for a drink or a coffee for a chat with a real-live adult a current second favorite.

Is Charity a Virtue? part 2

Photo by Tim Green.

As I explained in the previous installment, Aquinas holds charity to be a virtue that is crucial to the attainment of our final end as human beings in the enjoyment of God. In coming to love God for what he is, we come to love his creation for what it is, and this involves a special sort of love for our fellow human beings as those who are ordered to the enjoyment of God. Aquinas’ view of charity is deeply wedded to his faith, but can something of the structure and content of Aquinas’ thought about charity be adapted to a defense of charity towards our fellow human beings (at least) that does not depend on Aquinas’ faith?


Although in the absence of those specific commitments, we may not share a vision of our final end that is as focused as Aquinas’ conception – the enjoyment of God – we undoubtedly have an idea of what it is for a human life to go well or badly. Indeed, such an idea is behind the conception of loss or deprivation in human life that allows us to register misfortunes. The contemporary neo-Aristotelian philosopher Philippa Foot argues that charity is a “prime candidate for a virtue” because “love and other forms of kindness are needed by every one of us when misfortune strikes.” On her view, then, when faced with misfortune, we stand in need of love and kindness from others. But what is meant here? Why do we stand in need of love and kindness from others? Foot does not explain herself, but I would suggest that we need others to register the significance of the evil that has befallen us, which is what a loving response to suffering does. We need our suffering to matter to others, and this goes beyond receiving material aid that might well be delivered with indifference to our suffering, perhaps out of expectation for reciprocity.


Is this need merely a contingent psychological need? Perhaps some people don’t have it, or perhaps with some effort we might overcome it. But I would argue that the need is tied to desires and feelings that are not optional for a human agent: we must desire our own well-being and the preservation of our ability to pursue our ends; affectively, this is registered as self-love. While self-love can play a troubling role in moral life, causing us to fail to register important goods beyond ourselves, proper self-love plays a crucial role in a good human life. Conditions such as depression and sloth or acedia can mute appetites that normally sustain self-love, and leave the sufferer of these conditions in a condition of apathy or hostility towards themselves. These conditions by degrees paralyze our agency or even turn it against itself. If this is correct, then self-love as a proper response to our value is essential and central to the human good, as it sustains our ability to act toward valued ends.


Self-love can ground a need for recognition of our suffering by others. One who loves himself properly sees the value in his undertakings such that when misfortune strikes, only someone who recognizes the damage to those valued pursuits can be said to genuinely grasp the misfortune. Hence, I need from others recognition of the significance of loss; this recognition gives rise to the good of concord in recognizing our value in mutual love. Concord is an Aristotelian notion: a defining feature of friendship that consists in living together, sharing taste, and sharing joys and sorrows; but that form of concord is stronger than the sense I have in mind here, which is formed strictly on the basis of finding value in human agency. Valuing another’s agency involves a sharing in the sorrows and joys of another, at least in a general way. That is, I need not value everyone’s undertakings, but even without doing so, without even knowing what someone’s specific aims in life are, I can register the tragedy of a stranger’s loss of a close friend or family member, and such understanding moves the charitable person to action. This concord holds us together as a kind in an affective and practical sense, and gives our humanity an important moral sense: we recognize in other human beings distinctive capacities for loss and joy that brings out a distinctive, and distinctively valuable sort of love from us, and this love is an analogue, I believe, to Aquinas’ charity.


On this view then, lacking the quality of responding to the suffering of others with kindness is a defect in a human being: in its absence, we cannot enjoy this great good which consists of concord concerning our value as human beings. Conversely, possessing this quality makes us good qua human, and this argument gives us reason to think that charity, so understood, is indeed a virtue.

John Hacker-Wright is Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, and Editor in Chief of The Journal of Value Inquiry.