Candace Vogler to speak on moral relativism at Vanderbilt University October 5

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Our principal investigator Candace Vogler will be at Vanderbilt University October 5 to speak on moral relativism, hosted by the Thomistic Institute.Thomistic Institute chapter in Nashville. Here is the abstract for her talk.

Moral Realism in a Climate of Moral Doubt

The thought that good is to be pursued, and bad is to be avoided is a basic condition on the intelligibility of animal movement generally.  We are intellectual animals—the kinds of animals that need to figure out what to pursue and how to go about pursuing it.  And this means that pursuit and avoidance are harder for us than they are for other kinds of animals.  For all that, making sense of what we go for and what we fear or flee operates in the context of some understanding of what is good for human beings.  These days, in the face of stark and shrill disagreement among thoughtful people about some of the most basic aspects of our lives, it can seem as though people have lost any clear, common understanding of human good.  Moral disagreement can seem completely intractable.  In this talk, I will look at some serious, likely intractable examples of profound moral disagreement, with an eye toward learning how to think about and engage these topics in the secure understanding that disagreement is partly a function of the challenges that intellectual animals face in trying to see what is good for them, urging a kind of modesty that does not require setting aside one’s own convictions.

Candace Vogler to speak on Happiness at Harvard University Sept 21-22

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Our principal investigator Candace Vogler will be at Harvard University September 21-22 to give a Graduate seminar and  Medical School seminar delving into topics such as Happiness, Virtue, Evil, and Doing Good. She will be hosted by the Thomistic Institute Graduate Chapter at Harvard University.

How to be Happy: Virtue and the Path to Human Happiness

Call both one’s efforts at being a good person and the ways of thinking, feeling, and responding to circumstances that develop while one works to be a good person ‘virtue.’  Let ‘human happiness’ pick out a pattern in one’s life marked by such connected and interrelated goods as love, health, strong family ties and friendships, intellectual engagement, interesting work, a reasonable measure of material security, optimism for one’s future, and availability to experiences of joy and peace.  On some traditional views, the development and exercise of good character—of virtue—is supposed to be enough to guarantee happiness.  On other views, traditional and more modern, virtue and happiness can come apart.  Both sorts of view share the idea that people want happiness.  Both sorts of view share the understanding that acting well can be costly.  In this talk, I will trace some of the tensions between virtue and happiness, urging that, while there may be no guarantee that the living will be easy when we work to be good human beings, the kinds of temporal happiness we can enjoy are only worth going for in the context of our efforts to be good people.

 

Good and the Privative Understanding of Evil

In this talk, I will think about bad things, and the ways in which we can apprehend and consider what is bad—both the kind of badness at issue in so-called “natural evils” like illness, injury, and some forms of suffering, and so-called “moral evils”—like injustice (with the understanding that moral evil can sometimes show itself in manmade natural evil).  It can seem like both sorts of bad function completely independently of the goods that they block, impede, prevent, or otherwise sabotage.  It can seem that way even if we don’t have unproblematic access to an account of what overall good might look like in the relevant area of human experience, life, or action.  I will take seriously the difficulty of giving an account of all-around goodness in specific areas of life, experience, and action, and argue that, nevertheless, any understanding of badness is parasitic on a grasp—however inchoate or indeterminate—of good.

 

Self-Other Concept in Humble Love As Exemplified by Long-Term Members of L’Arche

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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.

Robert C. Roberts is Professor of Ethics and Emotion Theory at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues, and joint Chair with the Royal Institute of Philosophy. Michael Spezio is Associate Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience and head of the Laboratory for Inquiry into Valuation and Emotion (LIVE) at Scripps College in Claremont, CA.

After living for a significant period in l’Arche communities, people often experience a change of self-other concept. It is a character change in which, from conceiving self-other in a way that is typical for modern secular societies, members’ experience of self in relation to others is transformed under the reign of what we call humble love. Both before and after the transformation, the experience of self-other has the character of concern-based construal, but the terms of the two kinds of construal are mutually contrary. Following Jean Vanier, we call the ethos guiding the first self-other style of construal “the Normal” (he writes of “the tyranny of the Normal”). The leading concepts on which this ethos turns are success, competence, competition, advancement, achievement, power, superior-inferior, rival, reputation/recognition/ acclaim, and the like, as criteria for the evaluation of persons. Here the self is seen as in relation to the other/ others, but the relations are distancing, alienating, ones of rivalry, differential competence, superior achievement, competition for power, winner and loser, etc. The relations are not those within a community, in the strict sense, but rather within a social arena of agonistic differentiation. By contrast, the terms of self-other construals that are fostered by long-term living in l’Arche are characterized by commonality, mutuality, and reconciliation: brother/sister, friend, helper, colleague, forgiveness, love. Humble love combines two highly congruent and complementary virtues: humility and charity. The tyranny of the Normal erects “walls” that impede the mutuality construals of self-other that are characteristic of love. Humility, which dissipates or undermines the distancing, alienating self-other construals, brings down these walls, making way for the genuine communion of love with its characteristic self-other construals.

Candace Vogler to speak on the place of virtue in a meaningful life, at Valparaiso University September 15

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Candace Vogler will give a talk September 15 at Valparaiso University as part of their programming on the theme of the pan-humanities seminar taken by every freshman, and the theme this fall is “human meaning and purpose.” She will be hosted by the Department of Philosophy at Valparaiso University.

The Place of Virtue in a Meaningful Life

Call both one’s efforts at being a good person and the ways of thinking, feeling, and responding to circumstances that develop while one works to be a good person ‘virtue.’  Let a ‘meaningful’ life be a life imbued with a sense of purpose or significance—a life that is full, engaging, and engaged, where the fulness comes of something more than mere subjective interest and enthusiasm.  It can seem as though virtue and meaning have very little to do with each other.  Whatever sort of struggle might be involved in working to be a good human being can seem like something personal—an individual quest to have a beautiful character or a shining soul.  Having a meaningful life, on the other hand, looks like the sort of thing that will require that I go beyond the business of working toward having a lovely soul and into a larger world where I try to find things that are genuinely worth pursuing, and devote myself to their pursuit.  In this talk, I will work to bring the two together, partly by urging a different account of virtue, partly by developing a slightly more articulate account of meaning in human life, and always by drawing on work by Thomas Aquinas.

 

Candace Vogler to speak on Happiness at Tulane University September 18

tulane.jpegOur principal investigator Candace Vogler will be at Tulane University on Monday, September 18 to give a talk on finding happiness. She will be hosted by the Thomistic Institute Graduate Chapter at Tulane University.

 

Hollow Pursuits, Fulfilling Pursuits, and Ultimate Satisfaction

According to an ancient truism that I have no interest in challenging, people want happiness.  According to more contemporary thought on the topic, in seeking love, wealth, health, friendship, adventure, something that counts as family, some sort of supportive community, interesting work, and the kinds of security associated with these things, people are seeking happiness.  Alongside these goods, people sometimes take an interest goods that go beyond the stuff of personal well-being and the well-being of those in their immediate proximity.  They want to be good people.  They want to play the good that they enjoy forward in some area of human life.  They want to work for social justice, say, or for other good causes.  But according to the ancient truism that understands this human busy-ness as directed at happiness, genuine happiness shows itself in complete satisfaction.  Drawing on the thought of Thomas Aquinas, I will urge that it is folly to think that a very good life will all by itself be completely satisfying.  While allowing that sources of temporal happiness really are sources of happiness, I will suggest that human life points beyond itself to a kind of spiritual good that we cannot secure on our own.

Practically Self-Conscious Life

 

WassertropfenWe’re presenting a short series of abstracts of the work-in-progress our scholars presented and discussed at their June 2017 Working Group Meeting.

Matthias Haase is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago.

 

Ethical Naturalism, as Philippa Foot conceives it, is the thesis that ethical goodness is a species of natural goodness. On this view, the central concept of meta-ethics is the concept of life. Natural goodness and defect is an aspect of the relation between a life-form and its exemplars. This relation is also exhibited by the sub-rational life of plants and animals. Ethical goodness concerns a certain dimension of the relation between a specifically rational life-form and its exemplars. Ethical Naturalism so conceived may thus be described as a two-step program for the treatment of our fundamental normative concepts of ethics. The first step introduces a general notion of normativity through the reflection of the concept of a life-form and its bearers. The second step is supposed to establish that the necessity expressed by ‘ought’ and ‘cannot,’ as they figure in our discourse about good action, is a sub-determination of the general notion of vital normativity.

 

Both steps have come under attack in the literature. It has been doubted that the concept of life introduces any genuine notion of normativity. And it has denied that ethical necessity belongs to such vital normativity. In both cases, the doubts may be presented as qualms about the logical forms to which the Ethical Naturalist appeals in the respective step of the proposed program. The notion of natural goodness is supposed to be elucidated by appeal to the special kind of generality exhibited by our descriptions of the life-cycle of a species: Natural Historical Judgments, as Michael Thompson calls them. Shifting such judgments into the self-conscious register of practical thought is supposed to provide the notion of a life-from that is essentially represented by its exemplars and thereby illuminate the idea of life in which the question ‘How should I live?’ has a place. In the paper I am concerned with this second step: the transition from life to practically self-conscious life.

 

My question is what form a developed Ethical Naturalism has to take for this transition to be articulated within its framework. I discuss a tension within Foot’s own account. And then turn to different ways in which the tension gets resolved in the theories of Rosalind Hursthouse and Michael Thompson. Each is confronted with further difficulties.

Our newest partner: The Institute for Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame Australia

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We’re delighted to announce a new partner for our project, the Institute for Ethics and Society at the University of Notre Dame Australia. Based in Sydney, the Institute for Ethics and Society is one of Notre Dame’s three national research institutes. The IES aims to foster ethical awareness in professional and social life. It does this through pursuing excellence in research and by providing leadership in Ethics Education across the University.

IES is hosting our principal investigator Candace Vogler as Distinguished Visiting Fulbright Professor from 19 August – 7 September 2017. During her visit, Candace Vogler will take part in the following suite of events:

The Mission of the Institute for Ethics and Society

Established in late 2009, the Institute’s Terms of Reference state that its purpose is “to promote the study of Catholic intellectual and moral tradition, with a particular focus on faith and ethics and their application and integration into the broader life of society”. In carrying out this purpose, the Institute is guided by four principal objectives: (i) to inform and support the teaching of ethics through all Schools and disciplines of the University and the integration of ethics into the teaching of all units; (ii) to inform and support the understanding and adoption of the Catholic Church’s recognition of the complementarity of faith and reason through all the University’s endeavours; (iii) to promote and undertake research into professional and social ethics, including political, legal and medical ethics and the relation between ethics and faith; and (iv) to identify and provide advice and commentary in the fields of ethics and faith and their practical application and integration into relevant current day social issues. Underlying all objectives is the desire to promote interdisciplinary teaching, discussion, scholarship and research. The Institute will draw on staff from all campuses and from all disciplines in undertaking its activities.