Interview with David McPherson, 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. 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 (


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.



Group Photo and Last Day of the Summer Seminar “Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence”

“I feel very fortunate to have listened to and engaged with such gifted people from so many places…”

“I’m having a great fascinating time and I’ve heard attendees from all perspectives/traditions express how appreciative they are of getting this opportunity to have a respectful interdisciplinary discussion on these topics.”

We feel the same, and grateful for the comments already coming our way from our fabulous participants.

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From left: Madison Gilbertson, Carissa Phillips-Garrett, Sarah Ann Bixler, Cabrini Pak, Dan McAdams, Andrea Yetzer, Candace Vogler, Jennifer Rothschild, Ellen Dulaney, Anselm Mueller, Samantha Mendez, David McPherson, Joseph Stenberg, Fr. Steve Brock, Andrew Flynn, Jennifer A. Frey, James Dominic Rooney, Jane Klinger, Molly Ogunyemi, Tim Reilly, Craig Iffland, Marta Faria, Elise Murray, Andrew Christy, Alberto Arruda, Sanaz Talaifar, Theresa Smart, Maureen Bielinski, Samuel Baker, Jaime Hovey, Tal Brewer, Anne Jeffrey.

Today’s sessions are Jennifer Frey on Happiness and Candace Vogler on Happiness and Social Life; follow along with our live-tweeting from @UChiVirtue.

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Below is a sampling from yesterday’s sessions with Fr Stephen Brock on Aquinas and the Law and Dan McAdams on Generativity.

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Announcing the Participants for our 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence”


We’re delighted to share the list of participants for our 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence“, who hail from all corners of the globe and will convene at the University of Chicago for a week this June. These young researchers will participate in intensive workshop sessions with our faculty to deepen their own research  through conversations with a network of fellow collaborators in the areas of Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology/Religious Studies.

The accepted participants for the 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” are:

Alberto Arruda, University of Lisbon
Samuel Baker, University of South Alabama
Maureen Bielinski, University of St. Thomas, TX
Sarah Bixler, Princeton Theological Seminary
Andrew Christy, Texas A&M University
Ellen Dulaney, DePaul University
Marta Faria, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome
Andrew Flynn, University of California – Los Angeles
Madison Gilbertson, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
Craig Iffland, University of Notre Dame
Anne Jeffrey, University of South Alabama
Jane Klinger, University of Waterloo
David McPherson, Creighton University
Samantha Mendez, University of the Philippines- Diliman
Elise Murray, Tufts University
Omowumi Ogunyemi, Institute of humanities of the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos
Cabrini Pak, The Catholic University of America
Carissa Phillips-Garrett, Rice University
Timothy Reilly, University of Notre Dame
James Dominic Rooney, Saint Louis University
Jennifer Rothschild, University of Florida
Theresa Smart, University of Notre Dame
Joseph Stenberg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Sanaz Talaifar, University of Texas at Austin
Andrea Yetzer, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs