Jan 15 deadline: Virtue, Happiness, & Self-transcendence Summer Seminar

June 18  – 23 (Sun – Sat) | University of Chicago

Applications, including letters, must be complete by January 15, 2017.

Click here for application information and submission portal.

Fr. Stephen Brock  •  Jennifer A. Frey  •  Dan P. McAdams  • Candace Vogler

Now in our second year, our 2017 summer seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, and Self-transcendence”  is intended for outstanding middle- and advanced-level graduate students and early career researchers in the areas of Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology/Religious Studies. Our aim is to involve participants in our innovative and collaborative research framework within these three fields, and to provide an engaged environment to deepen and enliven their own research.

The Seminar is highly intensive, meeting twice a day for one week on the topics below and continues in conversations informally over meals.

Participants are housed on the University of Chicago campus and eat communally in a nearby dining hall.

The 2017 seminar is supported by  a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation and our institutional partner the Hyde Park Institute, and includes lodging, meals, tuition, and reimbursement up to $500  for travel. Accepted participants are asked to pay a $200 registration fee.

Fr. Stephen Brock session topics

Session 1: Friendship. The topic of friendship takes up approximately a fifth of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics (Books VIII and IX).  Aristotle judges friendship an essential factor in human happiness, and moral virtue an essential condition of true friendship.  And although he does not use the expression “self-transcendence,” he famously defines a friend as “another self.”  Thomas Aquinas fully endorses Aristotle’s account of friendship, and he gives it a fundamental role in his own account of the virtue of charity.  In this session we will look at some of the more salient passages in Aquinas’s commentary on Books VIII and IX of the Ethics.

Session 2: Law. According to Thomas Aquinas, all law tends toward constituting friendship, either among human beings, or between human beings and God (Summa theologiae, I-II, q. 99, a. 1, ad 2).  He also says that law regards “common happiness” (I-II, q. 90, a. 2), and that it aims to render those who are subject to it virtuous (I-II, q. 92, a. 1).  Aquinas’s conception of law thus brings together the themes of virtue, happiness, and self-transcendence.  In this session we will examine his general notion of law, his way of distinguishing various kinds of law, and especially his account of natural law.

Jennifer A. Frey session topics

Session 1: Self-Love and Self-Transcendence. A great deal of empirical and humanistic research suggests that human beings are happier and find their lives more meaningful when connected to common goods that go beyond the self.  The broadly Aristotelian philosophical tradition also suggests that self-love is the foundation of a happy and meaningful life.  This session will address how self-love and self-transcendence are mutually illuminating concepts, and how each can figure in an account of virtue.

Session 2: Happiness and Human Action. Happiness is a neglected topic in action theory.  In this session, we will explore the role that happiness plays in the account of human action advanced by Thomas Aquinas, with an eye to its relevance for contemporary questions and debates about the nature of practical reason, practical knowledge, desire, and practical intelligibility.

Dan McAdams session topics

Session 1:  Psychological perspectives on virtue and morality.  We will consider classic and contemporary understandings of what it means to live a good life, as expressed in the literature of empirical psychology.  Our emphasis will be on developmental conceptions, which lay out a series of psychosocial stages, tasks, experiences, or challenges that shape human virtue over the life course.  One increasingly influential perspective on the current scene suggests that virtue and morality may be construed as following three developmental lines over time:  the development of (1) moral traits and habits (the person as a social actor), (2) moral values and goals (the person as a motivated agent), and (3) a moral vocation in life (the person as an autobiographical author).

Session 2:  A virtue aimed at transcending and expanding the self:  Generativity.  In that the survival of the human species has traditionally been regarded as an ultimate concern, it is difficult to think of a more important virtue in human life than a commitment to promoting the survival, development, and well-being of future generations.  Erik Erikson named this virtue generativity.  We will explore classic theory and contemporary psychological research on the concept of generativity.  We will pay special consideration to the paradox that lies at the  heart of the concept – the contradictory idea that generativity is both narcissistic and altruistic, that a commitment to promoting future generations promotes the expansion of the self even as it challenges the generative adult to transcend the self.

Candace Vogler session topics

Virtue, Happiness, and Common Good.

Applications, including letters, must be complete by January 15, 2017.

Click here for application information and submission portal.