Our scholars met for their third of four working group meetings from December 12-16, 2017. Talbot Brewer gave the keynote public lecture, “What Good Are the Humanities?” on December 14, 2017 (video forthcoming).
In the Aristotelian-scholastic tradition, moral or ethical goodness is understood to be crucially related to the flourishing or full actualization of human persons: the idea, to a first approximation, is that a fully good human is a human who is fully carrying out a full range of human operations. This proposal could be understood in a rather individualistic way, as the thought that the good person is the one who is doing best for himself.
That this has not been the traditional understanding is fairly easy to show, if only by pointing to the fact that of the ten books of the Nicomachean Ethics, one is devoted to justice and two to friendship. Nonetheless, I think there is an under-explored aspect of the tradition’s non-individualistic side, and exploring it is the goal of my research for our next meeting.
I am interested in the idea that some of the activities that one can engage in as part of living excellently are, in a very strong sense, activities that cannot be engaged in individualistically. In some cases, that is, the activities that contribute to goodness are not merely activities that an individual can’t do well without others, and also not merely activities that an individual can’t do unless other individuals are doing them too, but activities that can’t be done by individuals at all, but only by two people or more.
Michael Gorman is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America and a Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
We’ve distilled our Scholars’ research for this semester into respective questions; tomorrow we’ll post eight more. And in forthcoming posts, we’ll feature in-depth look at each. For now, we thought our readers would enjoy pondering each question. Together, they can read as a kind of meditation on the inter-relatedness of virtue, happiness, and deep meaning in life.
Can cognitive effort be measured?
~Marc Berman, University of Chicago
What good are the humanities?
~ Talbot Brewer, University of Virginia
What work does anger do across moralities?
What work ought anger to do in a particular morality?
~ Owen Flanagan, Duke University
How can Thomistic notions of of Temperance enlarge and enrich our understanding of that virtue?
~ Jennifer Frey, University of South Carolina
What is the role of friendship in human flourishing?
~Michael Gorman, The Catholic University of America
Given my circumstances, can I do what befits a human being?
~Matthias Haase, University of Chicago
Can we achieve happiness without an understanding of the ultimate finality of the human soul?
~Reinhard Huetter, Duke Divinity School
Can human character experience sudden moral change?
~Angela Knobel, The Catholic University of America
How is Aristotle’s meta-virtue of megalopsychia, or magnanimity, useful to us today?
Can immoral people undergo sudden moral conversions?
~Kristján Kristjánsson, Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, University of Birmingham