What Good is Happiness? A Dialogue Between Economics and Philosophy


Thanks to  The Veritas Forum and The Lumen Christi Institute (among others), I participated in a dialogue with Professor Jonathan Masur about the nature of happiness.  Professor Masur is a subjectivist about happiness and (unsurprisingly) I strongly disagree!

Pints with Aquinas Episode

On New Year’s Day, Pints with Aquinas, a podcast that seeks to explain the thought of Thomas Aquinas to non-specialists, featured an episode on happiness; it is a conversation between me and the podcast’s hilariously self-deprecating and generous host, Matt Fradd.  The episode is titled “How to be happy” but its not about that (no one can tell you how to be happy–virtue is not a technique,  and philosophy isn’t self-help).  I’m posting a link to it here; I hope you enjoy our conversation!

Side note:

Whenever I do a podcast, I always think  about what I wish I had said as opposed to what I actually said.  In this episode,  for instance, Matt asked me why I don’t like Jordan Peterson’s writings.  I wish to say a little bit more in response here than I offered Matt during our conversation.  I didn’t want to derail our episode, but at the same time, I want to be on record about why male interest in Jordan Peterson bothers me.

First and foremost, I don’t follow Jordan Peterson and I have not read his book.  I do not consider this a failure on my part.  I am a finite being with limited resources, and I have to be prudent  about what I decide to read, especially since I read very carefully and in a time consuming way.  Jordan Peterson is famous not because he has brilliant ideas–from what I can gather, his book promotes many pedestrian, time worn platitudes about us, in addition to some fairly shallow readings of great books–but because he is an admitted, radicalized culture warrior.  I am allergic to our toxic culture wars,  as they drag down discourse rather than elevate it.  Culture warriors have practical (typically political) ends and reality gets dragged around to meet these ends on both sides; I have no time for that.  I don’t need to engage yet another voice opposed to finding common ground together.  I want to search for common ground, and if I didn’t believe that was possible I would sooner give up on discourse rather than further destroy it.

But I went further and said I don’t like his work, and that is what needs to be explained.   Jordan Peterson says  some unserious (indeed, laughable) but also dangerous things about women, and frankly, whatever sensible, true  things  he says about our culture is outweighed by his toxic attitudes about women.  For instance, that the feminine is deeply associated with chaos whereas order and reason is masculine, and to treat it any other way would be “transhuman” or denying reality.  For instance:

“You know you can say, ‘Well isn’t it unfortunate that chaos is represented by the feminine’ — well, it might be unfortunate, but it doesn’t matter because that is how it’s represented. It’s been represented like that forever. And there are reasons for it. You can’t change it. It’s not possible. This is underneath everything. If you change those basic categories, people wouldn’t be human anymore. They’d be something else. They’d be transhuman or something. We wouldn’t be able to talk to these new creatures.”

Or, if that wasn’t weird enough, here’s something JP tweeted in 2016:

“Women, if you usurp men they will rebel and fail you and you will have to either jail or enslave them.”

Um, OK.

And please note that his “Twelve Rules for Life” is an antidote to chaos–an antidote to the feminine. I think I know enough already about what he is on about, and I’m not interested in what he’s selling.  If you are interested–if this vision of women appeals to you and rings true to your experience–I’m concerned about you.

Having said this, I certainly don’t want to silence Jordan Peterson, even though I think this vision of the feminine is dangerously false.  I will  raise daughters to be proud of their feminine genius insofar as they have cultivated it. But when men ask me point blank, as Matt did, why I don’t like him, as if he’s obviously great, I hope the answer is now clear:  I don’t have time for misogyny masquerading as eternal verities.  Life is too short, and I’d rather be reading wise women like Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, Donna Tartt, Edith Stein, Hannah Arendt, Simone Weil, Marilynne Robinson, Eleonore Stump, or any of the incredibly amazing contemporary women philosophers and theologians I am so blessed to work with and learn from.









Podcast: “Revelations of Love in John Steinbeck” | Sacred & Profane Love, Episode 9

Download Episode 9: “Revelations of Love in John Steinbeck”


In Episode 9 of Sacred & Profane Love “Revelations of Love in John Steinbeck,” Philosopher Jennifer A. Frey speaks with Thomist Theologian, Fr Michael Sherwin, OP, about John Steinbeck’s secular understanding of Christian caritas (charity) and how Steinbeck captures the beauty and power of love in the simple act of sharing breakfast with strangers. Their conversation tackles the nature of divine love as understood by Augustine and Aquinas.


Rev. Prof. Michael Sherwin OP, was one of our faculty for our 2016 Summer Session “Virtue & Happiness”, and is Professor of Fundamental Moral Theology at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. Fr. Sherwin is director of the Saint Thomas Aquinas Institute for Theology and Culture and of the Pinckaers Archives.  Author of articles on the psychology of love, virtue ethics and moral development, his monograph, By Knowledge and By Love: Charity and Knowledge in the Moral Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas (CUA Press, 2005) has been reissued in paperback.


Jennifer A. Frey is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the philosophy faculty at USC, she was a Collegiate Assistant Professor of Humanities at the University of Chicago, where she was a member of the Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts and an affiliated faculty in the philosophy department.  She earned her PhD in philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, and her B.A. in Philosophy and Medieval Studies (with Classics minor) at Indiana University-Bloomington. Her research lies at the intersection of philosophy of action and ethics, with a particular focus on the Aristotelian-Thomist tradition.


Preview on iTunes

This podcast is a project of Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life, and is made possible through a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Content copyright the University of South Carolina and the University of Chicago.

Music credits, “Help me Somebody,” by Brian Eno and David Byrne, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.5.

Aquinas on Sin, Suffering, and Evil

We are pleased to share an audio recording of a lecture titled, “Aquinas on Sin, Suffering, and Evil,” delivered by our co-PI, Jennifer Frey, at the University of Maryland College Park, under the auspices of our institutional partner, The Thomistic Institute.  

In this lecture, Professor Frey outlines what Thomas Aquinas means by evil and sin, with particular focuses on the sources of sin, as well as addresses the question that lies at the heart of the problem of evil: How can a loving and omnipotent God permit sin, evil, and suffering in the world?

April 22: Jean Porter, “The Perfection of Desire: Habit, Reason and Virtue in Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae”


Our Scholar Jean Porter will give the 49TH Annual Père Marquette Lecture in Theology lecture “The Perfection of Desire: Habit, Reason and Virtue in Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae” at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

2pm, April 22

Raynor Memorial Library. The Beaumier Suite  | 1355 W. Wisconsin Avenue

Reception to follow. Free and open to the public.

Link to flyer

Talk description

Aquinas claims that the virtues are habits, that is to say, stable dispositions oriented towards desires of a certain kind.  As such, like all habits they presuppose rationality and enable a distinctively human way of feeling and acting.  Thus, if we want to make sense of what Aquinas says about rationality and the virtues, it makes sense to turn first to the more fundamental ways in which habits generally speaking are shaped by, and responsive to reason.


porter_200w.jpgJean Porter is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, and a scholar with the project Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Register for the eighth annual Thomas Aquinas Philosophy Workshop, “Aquinas on Divine Attributes”

June 14, 2018 – June 17, 2018
Mount Saint Mary College

The Catholic and Dominican Institute’s Eighth Annual Philosophy Workshop, “Aquinas on Divine Attributes,” will be held at Mount Saint Mary College on June 14-17, 2018.

The Catholic intellectual tradition has staunchly maintained that God’s existence can be known by reason alone and long heralded St. Thomas Aquinas’s Five Ways as prime examples of plausible demonstrations. This year’s workshop on the divine attributes will serve as a robust introduction to Aquinas’s natural theology for the Thomistic beginner and a speculative advancement for the veteran. Specific divine attributes will be explored as well as the broader issues of the possibility of knowledge of God in this life and divine naming.

Presenters include:

  • Anna Bonta Moreland, Villanova University
  • Fr. Stephen Brock, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross
  • Brian Carl, PhD, Dominican House of Studies
  • Michael Gorman, PhD, The Catholic University of America
  • Josh Hochschild, PhD, Mount St. Mary’s University
  • James Madden, PhD, Benedictine College
  • Fr. Raymund Snyder, OP, Thomistic Institute
  • Candace Vogler, PhD, University of Chicago

This event is sponsored by the Catholic and Dominican Institute at Mount Saint Mary College; the Thomistic Institute at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.; and the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture in Indiana.

Want to learn more? Download the conference brochure.


Click here to register online. Space for this workshop is limited and registration will close before May 7 if seats are full.

For more information, please email