Darcia Narváez Wins Expanded Reason Award

Darcia Narvaez
Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

The Expanded Awards Jury, gathered at the University Francisco de Vitoria on July 13 and 14th, selected our scholar Darcia Narváez, for work titled, Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom for the Research category to be awarded 25.000 euros.

The awards were organized by the University Francisco de Vitoria in collaboration with the Vatican Foundation Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI. The Awards Ceremony will take place in Vatican City on September 27th.
The international Jury, integrated by members highly esteemed in their fields was composed by Alister McGrath (University of Oxford), Olegario González de Cardedal (Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca), Stefano Zamagni (Università di Bologna and Johns Hopkins University), Francesc Torralba (Universitat Ramon Llull), Gianfranco Basti (Pontificia Università Lateranense), Federico Lombardi, S.J. (President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation), and Daniel Sada (President of the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria).

 

The Expanded Reason Awards aim to encourage and acknowledge those professors and researchers who are making efforts to broaden the horizon of rationality through a transdisciplinary dialogue with philosophy and theology. The University Francisco de Vitoria and the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation have taken this initiative convinced that if scientific rationality becomes the only form of sure knowledge, fundamental and vital questions for humanity would be ignored.
For further information, visit www.expandedreasonawards.org

 

Virtue, Flourishing, Culture and the Evolved Nest

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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.

Darcia Narvaez is Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame.

If we are going to discuss virtue and happiness, we must take into account the life world in which we exist. We must take into account the totality of flourishing. We must ask and find answers to who we are, where we are, where we have been and where we are going. The dominant culture that is decimating the earth relies on a reassuring narrative of human superiority, progress and future reward while denigrating humanity’s past and alternate, more sustainable cultures. The deep irrationality of the dominant cultural mindset represents a self-disinterest and is shaped by disrupted connection from birth which influences everything on the planet, fostering viciousness, dystopia and eco-disaster. The destruction and disconnection are rationalized with theories that claim there is no alternative path. How do we shift to a rational self-interest and to a sense of self that includes the entire biocommunity? We must shift both bottom-up practices and the top-down narratives we deploy.

Holiday Greetings from our Scholars

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December 2016 Working Group Meeting with (most of) the scholars of VHML: (from left) Josef Stern, Heather Lench, Kristján Kristjánsson, Jennifer Frey, Fr Thomas Joseph White, Dan McAdams, Candace Vogler, Marc Berman, Darcia Narvaez, Owen Flanagan, Angela Knobel, Reinhard Huetter, Michael Gorman, Paul Wong, Talbot Brewer, David Shatz.
Photo by Valerie Wallace.

Developing the virtues

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Helicopter parenting is denounced by onlookers (e.g., David Brooks) as babying children who should be self-reliant, a highly valued characteristic in the USA. Children should not need parents but should use their own capacities to get through the day. The notion of a good person is intertwined with this individualistic view of persons and relationships. Good people know how to behave. They stand on their own, with little dependency on others. They are given rules and obey them. Bad people don’t–they are whiny and weak.

 

It should be noted that when one applies this view to babies, to make them “independent,” one not only misunderstands baby development but creates the opposite result—a less confident, regulated and capable child (see Contexts for Young Child Flourishing).

 

This machine-like view of persons and relationships contrasts, not only with what we know about child development (kids’ biology is constructed by their social experience) but with longstanding theories of virtue and virtue development. A virtue-theory approach to persons and relationships emphasizes their intertwining. One always needs mentors as one cultivates virtues throughout life. Relationships matter for moral virtue. One must be careful about the relationships one engages in or they can lead one astray.

 

What does it mean to be virtuous? Virtue is a holistic look at goodness and, for individuals, involves reasoning, feeling, intuition, and behavior that are appropriate for each particular situation. Who the person is—their feelings, habits, thinking, perceptions—matters for coordinating internally-harmonious action that matches the needs of the situation. This holistic approach contrasts with theories of morality that emphasize one thing or another—doing one’s duty by acting on good reasoning and good will (deontology) or attending to short-term consequences (utilitarianism). (Most moral systems pay attention to all three aspects but emphasize one over the others.)

 

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The high-demand definition of goodness in virtue theory suggests that few of us are truly good. Instead, most of us most of the time act against our feeling, behave in ways that counter our best reasoning, or completely miss noticing the need for moral action. In other words, our feelings/emotions, reasoning, inclinations are not harmonious but in conflict.

 

Some philosophers are particularly concerned with the inconsistencies in people’s behavior—for example, a person might be honest on taxes, but dishonest in business dealings or interpersonal situations.

 

However, among social-cognitive psychologists inconsistency is not a surprise. Each person has habitual patterns of acting one way in certain types of situations and a different way in another type of situation. Traits like honesty don’t adhere to a person like eye color but vary from situation to situation, e.g., outgoing with friends but shy with strangers. Individuals show consistent patterns of behavior for particular types of situations (person by context interaction). Thus, a person may have learned to be honest on taxes but not yet have learned how to be honest in business or has other priorities when with family. Expertise also plays a role in that when someone is new to a domain: behavior will be inconsistent as one learns the ins and outs of best behavior. All of us need mentors to help us learn good behavior for particular situations. Virtue is a lifelong endeavor.

 


Darcia Narvaez is Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, and a Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

This blog post originally appeared on OUPBlog, the blog for Oxford University Press.

The editing of Developing the Virtues was performed under the auspices of the Self, Motivation and Virtue Project, supported by a generous grant from Templeton Religion Trust.

Darcia Narvaez Joins Virtue Scholars

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Darcia Narvaez discussing ecological virtue, as part of the 2016 “Virtue & Happiness” Summer Seminar.

Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame, will join the next two working group meetings as a scholar with the project Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life. Narvaez’ research focuses on evolutionary theory, neurobiology, positive psychology, and indigenous perspectives in considerations of wellbeing, morality and wisdom across the lifespan.

“Darcia Narvaez weaves together traditional and cutting edge research in developmental psychology with work in anthropology and neurobiology to provide fresh and profound insight into questions about moral development and moral formation,” said Candace Vogler, Co-Principal Investigator for the VHML project. “This is reason enough to be delighted to welcome her as our new Working Group member. But she is also warm, acute, and even-handed–an ideal interlocutor with a sound understanding of cross-disciplinary collaboration. We are very lucky to have her.”

Author or editor of over 140 academic articles and chapters and 13 academic books, her most recent authored books include Embodied Morality: Protectionism, Engagement and Imagination, and Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom, which won the William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association.

“I’m looking forward to hanging out with philosophers who spend much more time in dialogue than do psychologists typically. Psychologists point to the data to close off conversation,” said Narveaz. “Philosophers like to raise more and more questions. It’s very stimulating! Knowledge is a perspectival, moving cloud and the philosophers seem to know that more than empirical psychologists. Can’t wait!”

Narvaez will join the rest of the scholars at the December 2016 and June 2017 working group meetings.