The Virtue Blog

Blog for the Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life project

Workshop on Happiness, Virtue, and the Meaning of Life at Stockholm University | May 5-6, 2017


This two-day workshop aims to close the gap between empirical and philosophical approaches to questions of happiness, virtue, and the meaning of life, in the interest of encouraging the development of an empirically informed philosophy and a science with philosophical awareness. Organizers: Erik Angner and Mats Ingelström.

Keynotes by Jennifer A. Frey (University of South Carolina) and Candace Vogler (University of Chicago).

Presentations by Anna Alexandrova (Cambridge University), Michael Bishop (Florida State
University), Dale Dorsey (University of Kansas), Kirsten Egerstrom (Southern Methodist University), Kaisa Kärki (University of Jyväskylä), Antti Kauppinen (University of Tampere), Jennifer Lockhart (Auburn University), Jason Raibley (California State University), Raffaele Rodogno (Aarhus University), Joshua Lewis Thomas (University of Sheffield), Willem van der Deijl (Erasmus University ) and Sam Wren-Lewis (Leeds University).

FREE ADMISSION „ Time and place: Friday and Saturday 5–6 of May, in the William-Olsson lecture hall (Geovetenskapens hus).

For more information:



Download the poster: Workshop-Happiness-VIrtue-Meaning-Poster.pdf

Thinking about Christmas like an economist

This post first appeared on the Stockholm University’s online 2016 Advent Calendar. For the original post and link to others in the series, click here.



What is Christmas? A time for communion with family and friends, perhaps, or a period of quiet reflection? If that’s what you think, it’s because you’re not a hard-nosed economist.


Ever since A. C. Pigou – the “father of welfare economics” – economists have measured welfare by subtracting what you did pay for something from what you would pay (at most). If you would pay as much as SEK 50 for a cup of coffee but the campus cafeteria only charges SEK 20, then the welfare effect of buying a cup is SEK 30, which is a good thing.


In 1993, the economist Joel Waldfogel asked his students to report, first, the retail price of the presents they had received at Christmas, and second, what they would be willing to pay for those things. He found that students would only pay two-thirds to nine-tenths of the cost of their gifts – meaning that one-third to one-tenth of all money spent of gifts for them was lost, which is a bad thing.


People Christmas shop to the tune of SEK 70 billion (USD 7.6 billion) in Sweden alone. Even if only a tenth of the value evaporates, the total “deadweight loss” would still equal SEK 7 billion (USD 760 million), which is an enormous amount of money.


If you think like an economist, the sure way to avoid deadweight losses is not to give presents. Perhaps you can invite the family to sit down by the Christmas tree and order something they were going to buy for themselves anyway from their preferred online retailer.


If you think like an economist, but still feel compelled to give presents, you can minimize losses by giving cash. Perhaps you can invite the family to sit down by the Christmas tree and exchange gift-wrapped SEK 100 bills – or just transfer money to each other using some mobile app.


Or, you know, you can not think like an economist.


Erik Angner is a  scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life, and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Stockholm University.

[CFP] Workshop: Happiness, Virtue, and the Meaning of Life

Date: 05 May 2017, 9.00 AM 05 May 2017, 6.00 PM
Venue: Stockholm University



In recent years, psychologists, neuroscientists, economists, and other scientists have turned their attention to traditional philosophical themes of happiness, virtue, and the meaning of life. Perhaps not coincidentally, philosophers’ interest in these themes appears to have been rekindled.

This workshop aims to close the gap between empirical and philosophical approaches to questions of happiness, virtue, and the meaning of life, in the interest of encouraging the development of an empirically informed philosophy and a science with philosophical awareness.

Goals include to explore the degree to which the conclusions of philosophical reflection and systematic empirical study of issues of happiness, virtue, and the meaning of life are converging (or not); what in general contemporary scientists can learn from philosophy, its history and methodology, and what contemporary philosophers stand to gain from engaging with the empirical literature; what in particular recent work has revealed about the nature of happiness (e.g., if it includes an account of the meaning of life) and virtue (e.g., whether it can be understood as a self-transcendent practical orientation); what the power and limitations of empirical methods are in addressing philosophical questions; and whether there remains a space for armchair philosophizing in addressing the topics.

Philosophers, historians, psychologists, economists, and others interested in participating are invited to submit complete papers electronically or in hard copy to the organizer (see contact information below) on or before January 5, 2017. Papers that adopt interdisciplinary approaches and that touch upon more than one of the three themes are particularly welcome. Submissions should be suitable for a 20–25-minute presentation.

The workshop will be held in Aula Magna on the Frescati (main) campus of Stockholm University, which is easily reachable via metro and bus from the city center: The location is wheelchair accessible.

The workshop is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy at Stockholm University in collaboration with the John Templeton Foundation grant “Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life”.

Key dates

Deadline for submission: January 5, 2017

Notification of accepted papers: January 15, 2017

Workshop: May 5, 2017

Keynote speakers

  • Jennifer Frey (University of South Carolina)
  • Candace Vogler (University of Chicago)

Contact information

Erik Angner
Dept. of Philosophy
Stockholm University
114 25 Stockholm, Sweden

Days 1-2 Working Group Meeting in Chicago – photos

Our 2nd working group meeting of scholars met June 6-10, 2016 at the University of Chicago in the beautiful Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. Although the sessions were closed, you can read our scholars’ abstracts for their June Meeting Topics here and see more photos up in our Flickr album for the week.



Group photo: Working Group Meeting June 2016

Scholars Team June 2016
Click photo to make it larger. Photo by Marc Monaghan

We’re so happy our scholars are here in Chicago! Find out more about our scholars and their work this week in June here, and working group meetings in general, here.

Our scholars and team are:

From left to right, back row: Santiago Mejia, Michael Gorman, Matthias Haase, Jennifer A. Frey, Father Kevin Flannery, Candace Vogler, Katherine Kinzler, Howard Nusbaum, Talbot Brewer, Reinhardt Huetter, Marc G. Berman (not pictured: Tahera Qudbuddin).

Middle row: Christian Kronsted, Jean Porter, Father Thomas Joseph White, Mari Stuart, Nancy Snow, Heather C. Lench, Angela Knobel,  Erik Angner, Dan McAdams, Valerie Wallace, Jaime Hovey.

Front row: Paul Wong, David Shatz, David Carr, Anselm Mueller.

Questions our scholars are asking – round two


This coming week (June 6-10, 2016, at the Neubauer Collegium at the University of Chicago) is the second of four meetings for our  scholars (the first was December 2015 at the University of South Carolina). These meetings are immersive experiences for these scholars, who are philosophers, theologians, and psychologists; the meetings are aimed at generating systematic and integrated knowledge, including ultimately a new construct for empirical research on self-transcendence, new instruments of assessment, and new data.


Here are summaries of the questions and research our scholars will be discussing with each other in the coming week.


Matthias Haase: Can virtue be cultivated like a habit?


Tahera Qutbudden: Can one enjoy a happy and pleasurable life in this world while also preparing for the next?


Jennifer A. Frey: Is selfishness a particular kind of vice, or the nature of vice?


David Schatz: Is ignorance always a vice, or can it also be a virtue?


Heather C. Lench: Can boredom lead us to virtue?


David Carr: Does spirituality have a material dimension, and if so, can it be developed and educated?


Mari Stuart: Can the indigenous knowledge reflected in a moral ecology worldview teach things that climate science cannot?


Jean Porter: Can malice, like virtue, also give meaning to life?


Erik Angner: Is social well-being the same thing as happiness?


Paul Wong: Is it possible to measure Self-Transcendence?


Katharine Kinzler: Can infant food preferences teach us about the social world?


Mark Berman: Do ugly surroundings encourage criminal behavior?


Angela Knobel: Can the notion of virtue as a gift from God have broad appeal?


Father Thomas Joseph White: Can Aquinas help us understand Nietzsche’s ideas about truth and moral freedom?


Michael Gorman: Is a meaningful life also necessarily a good life?


Nancy Snow: Is magnificence—expenditure for the public good—virtuous, or vicious? Can it be both?


Tal Brewer: Are human beings irreplaceable, and due special forms of regard and good treatment?


Dan McAdams: What is the difference between habit and character? Do we narrate these things about ourselves in different ways?


Reinhard Hütter: How do we overcome the lure of self-sovereignty that surrounds us and attain true self-transcendence?


Father Kevin Flannery: What is the relationship between intention, choice, and virtue?