We’re presenting a short series of abstracts of the work-in-progress our scholars presented and discussed at their June 2017 Working Group Meeting.
Angela Knobel is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America.
Augustine is supposed to have said that the virtues of the pagans were no more than ‘splendid vices’. Whether he actually made such a claim and what he meant by it is the subject of much debate. But on one reasonable interpretation of that claim, Augustine believed that non-Christians could not possess any genuine virtues at all. Several recent scholars have argued that this was not only Augustine’s view, but Aquinas’s as well. Many of the scholars who make this claim do so in the context of emphasizing the importance of Aquinas’s (often overlooked) theory of infused moral virtue. In this paper, I argue that Aquinas not only recognizes the possibility of genuine virtue in non-believers, but that that recognition plays a crucial structural role in his broader account of virtue. We cannot truly appreciate his theory of infused virtue, that is to say, unless we see it as building on and presupposing the possibility of pagan virtue. I conclude by offering a hypothesis about a likely source of contemporary Thomist suspicion of pagan virtue.
Our scholars met for their third of four working group meetings from December 12-16, 2017. Talbot Brewer gave the keynote public lecture, “What Good Are the Humanities?” on December 14, 2017 (video forthcoming).
We’ve distilled our Scholars’ research for this semester into respective questions; tomorrow we’ll post eight more. And in forthcoming posts, we’ll feature in-depth look at each. For now, we thought our readers would enjoy pondering each question. Together, they can read as a kind of meditation on the inter-relatedness of virtue, happiness, and deep meaning in life.
Can cognitive effort be measured?
~Marc Berman, University of Chicago
What good are the humanities?
~ Talbot Brewer, University of Virginia
What work does anger do across moralities?
What work ought anger to do in a particular morality?
~ Owen Flanagan, Duke University
How can Thomistic notions of of Temperance enlarge and enrich our understanding of that virtue?
~ Jennifer Frey, University of South Carolina
What is the role of friendship in human flourishing?
~Michael Gorman, The Catholic University of America
Given my circumstances, can I do what befits a human being?
~Matthias Haase, University of Chicago
Can we achieve happiness without an understanding of the ultimate finality of the human soul?
~Reinhard Huetter, Duke Divinity School
Can human character experience sudden moral change?
~Angela Knobel, The Catholic University of America
How is Aristotle’s meta-virtue of megalopsychia, or magnanimity, useful to us today?
Can immoral people undergo sudden moral conversions?
~Kristján Kristjánsson, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham