Our scholar Darcia Narvaez, Professor of Psychology at the University of Notre Dame and Advisory Board Member for the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing, has organized the conference “Practicing Science: Virtues, Values, and the Good Life”. The CFP is below.
The event will include a public lecture by Kristján Kristjánsson, also a scholar with our project, and Professor of Character Education and Virtue Ethics and Deputy Director of the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues.
A keynote address will be presented by Prof. Michael Spezio, Associate Professor of Psychology at Scripps College and co-PI on a research grant of the Self, Motivation & Virtue Project, sponsored by the Templeton Religion Trust.
Practicing Science: Virtues, Values, and the Good Life
Sponsored by the Templeton Religion Trust August 9-12, 2018 University of Notre Dame London Gateway London, UK
Over the last several decades, virtue has attracted increased attention from philosophers, theologians, and psychologists. However, little of this research on virtue has attended to the development and function of virtue within scientific research and practice.
Since 2016, a multi-disciplinary research team at the University of Notre Dame, and funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, has been exploring the relationship between virtue and scientific practice with a particular focus on laboratory research in biology.
This conference will showcase the team’s findings, and we welcome proposals for contribute papers to enhance these discussions.
Potential research questions include:
How can the language of virtue enrich, change, or challenge our understanding of science?
Does the contemporary practice of scientific research require or bolster certain virtues (or vices)?
How can ideas drawn from virtue ethics or virtue epistemology illuminate (and perhaps improve) the training and mentoring of scientists?
Paper presentations will be 15 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion.
To submit a proposal, please send a title, abstract (no more than 250 words), and short c.v. to Christina.M.Leblang.firstname.lastname@example.org by February 2, 2018. Decisions about contributed proposals will be communicated to applicants by March 1, 2018.
Kristján Kristjánsson, Deputy Director in the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues and Professor of Character Education and Virtue Ethics at the University of Birmingham, is the author of Virtuous Emotions, forthcoming in May 2018, Oxford University Press.
Heather C. Lench, Associate Professor & Department Head, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Texas A&M University, is an editor on the volume Functions of Emotion, Springer, in January 2018.
“A thing must be loved before it is loveable,” G. K. Chesterton once said. Many of us want to know how we can become better people. We want to know how we can help our children and our students to become better people. Indeed, philosophers since Plato and Aristotle have been interested in how it is that people become virtuous, perhaps because, as Julia Annas puts it, “We cannot understand what virtue is without coming to understand how we acquire it.” And although philosophers have largely ignored Chesterton’s insight, he appears to have been exactly right, even prophetic.
Recent psychology suggests that an enormous factor in moral development—perhaps the great factor—is attachment. ‘Attachment’ is a fancy word for enduring love, the sort we see between parents and children, and in marriages and close friendships. None of us would want to live without such love. Few of us have ever lacked it completely, and the times we’re made to go without enough of it are oppressively painful, like going without sunlight or fresh air.
All of this is taken onboard by attachment theory, a research program in developmental psychology that aims at explaining the nature and significance of human attachments. One of the major claims of attachment theory is that, through their early experiences with a caregiver, infants form an internal “map” of what they can expect from others. If, for instance, the caregiver is warm and attentive, the infant will write this down on his map. He will then use his map to go about future socializing. He will expect others to be warm and attentive. He will trust that, if he shows his needs to them, they will care. He will be, as the experts say, “securely attached”.
If, on the other hand, the caregiver is a lousy bum, the infant will expect others to be lousy bums. Perhaps he will decide that he had better rely on himself to get his needs met. He will be “insecurely attached”.
Of course, both the writing of the map and the using of it are unconscious processes, only entering consciousness as a whiff of anxiety here or a sigh of relief there. And this may sound like so much Freudian mysticism. But the “map” here is really just a stored mental representation, and it is by now commonplace that the brain unconsciously creates mental representations of how things are, that it uses these to make predictions, and that it begins to do so no later than when we come screaming into the world.
Children who are securely attached have more of the stuff that virtues are made of. It is alarming, in fact. In a study from Jude Cassidy’s lab, for example, researchers interviewed children using puppets (they say it’s for the kids). They ask the children questions that elicit self-reflection. They code their answers in one of three ways:
Perfect: No negative comments about the self at all.
Negative: Globally negative remarks about the self.
Flexible: Globally positive remarks about the self, mixed with specific negative remarks.
What they found? Securely attached children were more likely to talk about themselves in the flexible way. What this seems to suggest is that being securely attached means you are better able to love and respect yourself while admitting to specific ways you could improve.
It’s worth underlining this. Consider how important this ability is to personal growth. Indeed, one of the great challenges of human life is finding a way to admit one’s gruesome imperfections without being crushed by the shame of it. One meets many people who deal with this by only embracing one side of the dilemma. One tells the truth, and is crushed. Or one avoids the crushing but only through self-deceit. The trick is to tell the truth, the whole damn thing, without sentencing yourself to life without parole. (An analogous challenge arises when it comes to our love for others: How do we love them when we discover their vileness?)
The Cassidy study only scratches the surface. Here is a list of eleven other virtue-related areas where the securely attached are better off:
In light of this stunning list, it appears Chesterton was right: A thing must be loved before it is loveable. We must be loved before we are loveable. As Steinbeck writes, “underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love.”
One of the most sublime scenes in Peter Pan has Wendy telling the lost boys how she and her brothers came to the Neverland. The boys are concerned, though. Won’t their parents miss them? This is her response:
“If you knew how great is a mother’s love,” Wendy told them triumphantly, “you would have no fear. … You see,” Wendy said complacently, “our heroine knew that the mother would always leave the window open for her children to fly back by; so they stayed away for years and had a lovely time.”
Wendy, too, is prophetic. The world can be for us a Neverland, a place of enchantment and wonder, where good things run wild, only if we know there is someone who has left the window open for us.
There is a thorn in all this, given the many people who endure a fraught childhood followed by a lonely adulthood. Aristotle thought that it was through practicing the virtues that we acquire them. “We become just by doing just actions,” he says. Recently, Julia Annas has taken this up, drawing an analogy with learning the piano:
I need first to work out consciously what is the right thing to do and then get used to doing it over and over again. This goes on from learning notes to learning scales and arpeggios and then learning how to play sonatas. As I become a skilled piano player … I can play sonatas and other pieces in a way that, as with driving, proceeds without conscious thinking.
Annas thinks acquiring virtues is like this, a view we might call the skill model. There is something right about the skill model, but something it leaves out as well. If you want to become virtuous, the research we’ve seen here suggests, not the practicing of the virtues, but the healing of the attachments. This is something done in therapy and by working towards healthy intimate relationships. Learning the virtues is like learning the piano, but many of us are playing with hands that have been broken and mangled. We do not need practice. We need rehab.
Annas, J., (2011), Intelligent Virtue, Oxford University Press.
Bowlby, J., (1980), Attachment and Loss, Vol. 3: Loss, Sadness, and Depression, New
York: Basic Books.
Cassidy, J., (1988), “Child-Mother Attachment and the Self in Six-Year-Olds”, Child
Development 59(1): 121-134.
Chesterton, G. K., (1909), Orthodoxy, New York: John Lane Company; London: John
Lane, The Bodley Head.
Clark, S., and D. Symons, (2000), “A Longitudinal Study of Mother-Child Relationships
and Theory of Mind in the Preschool Period”, Social Development 9(1): 3-23.
Colman, R., and R. Thompson, (2002), “Attachment Security and the Problem-Solving
Behaviors of Mothers and Children”, Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 48(4): 337-359.
Dykas, M., and J. Cassidy, (2011), “Attachment and the Processing of Social
Information across the Life Span: Theory and Evidence”, Psychological Bulletin
Fivush, R., Haden, C., and E. Reese, (2006), “Elaborating on Elaborations: Role of
Maternal Reminiscing Style in Cognitive and Socioemotional Development”,
Child Development 77(6): 1568-1588.
Goodvin, R., S. Meyer, R. Thompson, and R. Hayes, (2008), “Self-Understanding in
Early Childhood: Associations with Child Attachment Security and Maternal
Negative Affect”, Attachment and Human Development 10: 433-450.
Harcourt, E., (2013), “Attachment Theory, Character, and Naturalism”, Ethics in
Contemporary Perspective, Julia Peters (ed.), New York: Routledge.
Kobak, R., Cole, H., Ferenz-Gillies, R., Fleming, W., and W. Gamble, (1993),
“Attachment and Emotion Regulation during Mother-Teen Problem Solving: A Control Theory Analysis”, Child Development 64(1): 231-245.
Laible, D., and R. Thompson, (2000), “Mother-Child Discourse, Attachment Security,
Shared Positive Affect, and Early Conscience Development”, Child Development 71(5): 1424-40.
Laible, D., and R. Thompson, (1998), “Attachment and Emotional Understanding in
Brian Ballard recently earned his doctorate from the philosophy department at the University of Pittsburgh. His work address the nature of emotion and its role in the good life, and he was a participant in the 2016 summer seminar “Virtue & Happiness” for the Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life project.
The Expanded Awards Jury, gathered at the University Francisco de Vitoria on July 13 and 14th, selected our scholar Darcia Narváez, for work titled, Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom for the Research category to be awarded 25.000 euros.
The awards were organized by the University Francisco de Vitoria in collaboration with the Vatican Foundation Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI. The Awards Ceremony will take place in Vatican City on September 27th.
The international Jury, integrated by members highly esteemed in their fields was composed by Alister McGrath (University of Oxford), Olegario González de Cardedal (Universidad Pontificia de Salamanca), Stefano Zamagni (Università di Bologna and Johns Hopkins University), Francesc Torralba (Universitat Ramon Llull), Gianfranco Basti (Pontificia Università Lateranense), Federico Lombardi, S.J. (President of the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation), and Daniel Sada (President of the Universidad Francisco de Vitoria).
The Expanded Reason Awards aim to encourage and acknowledge those professors and researchers who are making efforts to broaden the horizon of rationality through a transdisciplinary dialogue with philosophy and theology. The University Francisco de Vitoria and the Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation have taken this initiative convinced that if scientific rationality becomes the only form of sure knowledge, fundamental and vital questions for humanity would be ignored.
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.
Katherine Kinzler is Associate Professor of Psychology and Associate Professor of Human Development at Cornell University,
Forming conceptually rich social categories helps people navigate the complex social world by allowing them to reason about others’ likely thoughts, beliefs, actions, and interactions as guided by group membership. Yet, social categorization often has nefarious consequences. We suggest that the foundation of the human ability to form useful social categories is in place in infancy: social categories guide infants’ inferences about peoples’ shared characteristics and social relationships. We also suggest that the ability to form abstract social categories may be separable from the eventual negative downstream consequences of social categorization, including prejudice, discrimination and stereotyping. Whereas a tendency to form inductively rich social categories appears early in ontogeny, prejudice based on each particular category dimension may not be inevitable.
Keywords: essentialism, infant, intergroup cognition, prejudice, social categorization, stereotype
The main thesis in this presentation is that Viktor Frankl’s self-transcendence (ST) model provides a useful ethical framework for living and behaving well. We also argue that his model is consistent with the Aristotelian and Thomistic moral theory of virtue ethics in important ways (Hursthouse & Pettigrove, 2016).
Virtue is an important topic for psychology, philosophy, and business management because it is concerned with moral excellence and ethical behaviours that are crucial for the well-being and flourishing of individuals and communities. The real challenge for any moral theory is whether it has the practical value of helping people live as ethical, decent human beings in daily concrete situations.
Frankl’s ST model is very practical, because it was developed and tested in wrestling with the ethical challenges of how to be a decent human being under two extremely difficult conditions in real life. The first challenge had to do with suffering—how to live with a sense of human dignity and significance even when one was facing unimaginable degradation, atrocities, and a cruel death. The second challenge had to do with power—how to prevent anyone in a position of power from its corrupting influence and becoming a monster like Hitler.
Summary of Previous Presentations
At the first Virtue Scholars meeting, I presented the meaning hypothesis of living a good life (Wong, 2015a), based on my interpretation of Frankl’s concept of meaning-seeking (Wong, 2014) and his ST model (Wong, 2016a). More specifically, the meaning hypothesis posits that our primary motivational need of seeking meaning (i.e., the will to meaning) and the meaning-mindset of finding meaning (i.e., meaning of life) constitute the motivational and cognitive factors of ST. My focus was on the importance of the perspective of the meaning-mindset.
My second presentation elaborated on the meaning hypothesis by explaining how the striving towards some goals of ST is a promising pathway to live a good life of virtue, happiness, and meaning (Wong, 2016b). My focus was on the motivational aspect of seeking meaning. After reviewing various conceptions and models of ST, I concluded that Frankl’s two-factor model of ST (cognitive and motivational factors) represents the most comprehensive ST model for research and intervention.
At the December 2017 Virtue Scholars working group meeting, I sketched the various components of Frankl’s ST model and their inter-relationships as shown in Figure 1. I also introduced the four defining characteristics of ST as measured by the Self-Transcendence Measure (STM) (Wong, 2016c). I proposed that these four dimensions could differentiate the virtuous type of genuine ST from the evil type of pseudo-ST because of their inherent moral orientation (Wong, 2017).
In this present paper, the focus is on the basic tenets of Frankl’s ST model and their moral implications for living a virtuous life. We attempt to integrate Frankl’s work with moral philosophy.
Figure 1. Frankl’s two-factor theory and characteristics of self-transcendence.
Basic Assumptions of Frankl’s Self-Transcendence Model and Virtue Ethics
Frankl’s answer to the two ethical challenges identified in the introduction is fourfold: (1) the defiant power of the human spirit; (2) the capacity for freedom and responsibility; (3) the primary motivation for ST; and (4) the power of the meaning-mindset.
Defiant Power of the Human Spirit
Viktor Frankl (1985) described the defiant power of the human spirit as the freedom to take a courageous stance towards fate and the human capacity to transform a tragedy into a triumph. He defined courage in terms of the noetic or spiritual dimension; thus, moral courage had a spiritual origin.
Recently, Wong (2015b) interpreted the defiant power as the moral courage to maintain one’s cherished values and human dignity in the face of suffering and death; this courage is the key to true grit in surviving constant and unimaginable assaults on one’s physical and psychological integrity.
Without such moral fortitude in the face of danger, we would not be able to have the character strength to preserve and realize the moral values that make us decent human beings. This is essentially an existential courage that enables us to take a defiant stand against a harsh fate and do what is morally right despite personal dangers.
Frankl’s view of courage is consistent with both the classic and Catholic conceptions of courage as a virtue. Plato (1894/2000) considers courage as one of the four cardinal values. Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics, 3.6-9) defines courage as have the right “amount” of fear (“the mean”); thus, a courageous person still fears things that all human beings are afraid of, yet has the courage to face these fears as one should for some good and worthy goal, such as facing death in a battle to protect one’s country. Thomas Aquinas considers fortitude or courage primarily in terms of endurance with firmness. He says, “The principal act of courage is to endure and withstand dangers doggedly rather than to attack” (Summa Theologica, IIb, 123.8). Courage is expressed when an individual is pursuing a difficult or dangerous goal that is sufficiently valuable to be worth the difficulty or danger.
In sum, having moral courage is a prerequisite for doing the right thing or making the right choice. It is easy to do what is expedient, but it takes courage to do what is right. It is an easy way out to compromise or surrender in the face of great danger, but it takes great courage to stand up for one’s core values and beliefs. Thus, moral fortitude is just the starting point; there are additional conditions one must fulfill in order to be a fully functioning decent human being.
Capacity for Freedom and Responsibility
“Freedom of will” figures prominently in Frankl’s ST model. His model hinges on the responsible use of freedom in all situations. In Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl, 1985), he declares:
Man is not fully conditioned and determined but rather he determines himself whether he give in to conditions or stands up to them. In other words, man is self-determining. Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become in the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant. (p. 154)
Every person has the freedom and responsibility to choose their own pathway and life goals. Their choices determine their character, well-being, and destiny, even when we factor in fate or luck. Every situation presents us with the choice between good and evil, between acting on the bright side or the dark side of our nature; we can choose between spiritual joy and carnal pleasures, between practicing kindness and abusing our powers.
Shantall’s (2004) research on Holocaust survivors supports Frankl’s thesis on moral responsibility. Here are some important lessons from Holocaust survivors:
Their active efforts to maintain moral values in the face of the onslaught against them, made their lives take on greater spiritual content and meaning. Living with a profound value-directedness and moral responsibility, they experienced a sense of true destiny (something or someone to live or survive for) with peak moments of triumph and even joy. (p. 3)
The human capacity for freedom of will allows us to deliberate and choose between good and evil, between desires and values. Our awareness of the moral implications of our choices makes us morally responsible for our decisions and actions. Aquinas attributes this freedom to our rational or volitional abilities. Even though our nature may predispose us to certain ends, we have the freedom to choose between the ends, as well as the pathway to achieve a certain end. Aquinas conception of freedom, however, does not entail that all choices are equal, but rather a teleological notion of freedom- the more free one is the more able one is to pursue the good (Titus & Moncher, 2009). Another way to phrase this is that the virtuous individual is free to be just, and so to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities, choosing the proper actions for the proper reasons (Titus, 2016).
Frankl’s ST model represents an agent-centered moral theory which emphasizes the human being as a moral agent (Harris, 1999; Slote, 2001). For Slote (2001), a virtuous life depends on both a particular agent’s inner dispositions and actual motives. Therefore, the virtuous kind of ST needs to stem from a good inner disposition and a good motive.
Frankl’s model recognizes human beings as both moral and instrumental agents. It is consistent with the psychological literature of self-determination theory (Ryan & Deci, 2000) and self-efficacy theory (Bandura, 1977), which are predicated on the human capacity for freedom and responsibility. In moral psychology, research on moral identity (Colby & Damon, 1992) and moral education (Bebeau, Rest, & Narvaez, 1999) emphasizes that individuals whose moral goals and values are central to their self-concept feel responsible for acting in consistently moral ways.
Tomorrow in Part II, we will discuss the Motivation of Searching for Self-Transcendence.
Ellen Dulaney: I am originallly from Knoxville, Tennessee. I have also lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, where I completed my undergraduate degree at Hampshire College.
VW: Tell me about your research.
ED: Using psychology’s methods of inquiry, I research the self and essentialist beliefs about the true self. Additionally I study whether the self can provide a personalized access point to constructing meaning in life for each person. I research these topics because I am interested in understanding human Being, the phenomenological experience of selfhood, and what conditions can enable each person to thrive.
VW: What are you most looking forward to about this seminar?
ED: I am very excited for the opportunity to hear from precise and passionate thinkers from such a wide range of traditions. I value interdisciplinary input on my topics of interest very highly, and am sure I will learn so much during each of this seminar’s discussions.
VW: What are your non-academic interests?
ED: My non-academic interests include painting and photography; surrealist and impressionistic painters; the cultures of Japan and Southern Appalachia; socially-conscious punk and rock music; and science fiction, fiction, and noir films and literature.