This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Jennifer Rothschild is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Florida. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?
JR: am from Iowa, my philosophical upbringing was in Chicago, and I am currently living in Florida and teaching at the University of Florida.
VW: Tell me about your research.
JR: I am endlessly interested in human beings—what it is to be human, what makes individual ones of us good or bad versions of a human being, how to understand what we do (actions and practices) and why we do it, and so on. I suppose my philosophical questions converge in ethics, moral psychology, and action. Though I am willing to draw inspiration from any source that makes good points about the things I care about, my writing tends to be more narrowly anchored in Aristotelian virtue ethics. At this point in my research I would say that I work on Aristotle because, first, of the philosophy I know, he is the most right. Second, I like ancient virtue ethics because this kind of philosophy does not seem to me to lose sight of its connection to actual human beings.
Currently I am working on trying to understand self-improvement from an Aristotelian perspective. Within the framework of Aristotle’s virtue ethics, how is it that we can reach for being better than we are? What does that look like? I think this is an important question, and there are a number of obstacles to seeing our way to a good answer on it.
VW: What are you looking forward to for the upcoming seminar?
JR: The topic for this summer’s meeting, self-transcendence, is right in the center of my current project. Part of what I want to understand is what it is to reach beyond ourselves—the internal and external resources we need for this, and the structure of that kind of aiming and transformation. I am excited about coming together with other scholars to see what we can figure out. I am also especially interested in the resources of accounts other than Aristotle’s (in particular, that of Aquinas).
VW: What are your interests outside of academia?
JR: As the mother of a young baby, I would say sleep ranks right up there on my list of shiny goods. Does that count? I like to cook, and eat, and go new places whenever I can. I am one of those people who always has big plans for a new hobby that I never seem to get around to taking up: this summer, for example, I plan to get my boat captain’s license and learn to make mosaics (among other things, of course).