The Virtue Blog

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

Why the Science of Well-Being Needs the Philosophy of Well-Being – and Vice Versa

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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.

Erik Angner is Associate Professor of Practical Philosophy at Stockholm University.

I argue that the relationship between science and philosophy is symbiotic and surprisingly symmetrical: while science depends on philosophy in such a way that attention to the latter can help us improve the former, the inverse is true too. I make the case by reviewing a number of ways in which philosophy is relevant to science, and science to philosophy. My illustrations are drawn from a real example, viz., the science and philosophy of well-being. Although the two disciplines are pursued largely independently, I will argue that they exhibit a deep mutual dependence and could both benefit from increased engagement with the other. At the end of the day, I paint a picture in which science and philosophy are involved in in a mutually beneficial exchange of ideas for the advancement of the general knowledge.

Photos of our June 2017 Working Group Meeting

Twenty of our scholars met in Chicago for their final working group meeting to discuss their work in progress with each other across the disciplines of psychology, theology, and philosophy.

Find more photos on our Flickr page.

 

 

More photos from this session can be found on our Flickr page.

 

Dispatches from last day of our final working group meeting

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(from left: Josef Stern, Heather C Lench, Candace Vogler, Talbot Brewer, Stephen Brock, Jennifer A. Frey, Jean Porter, Matthias Haase, Erik Angner, Thomas Joseph White, Michael Gorman, Katherine Kinzler, Kevin Flannery, Reinhard Huetter, Robert C. Roberts, Anselm Mueller (not pictured but in attendence: Tahera Qutbuddin, Angela Knobel, David Shatz)

Not on Twitter? Here’s a sampling of our live-tweeting from our final day:

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Frey and Vogler Keynote Stockholm Conference

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Photo by Erik Angner

Our scholar Erik Angner has coordinated the workshop “Workshop: Happiness, Virtue, and the Meaning of Life” at 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 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.

The workshop’s keynotes are the Co-Principal Investigators for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.


Jennifer A. Frey’s talk is

Self-Love and Self-Transcendence
 
This paper will address the question of the connections between virtue, happiness, and meaning of life through the lens of “self-transcendence.”  I will explore what the concept of self-transcendence means by way of an account of appropriate self-love.  Aquinas argues that vice, and bad human action generally, should be understood in terms of inordinate (excessive or misdirected) self-love.  Appropriate self-love, by contrast, inclines one to, and finds its ultimate fulfillment in, the love of others; in short, it is a “self-transcendent” love. In this paper, I will explore Aquinas’s account of appropriate self-love as the foundation for the good or happy life, and the implications of this account for virtue ethics.

Candace Vogler’s talk is

Synderesis

Aquinas holds that human beings are the animals that have to figure out what to do–things are differently challenging for us than they are for other kinds of animals, however careful he is to notice that the highest levels of cognitive functioning in some nonhuman animals are very close to the simplest levels of human cognitive functioning.  But he also holds that we come equipped with something that he calls a “natural habit”–synderesis.  Synderesis gives us some initial direction, and gains more specific content as we mature.  In this talk, I will discuss Aquinas’s notion of synderesis, and explain the sense in which it is plausible to think that there is such a habit, linking my discussion to some work in developmental psychology with an occasional nod in the direction of controversy in contemporary Anglophone philosophy about the ‘guise of the good’ thesis.

For more about the workshop, speakers, and schedule, visit http://www.philosophy.su.se/english/about-us/events/workshop-happiness-virtue-and-the-meaning-of-life

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

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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: www.philosophy.su.se/happiness-virtue-meaning-of-life

 

 

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.

 

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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

*** CALL FOR PAPERS ***

 

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: https://goo.gl/maps/8HT5fEnv3En. 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
E-mail: erik.angner@philosophy.su.se