Interview with Alberto Arruda, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Alberto Arruda is
postdoctoral researcher in philosophy at the University of Lisbon. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Tomorrow’s blog post is by Arruda, “The notion of dependence.”

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Alberto Arruda: I am from Lisbon, Portugal. I am currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Lisbon.

VW: Tell me about your research.

AA: My research interests are mainly in the connections between the philosophies of mind and action, moral and political philosophy, and also Wittgenstein, Anscombe, Marx and Hegel.

More specifically, my most recent research interest is concerned with trying to understand philosophically what ‘worrying about someone’ means. By this expression I simply mean that I have been trying to think about what this characteristic exhibited by humans (worrying about each other) means in virtue ethics and the development of virtues, also regarding the notion of a person.

In relation to this, I have been trying to better understand the notion of perfectionism, especially how in some political systems perfectionism was both destructive of persons and the apparent justification of a higher good for that political community.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

AA: My main non-academic interest is music.

 

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

AA: I am looking forward to serious and exciting discussions, and to learning about new perspectives that will help me when considering the problems I study.

Virtue and Vocation in Science

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Aristotle emphasized the relation of particular social roles, or vocations, to particular virtues. For instance, soldiers should have the virtue of courage. Similarly, justice is central to involvement in politics. What about science? Are there virtues particular to being a good scientist? Is there something distinctive about a vocation to be a scientist? Contemporary virtue ethics offers at least two views of the relevance of virtue in science: facilitation of a flourishing society and following one’s individual dispositions.

 

First, pursuing science may be a meaningful way for an individual to contribute to the flourishing of society. Generally speaking, this is an uncontroversial response–don’t all professions have this aim? So this is insufficient to justify science as an alternative to other practices. The second view offers a solution here: an individual may be more suited–in light of one’s circumstances, dispositions, and skills–to achieve such flourishing through science than through other means. Not everyone is called to be a politician or social worker. Some are more suited to the vocation of science.

 

Taking up the second view in more detail, what kinds of dispositions are important to being a virtuous scientist? Dispositions and skills undoubtedly play an important role in the development of a scientist. Some of these dispositions may be deeply seated in an individual’s psychology, such as one’s ability to focus on the details relevant to a given goal. Bryan Brown and James Gee also emphasize the importance of language skills as a means to engage in practices like science. Further, science is a practice particularly suited to pursuing epistemic ends, aligning it most closely with personality traits like intellect and openness to experience, which are tendencies to pursue intellectual goals. These traits can enable a strong motivation to enter science, which could then serve to develop one’s scientific potential. However, even such motivation is meaningless, in itself, if a budding scientist lacks the capacity to do good scientific work. If one is frequently dishonest, lacks the discipline to collect and analyze data systematically, and is too easily frustrated by the inevitable disappointments that arise in scientific work, one is unlikely to do good work let alone become a virtuous scientist. While this doesn’t mean that we should expect anyone to be a perfect scientist at the outset, some people may just not be well suited to scientific pursuits.

 

Context also matters given the importance of culture to the development of dispositions. If one lacks meaningful opportunities to learn to be a scientist, one will likely take the opportunities to learn that exist in one’s developmental context in another domain. Despite this, some individuals growing up with limited exposure to the science and mathematics make extraordinary contributions to it (for example Srinivasa Ramanujan, a leading mathematician of the early 20th century), so circumstance alone is clearly not enough for a full determination. At the other extreme, some fields may be inundated with qualified candidates due to their status and prestige (see Good Work on contemporary genetics). If one’s field is pursued by too many, then pursuing other opportunities may be more effective in supporting human flourishing and thus more virtuous. This is both because competition for resources can lead to careerism and undermine the field and because there are likely other areas where an individual’s effort may be productive.
What kind of account then would mark a virtuous calling to do science? First, it should fit one’s dispositions, as discussed above, with the proper motives and capacities. Second, an aspiring scientist should pursue science that has a worthwhile possibility of contributing to human flourishing. Thus, a virtuous vocation to science could arise when science is an appropriate pursuit for this individual amidst other available pursuits. This is not to say that other pursuits don’t have a place in the life of a scientist. It may well be the case that pursuing scientific work serves a higher calling, as in practicing science to support environmental causes or to provide for one’s family. It could still be appropriate to think of science as a calling in such cases, but science need not be one’s ultimate or highest calling.

 


Timothy Reilly is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science Project. He is a developmental psychologist whose work draws from a variety of approaches, including positive psychology, moral development, sociocultural theory, and action theories of development. He was one of the participants in our 2017 Summer Seminar, Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence.

This post first appeared on the blog Origins.Natures. Futures.

Interview with Carissa Phillips-Garrett, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our participants for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Carissa Phillips-Garrett is Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Houston. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Carissa Phillips-Garrett: I grew up in San Diego and it still feels like home even though it’s been almost 10 years since I lived there full-time. After undergrad and before starting my PhD, I lived in the Republic of Georgia, South Korea, and Canada, before moving to Houston where I live currently. I am finishing my PhD in philosophy at Rice University, and after living in Houston longer than I’ve lived anywhere else as an adult, Houston feels like home, too.

 

VW: Tell me about your research.

CPG: I work primarily at the intersection of ethics, moral psychology, social and political philosophy, and ancient philosophy. Because of my interest in virtue, flourishing, and political communities, I am naturally drawn to Aristotle, so my work involves bringing Aristotle into conversation with contemporary philosophers.

My research as a whole concerns relationships (both personal and broadly social) and the common good. I am interested in the social ties that bind us to one another, the virtues, emotions, and practices that sustain and undermine these ties, and the moral demands that arise from our relationships to one another. I also explore the role that moral identity plays in sustaining virtue and happiness.

The escalating social and political tensions over the last few years highlight the importance of learning to listen and dialogue with those who are very different than ourselves. My work is now turning to examine the role that mercy, charity, empathy, and social relationships might play in promoting understanding and a commitment to the common good within our social and political communities.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

CPG: I enjoy traveling and exploring new places, reading (mainly historical fiction and philosophical sci fi), playing board and card games, and visiting museums. I also love the the beach and water sports more generally.

 

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

CPG: I’m really looking forward to participating in interdisciplinary conversations about the relationship between goodness and happiness, how we develop ethically, and the value of friendship. While I really enjoy my own discipline (philosophy), I am looking forward to having discussions and being challenged by participants from other disciplines.

 

Frankl’s Self-Transcendence Model and Virtue Ethics – Part 2

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Paul T.P. Wong is Professor Emeritus, Trent University, and a scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.  Timothy Reilly is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science Project at the University of Notre Dame, and was a participant in our 2017 Summer Seminar, Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence.

This post is part 2 of a 2-part series. Part 1 posted yesterday.

Motivation of Searching for Self-Transcendence

The will to meaning represents the primary motivation to seek for meaning, defined as something that is greater than oneself and that is worthy of one one’s commitment to pursue. Frankl took pains to emphasize that this something cannot be totally subjective and arbitrary, because it may lead to a misguided ambition and the abuse of power. Thus, what is good and worthy must be consistent with our higher purpose and based on some objective standard of values and norms, such as not harming others and contributing to the well-being of others.

Frankl’s will to meaning represents the noble or spiritual side of human nature. It is similar to Aquinas’ (1925) description of people’s noble innate desire for what is good and choice-worthy as an end value (ST Ia 82.1; QDV 3.22.12). According to Aquinas, a virtuous person develops a virtuous disposition of living ethically through both the acquired virtue of practicing good habits and infused virtues through an awakening of one’s spiritual virtue of faith, hope, and love.

A virtuous or good habit comes from consistently doing the right thing based on following one’s reasoning and one’s innate conscience. However, both the virtuous character and a virtuous deed begin with a conscious choice to act responsibly and live responsibly according to a higher noble purpose. Thus, Aquinas contends that the virtuous individual is charitable, properly ordering their desires so that they can effectively pursue the most important ends, directing their lives toward human flourishing (Titus 2016). Narvaez’s (2016) Triune Ethics Metatheory, taking a similar approach, posits that moral motives emerge when individuals’ motivations stem from a communal imagination, prioritizing the common good rather than selfish or self-protective motives.

Thus, the virtuous kind of ST is based on (1) the responsible choice of the will to meaning rather than the will to pleasure or power; and (2) the responsible choice of doing the right thing in each situation. Such consistent choice will eventually result in a virtuous disposition.

Power of the Meaning-Mindset

Courage, responsibility, and the search for ST need to be guided or governed by the proper use of intellect (i.e., right thinking) in order to do the right thing and live a virtuous life. In other words, when one’s reason is misguided or distorted, one will not be able to choose according to one’s noble purpose and good end.

For Frankl, one’s proper use of intellect depends on believing that there is inherent meaning in human existence and specific situations. This belief or worldview is just as rational as the belief or presupposition held by scientists that the world is orderly and governed by scientific laws. Wong (2011) refers to such affirmation of meaning as the meaning-mindset.

More specifically, through the lens of the meaning-mindset, we discover both ultimate meaning and specific meanings. Ultimate meaning has to do with one’s commitment to spiritual and existential meaning. It is concerned with one’s global belief regarding the larger schemes of things: “This grandiose order, I believe, is what Frankl understands by logos, ultimate meaning. We can never hope to ‘find’ it in its totality, we can only pursue it to the best of our abilities” (Fabry, 1994, p. 35).

Frankl (1985) believes that it is more productive to address the specific meanings of the moment, because ultimate meanings exists in the supra-human (or supernatural) dimension and is “hidden” from us. However, ultimate meaning is important in shaping our perceptions and actions; specific meanings of the moment cannot be separable from our assumptions about ultimate meaning, just as figures are perceived as part of the ground. William James said, “Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact” (as quoted in Bridges, 1916, p. 425). Therefore, the belief in ultimate meaning facilitates the discovery of specific meanings.

The other aspect of the meaning-mindset is to assess each situation in terms of its meaning potentials. In each situation, cognitive meaning refers to causal attribution and stress appraisal; existential meaning refers to its reason or purpose for a responsible action. Such reasoning is guided by knowledge and logic, but, equally important, it is also guided by one’s innate conscience and moral norms. There is the challenge to make the right decision without complete information; but responsibleness demands that our action be helpful to others and fit into larger patterns of ultimate meaning. Although Frankl is aware that different cultures may have different moral norms and emphasize different virtues (MacIntyre, 1985), he believes in the inner voice of “oughtness,” similar to Kant’s (1785/1993) concept of “categorical imperatives”—we ought to care for others and contribute to the common good, consistent with our higher calling.

Frankl’s understanding of reason is similar to Aquinas’ concept of reason as a species-defining characteristic and his thesis that the proper exercise of will results in human goodness to the extent that one’s action is consistent with our worthy end and infused virtues. Frankl’s situational meaning is also consistent with Aristotle’s practical wisdom, because our action is appropriate to the demand characteristic of the situation.

Practical wisdom means that, in addition to responsible choice (willing to do what is right), the virtuous person also knows how to do what is right in a particular situation for a person such as themselves (Titus, 2016). Knowing how to do what is right includes prioritizing various choices one has made properly. For instance, while eating is important, it is generally more important to help someone experiencing a medical emergency than to eat. Further, if one doesn’t have the opportunity to eat, as in a situation of deprivation, a practically wise individual will respond appropriately rather than being distracted excessively by hunger. Practical wisdom also generally entails that an individual will seek to develop capacities relevant to their situation and that they will choose means in which they are competent to achieve the good (e.g., not attempting risky medical procedures without training). Practical wisdom serves to integrate, develop, and enact an individual’s virtues.

Conclusion

We have explained why Frankl’s four basic tenets—courage, responsibility, meaning-seeking, and meaning-finding—have moral implications similar to the Aristotelian and Thomistic moral theory of virtue ethics in important ways.

Frankl’s model provides a practical framework to live a virtuous life of ST with a philosophical foundation in virtue ethics. Although Frankl avoided being identified as religious, his emphasis on faith in a level of ultimate meaning or supra-meaning acknowledged a transcendental source of our moral responsibility and virtuous behaviour: “Being human is being conscious and being responsible, culminating in a synthesis of both, namely, one’s consciousness of his responsibleness” (Frankl, 1975, p. 60).

In other words, living a virtuous life does not solely depend on cultivating the habit of doing good deeds until it leads to the development of a character of virtue; it also depends on being awakened to and cultivating our spiritual motivation to pursue ST and our consciousness of our ethical responsibleness in every situation. The pursuit of goodness, beauty, and truth can be facilitated by awakening our true spiritual nature of faith, hope, and love. Thus, Frankl’s two-factor theory of ST is similar to Aquinas’ emphasis on both acquired virtues and infused virtues.

Another advantage of Frankl’s ST model is that he has interventions designed to practice the above four virtues. For example, courage can be increased by paradoxical intention and responsibility can be enhanced through Socratic questioning. Similarly, de-reflection can be used to redirect one’s attention from self-absorption to some activity of ST. The practice of the meaning-mindset can be facilitated by self-distancing and mindfulness.

Timothy Reilly’s Self-Introduction

Timothy Reilly is a developmental and learning scientist. His past research has focused on purpose, self-development, and psychological well-being in the transition to adulthood. He is currently working on the Developing Virtue in the Practice of Science project, an interdisciplinary project at the University of Notre Dame exploring the relation between virtue and practices. His research interests are primarily in moral and spiritual development, with a focus on virtue, self-development, and vocation.

References

Aquinas, T. (1911-1925). Summa theologica. New York, NY: Benziger Brothers.

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.

Bebeau, M. J., Rest, J. R., & Narvaez, D. (1999). Beyond the promise: A perspective on research in moral education. Educational Researcher, 28(4), 18-26.

Bridges, R. S. (Ed.). (1916). The spirit of man: An anthology. New York, NY: Longmans Green.

Colby, A., & Damon, W. (1992). Some do care: Contemporary lives of moral commitment. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Fabry, J. B. (1994). The pursuit of meaning (Rev. ed.). Abilene, TX: Institute of Logotherapy Press.

Frankl, V. E. (1975). The unconscious God. New York, NY: Washington Square Press.

Frankl, V. E. (1985). Man’s search for meaning (Revised & updated ed.). New York, NY: Washington Square Press.

Harris, G. W. (1999). Agentcentered morality: An Aristotelian alternative to Kantian internalism. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Hursthouse, R., & Pettigrove, G. (2016). Virtue ethics (Rev. ed.). In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved from https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/

Kant, I. (1993). Grounding for the metaphysics of morals: On a supposed right to lie because of philanthropic concerns (J. W. Ellington, Trans.; 3rd ed.). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. Original published 1785.

MacIntyre, A. (1985). After virtue: A study in moral theory (2nd ed.). London, UK: Duckworth.

Narvaez, D. (2016). Embodied morality: Protectionism, engagement, and imagination. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Plato. (2000). The republic (J. T. Pine, Ed.; B. Jowett, Trans.). Mineola, NY: Dover. Original published 1894.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Self-determination theory and the facilitation of intrinsic motivation, social development, and well-being. American psychologist55(1), 68-78. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.68

Shantall, T. (2004). The defiant power of the human spirit: Lessons from the Holocaust in addressing ideological violence and crime in contemporary society. Workshop presented at the Fourth International Conference 2004 of the International School for Holocaust Studies, Jerusalem, Israel.

Slote, M. (2001). Morals from motives. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

Titus, C. S. (2016). Aquinas, Seligman, and positive psychology: A Christian approach to the use of the virtues in psychology. The Journal of Positive Psychology. doi:10.1080/17439760.2016.1228005

Titus, C. S., & Moncher, F. (2009). A Catholic Christian positive psychology: A virtue approach. Edification: Journal of the Society for Christian Psychology, 3(1), 57-63.

Wong, P. T. P. (2011). Positive psychology 2.0: Towards a balanced interactive model of the good life. Canadian Psychology, 52(2), 69-81.

Wong, P. T. P. (2014). Viktor Frankl’s meaning seeking model and positive psychology. In A. Batthyany & P. Russo-Netzer (Eds.), Meaning in existential and positive psychology (pp. 149-184)New York, NY: Springer.

Wong, P. T. P. (2015a, December). The meaning hypothesis of living a good life: Virtue, happiness, and meaning. Paper presented at the research working group meeting for Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life Project, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wong, P. T. P. (2014). The positive psychology of grit: The defiant power of the human spirit [Review of the film Unbroken]. PsycCRITIQUES, 60(25). doi:10.1037/a0039390

Wong, P. T. P. (2016a). Meaning-seeking, self-transcendence, and well-being. In A. Batthyany (Ed.), Logotherapy and existential analysis: Proceedings of the Viktor Frankl Institute (Vol. 1; pp. 311-322). Cham, CH: Springer.

Wong, P. T. P. (2016b, June). Self-transcendence as the path to virtue, happiness and meaning Paper presented at the research working group meeting for Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life Project, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. (Funded by the John Templeton Foundation)

Wong, P. T. P. (2016c, December). From Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy to the four defining characteristics of self-transcendencePaper presented at the research working group meeting for Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life Project, Columbia, SC. (Funded by the John Templeton Foundation).

Wong, P. T. P. (2017, January 18). The varieties of self-transcendence: The good and the bad. Positive Living Newsletter. Retrieved from www.drpaulwong.com/inpm-presidents-report-january-2017

Frankl’s Self-Transcendence Model and Virtue Ethics – Part 1 of 2

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Paul T.P. Wong is Professor Emeritus, Trent University, and a scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.  Timothy Reilly is a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science Project at the University of Notre Dame, and was a participant in our 2017 Summer Seminar, Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence.

This post is part 1 of a 2-part series.

Introduction

The main thesis in this presentation is that Viktor Frankl’s self-transcendence (ST) model provides a useful ethical framework for living and behaving well. We also argue that his model is consistent with the Aristotelian and Thomistic moral theory of virtue ethics in important ways (Hursthouse & Pettigrove, 2016).

Virtue is an important topic for psychology, philosophy, and business management because it is concerned with moral excellence and ethical behaviours that are crucial for the well-being and flourishing of individuals and communities. The real challenge for any moral theory is whether it has the practical value of helping people live as ethical, decent human beings in daily concrete situations.

Frankl’s ST model is very practical, because it was developed and tested in wrestling with the ethical challenges of how to be a decent human being under two extremely difficult conditions in real life. The first challenge had to do with suffering—how to live with a sense of human dignity and significance even when one was facing unimaginable degradation, atrocities, and a cruel death. The second challenge had to do with power—how to prevent anyone in a position of power from its corrupting influence and becoming a monster like Hitler.

Summary of Previous Presentations

At the first Virtue Scholars meeting, I presented the meaning hypothesis of living a good life (Wong, 2015a), based on my interpretation of Frankl’s concept of meaning-seeking (Wong, 2014) and his ST model (Wong, 2016a). More specifically, the meaning hypothesis posits that our primary motivational need of seeking meaning (i.e., the will to meaning) and the meaning-mindset of finding meaning (i.e., meaning of life) constitute the motivational and cognitive factors of ST. My focus was on the importance of the perspective of the meaning-mindset.

My second presentation elaborated on the meaning hypothesis by explaining how the striving towards some goals of ST is a promising pathway to live a good life of virtue, happiness, and meaning (Wong, 2016b). My focus was on the motivational aspect of seeking meaning. After reviewing various conceptions and models of ST, I concluded that Frankl’s two-factor model of ST (cognitive and motivational factors) represents the most comprehensive ST model for research and intervention.

At the December 2017 Virtue Scholars working group meeting, I sketched the various components of Frankl’s ST model and their inter-relationships as shown in Figure 1. I also introduced the four defining characteristics of ST as measured by the Self-Transcendence Measure (STM) (Wong, 2016c). I proposed that these four dimensions could differentiate the virtuous type of genuine ST from the evil type of pseudo-ST because of their inherent moral orientation (Wong, 2017).

In this present paper, the focus is on the basic tenets of Frankl’s ST model and their moral implications for living a virtuous life. We attempt to integrate Frankl’s work with moral philosophy.

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Figure 1. Frankl’s two-factor theory and characteristics of self-transcendence.

Basic Assumptions of Frankl’s Self-Transcendence Model and Virtue Ethics

Frankl’s answer to the two ethical challenges identified in the introduction is fourfold: (1) the defiant power of the human spirit; (2) the capacity for freedom and responsibility; (3) the primary motivation for ST; and (4) the power of the meaning-mindset.

Defiant Power of the Human Spirit

Viktor Frankl (1985) described the defiant power of the human spirit as the freedom to take a courageous stance towards fate and the human capacity to transform a tragedy into a triumph. He defined courage in terms of the noetic or spiritual dimension; thus, moral courage had a spiritual origin.

Recently, Wong (2015b) interpreted the defiant power as the moral courage to maintain one’s cherished values and human dignity in the face of suffering and death; this courage is the key to true grit in surviving constant and unimaginable assaults on one’s physical and psychological integrity.

Without such moral fortitude in the face of danger, we would not be able to have the character strength to preserve and realize the moral values that make us decent human beings. This is essentially an existential courage that enables us to take a defiant stand against a harsh fate and do what is morally right despite personal dangers.

Frankl’s view of courage is consistent with both the classic and Catholic conceptions of courage as a virtue. Plato (1894/2000) considers courage as one of the four cardinal values. Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, 3.6-9) defines courage as have the right “amount” of fear (“the mean”); thus, a courageous person still fears things that all human beings are afraid of, yet has the courage to face these fears as one should for some good and worthy goal, such as facing death in a battle to protect one’s country. Thomas Aquinas considers fortitude or courage primarily in terms of endurance with firmness. He says, “The principal act of courage is to endure and withstand dangers doggedly rather than to attack” (Summa Theologica, IIb, 123.8). Courage is expressed when an individual is pursuing a difficult or dangerous goal that is sufficiently valuable to be worth the difficulty or danger.

In sum, having moral courage is a prerequisite for doing the right thing or making the right choice. It is easy to do what is expedient, but it takes courage to do what is right. It is an easy way out to compromise or surrender in the face of great danger, but it takes great courage to stand up for one’s core values and beliefs. Thus, moral fortitude is just the starting point; there are additional conditions one must fulfill in order to be a fully functioning decent human being.

Capacity for Freedom and Responsibility

“Freedom of will” figures prominently in Frankl’s ST model. His model hinges on the responsible use of freedom in all situations. In Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl, 1985), he declares:

Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather he determines himself whether he give in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is self-determining. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. (p. 154)

Every person has the freedom and responsibility to choose their own pathway and life goals. Their choices determine their character, well-being, and destiny, even when we factor in fate or luck. Every situation presents us with the choice between good and evil, between acting on the bright side or the dark side of our nature; we can choose between spiritual joy and carnal pleasures, between practicing kindness and abusing our powers.

Shantall’s (2004) research on Holocaust survivors supports Frankl’s thesis on moral responsibility. Here are some important lessons from Holocaust survivors:

Their active efforts to maintain moral values in the face of the onslaught against them, made their lives take on greater spiritual content and meaning. Living with a profound value-directedness and moral responsibility, they experienced a sense of true destiny (something or someone to live or survive for) with peak moments of triumph and even joy. (p. 3)

The human capacity for freedom of will allows us to deliberate and choose between good and evil, between desires and values. Our awareness of the moral implications of our choices makes us morally responsible for our decisions and actions. Aquinas attributes this freedom to our rational or volitional abilities. Even though our nature may predispose us to certain ends, we have the freedom to choose between the ends, as well as the pathway to achieve a certain end. Aquinas conception of freedom, however, does not entail that all choices are equal, but rather a teleological notion of freedom- the more free one is the more able one is to pursue the good (Titus & Moncher, 2009). Another way to phrase this is that the virtuous individual is free to be just, and so to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities, choosing the proper actions for the proper reasons (Titus, 2016).

Frankl’s ST model represents an agent-centered moral theory which emphasizes the human being as a moral agent (Harris, 1999; Slote, 2001). For Slote (2001), a virtuous life depends on both a particular agent’s inner dispositions and actual motives. Therefore, the virtuous kind of ST needs to stem from a good inner disposition and a good motive.

Frankl’s model recognizes human beings as both moral and instrumental agents. It is consistent with the psychological literature of self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1977), which are predicated on the human capacity for freedom and responsibility. In moral psychology, research on moral identity (Colby & Damon, 1992) and moral education (Bebeau, Rest, & Narvaez, 1999) emphasizes that individuals whose moral goals and values are central to their self-concept feel responsible for acting in consistently moral ways.

Tomorrow in Part II, we will discuss the Motivation of Searching for Self-Transcendence.

Interview with Summer Session Participant Ellen Dulaney

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Ellen Dulaney s a PhD student in Psychology at Depaul University. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

 

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Ellen Dulaney: I am originallly from Knoxville, Tennessee. I have also lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, where I completed my undergraduate degree at Hampshire College.

VW: Tell me about your research.
ED: Using psychology’s methods of inquiry, I research the self and essentialist beliefs about the true self. Additionally I study whether the self can provide a personalized access point to constructing meaning in life for each person. I research these topics because I am interested in understanding human Being, the phenomenological experience of selfhood, and what conditions can enable each person to thrive. 

VW: What are you most looking forward to about this seminar?
ED:  I am very excited for the opportunity to hear from precise and passionate thinkers from such a wide range of traditions. I value interdisciplinary input on my topics of interest very highly, and am sure I will learn so much during each of this seminar’s discussions.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?
ED: My non-academic interests include painting and photography; surrealist and impressionistic painters; the cultures of Japan and Southern Appalachia; socially-conscious punk and rock music; and science fiction, fiction, and noir films and literature.

Photos and tweets from “Speaking of Character” with David Brooks, Anne Snyder, and Candace Vogler

Twenty-seven undergraduates attended the day-long workshop “Speaking of Character” with David Brooks, Anne Snyder, and Candace Vogler on May 27, 2017, which was sponsored by the Hyde Park Institute and co-sponsored by Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

The session was closed to the public but we captured a bit on Twitter and some photos.

Check more photos here on our Flickr page.

 

 

 

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