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!).