This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. David McPherson is
Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Creighton University. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?
David McPherson: I am originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, but my family and I now live in Omaha, Nebraska, where I teach at Creighton University. I am a Midwesterner through and through.
VW: Tell me about your research.
DM: My research is primarily in contemporary virtue ethics and philosophy of religion. I am especially interested in the ways that these two fields intersect (or should intersect) around issues of spirituality and meaning in life. Although these issues are obviously of great importance in human life, they have tended to be neglected in contemporary virtue ethics. One reason for this neglect, I think, is the stress on an analogy between human flourishing and the flourishing of other living things, which encourages what John McDowell calls a “sideways-on” view of human life, that is, a disengaged, observer standpoint rather than an engaged, participative standpoint.
In order to better appreciate the significance of linking virtue ethics with spirituality and self-transcending sources of meaning, I think we need a deeper exploration of the “space of meaning” that arises for us from within our distinctively human form of life as meaning-seeking animals engaged in purposive activities. As part of this project, I have recently edited a book for Cambridge University Press titled Spirituality and the Good Life: Philosophical Approaches, which will come out later this year (http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/religion/philosophy-religion/spirituality-and-good-life-philosophical-approaches?format=HB#q8bAlsC6SIGY3BZq.97).
I am also currently working on a monograph in which I situate contemporary neo-Aristotelian ethics within the context of the modern problem of disenchantment, that is, the perceived loss or threat of a loss of meaning or value, which is often connected to various forms of scientism in modern intellectual life. I contend that all neo-Aristotelians seek varying degrees of re-enchantment, but I seek to articulate and defend an even fuller kind of re-enchantment than is found in any of the major views on offer.
VW: What are your non-academic interests?
DM: I love playing with my two young children (though I’d call being a parent a “vocation” rather than an “interest”!), and my wife and I enjoy playing Irish, Scottish, English, and American folk music together (I play guitar and she plays fiddle and guitar).
VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s seminar?
DM: I am most looking forward to engaging with and learning from the other seminar participants with regard to the central themes of the seminar, which are so closely connected to my own research interests. As an Aristotelian, I am also just interested in getting to know and forming friendships with others who are engaged in the contemplative life and have shared research interests.