Interview with James Dominic Rooney, OP, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. James Dominic Rooney is Dominican Priest and graduate student in Philosophy at Saint Louis University. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

 

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

James Dominic Rooney: I am from Ohio, originally, but more recently of St. Louis, MO.

 

VW: What are your research areas? Why?

JDR: I am interested in metaphysics, Eastern and Western medieval philosophy, and philosophy of religion.

I’ve always been fascinated by the most general, fundamental questions of philosophy, such as the nature of casuality, what exists, or basic truths we often take for granted. Much of this explains my interest in metaphysics. Metaphysics as I conceive of it follows on Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas: it is the science of being-as-being, or the structure of reality. While this can seem esoteric, empirical science appears to require metaphysical assumptions, and I am interested in how we should decide between metaphysical theories that might have ramifications for fundamental physics (quantum mechanics, etc.) or other sciences like biology.

Because of my interests in metaphysics, I have found a lot of interesting resources in medieval philosophy both in the Latin West and in China (Confucianism). Both of these traditions have a view of metaphysics as the science of wisdom, knowing the ultimate causes of everything. We tend to divide theoretical and practical concerns far apart, so that scientific inquiry is neither morally good nor bad, and is just beside the point of leading a fulfilled life. But I think the Chinese and Latin philosophers point to a different vision of wisdom: philosophy (and the wisdom it seeks) is not only a kind of theoretical knowledge, but importantly connected to a way of life. This perspective seems to me often forgotten or unpracticed in contemporary philosophy, let alone society. I think we could all benefit from rediscovering how to acquire wisdom.

 

VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s seminar?

JDR: I look forward to having the opportunity not only to learn from some of the top scholars in their respective fields, but to be able to have personal discussion with them alongside other graduate students. The best and most lively work in philosophy seems to me to originate in these kind of discussions.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

JDR: I am fond of art-house movies, calligraphy, bonsai trees, skiing, and being generally outdoors. But my aesthetic interests are really just a mature compensation for my love of computer games.

Interview with Molly Ogunyemi, Summer Session Participant

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VW: Tell me about your research.

MO: My primary interests are in interdisciplinary studies that can contribute to scholarly dialogue and mutual enrichment between philosophical anthropology and other sciences. (For example psychology, neurosciences, communication sciences and managerial sciences).

I am intrigued by themes of unity and coherence in lives, narrative philosophy, virtues and habit formation, and the philosophy of psychotherapy techniques.  I would like to develop youth formation programs. The main philosophical themes behind my research in recent years are topics of virtue, happiness, meaning of life, unity of life and narrative self-understanding as a tool for self-improvement over time.
During conversations with many people, both at work and in casual settings, we often raised questions about the meaning of life and happiness. I had studied philosophy out of personal interests as a medical student and even more for a few years after medical school while working in different hospitals. My interests in these topics led me to enroll in short courses in philosophy during my holidays in a private institute outside my university. I came to see the importance of having a deeper understanding of the human being in his totality in order to be able to offer solutions to age-old problems which are still actual today. These include questions about one’s personal identity, finding meaning in life, the benefits of virtues for living a happy life and the motivation to continue working on difficult tasks or in uncomfortable situations in view of a greater good which is achieved from persevering in those activities. I realized that studying philosophy as I did was not an option that everybody around me had and I decided to dedicate more time to this study with the hope of transmitting whatever I learn to others who study different sciences or conduct highly specialized research which gives little opportunity for detailed philosophical instructions.
In addition, I think that the need for interdisciplinary studies is ever increasing and urgent since the development of particular sciences that promote human flourishing requires understanding the human being as much as possible.

VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s seminar? 

MO: I am looking forward to learning from the speakers and my co-participants and to sharing my experience with people who approach topics that are my primary research interests from different perspectives. It will be interesting to meet some of the speakers whose writings I have read. For example, I have read and studied the works of Dan P. McAdams for my doctoral thesis.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

MO: My hobbies include reading novels, singing, sewing, cooking and talking with people and listening to them. I also enjoy taking part in aerobic exercises, volunteer work/service projects in rural areas. I enjoy excursions, discovering new places and learning about cultures that are different from mine.

 

Interview with Timothy Reilly, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Timothy Reilly is Postdoctoral Research Associate in developmental psychology at the University of Notre Dame. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

 

Timothy Reilly: I’m an Indiana native, originally from Muncie. I began my studies in Bloomington, Indiana, completed my doctorate in California. After that I returned to Bloomington, moved to Muncie, and finally arrived at Notre Dame. I still miss the scenery and weather of the Bay Area, though I am enjoying life back in the Midwest.

 

VW: What are your research areas? Why?

 

TR: My research addresses moral development and positive development from a variety of perspectives. My training is primarily in the fields of developmental psychology and the learning sciences. My graduate research focused on purpose, self-development, and well-being in the transition to adulthood. My current research is a survey and interview study of virtue in laboratory research and ensemble music, as part of a larger project on virtue in practices.

 

I engage in this work in order to understand how best to foster a wide array of individuals’ potential and self-development. In this, I seek to understand both the general patterns that are beneficial, broadly speaking, and the need to account for particularities in individuals’ needs, interests, and capacities. Originally this interest in potential focused on talent development. More recently, however, my interests have been drawn to the centrality of relationships, within families, schools, and other institutions, in facilitating or frustrating self-development and well-being. I am especially fascinated by the way that, for many, the self is most fully expressed, and is most fully fostered, in service to transcendental ends.

 

VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s seminar?

 

TR: I am looking forward to the opportunity to engage with scholars who bring a variety of perspectives. It is important to me to continually ask new questions and to push at the boundaries of my knowledge. I am especially interested in discussing various conceptions of how virtue is developed and discussing the forms that self-transcendence and well-being take at different points in development and in different domains.

 

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

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TR: Outside of my work, I enjoy swimming, cycling, and hiking. I also enjoy reading and board games.

Interview with Jennifer Rothschild, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Jennifer Rothschild is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Florida. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

 

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

JR:  am from Iowa, my philosophical upbringing was in Chicago, and I am currently living in Florida and teaching at the University of Florida.

 

VW: Tell me about your research.

JR: I am endlessly interested in human beings—what it is to be human, what makes individual ones of us good or bad versions of a human being, how to understand what we do (actions and practices) and why we do it, and so on. I suppose my philosophical questions converge in ethics, moral psychology, and action. Though I am willing to draw inspiration from any source that makes good points about the things I care about, my writing tends to be more narrowly anchored in Aristotelian virtue ethics. At this point in my research I would say that I work on Aristotle because, first, of the philosophy I know, he is the most right. Second, I like ancient virtue ethics because this kind of philosophy does not seem to me to lose sight of its connection to actual human beings.

Currently I am working on trying to understand self-improvement from an Aristotelian perspective. Within the framework of Aristotle’s virtue ethics, how is it that we can reach for being better than we are? What does that look like? I think this is an important question, and there are a number of obstacles to seeing our way to a good answer on it.

 

VW: What are you looking forward to for the upcoming seminar?

JR: The topic for this summer’s meeting, self-transcendence, is right in the center of my current project. Part of what I want to understand is what it is to reach beyond ourselves—the internal and external resources we need for this, and the structure of that kind of aiming and transformation. I am excited about coming together with other scholars to see what we can figure out. I am also especially interested in the resources of accounts other than Aristotle’s (in particular, that of Aquinas).

 

VW: What are your interests outside of academia?

 

JR: As the mother of a young baby, I would say sleep ranks right up there on my list of shiny goods. Does that count? I like to cook, and eat, and go new places whenever I can. I am one of those people who always has big plans for a new hobby that I never seem to get around to taking up: this summer, for example, I plan to get my boat captain’s license and learn to make mosaics (among other things, of course).

Interview with Jane Klinger, Summer Session Participant

Jane Adair Klinger.jpgThis post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Jane Klinger is a graduate student in psychology at the University of Waterloo at Ontario and visiting scholar at The Ohio State University. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

 

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Jane Klinger: I’m originally from Washington Grove, Maryland, and am currently a grad student at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario- though I’ve been working from Columbus, Ohio (at OSU) since the Fall.

VW: Tell me about your research.

JK: My research is in social psychology and focuses on self-regulation and motivation and, especially, how these relate to well-being outcomes like perceived meaning and authenticity. A central question of my research is about the trade-offs of top-down control: when does it keep us in touch with our values versus actually alienate us from our values? The latter is most interesting to me, partly because it so often goes unrecognized- how the same processes that allow us to succeed in self-control conflicts can also make us rigid and insensitive to our own values; essentially, reinforcing the letter rather than the spirit of our own laws. I’m coming to appreciate more and more how much insight on this topic comes from areas far outside my own discipline (e.g., Taoism, management science)- and indeed this is a large part of what excites me about learning from this multi-disciplinary group.

VW: What are you looking forward to for the upcoming seminar?

JK: I’m looking forward to a lot about this seminar, but most broadly: thinking in a different way (learning the language of other disciplines), challenging my assumptions, and meeting thoughtful people with common interests.

VW: What are your interests outside of academia?

JK: Other things I like to do are run, write, and make art. I also recently started a book club, which has thankfully gotten me to make more time for leisure reading.

Interview with Andrew Christy, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Andrew Christy is a graduate student in social  and personality psychology at Texas A&M University. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

 

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Andrew Christy: I am from the small town of Greenwich in upstate New York. I lived in Greenwich all my life until going to college at SUNY Geneseo in western New York, and I am now doing my graduate work at Texas A&M University.

 

VW: Tell me about your research.

AC: My research broadly deals with existential psychology and the psychology of well-being, with a particular focus on self- and identity-related processes by which people deal with existential concerns and experience well-being. I study these topics using the methods of social and personality psychology. I ended up in this research area because I was very excited by the questions of meaning and the good life that I encountered in my undergraduate philosophy minor, but I was not optimistic about my ability to provide substantive philosophical answers to these questions. Instead, I study how laypeople answer these questions for themselves, and I have found this to be a very satisfying union of my interests in philosophy and psychology.

 

VW: What are you looking forward to for the upcoming seminar?

AC: This summer, I am most looking forward to meeting other scholars who take different approaches to studying the same topics that interest me. I think I will learn a lot and I hope to come away from the seminar with some new friends in addition to new knowledge!

 

VW: What are your interests outside of academia?

AC: My non-academic interests include cats, hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities, and playing blues and folk music on the lap steel guitar.

Announcing the Participants for our 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence”

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We’re delighted to share the list of participants for our 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence“, who hail from all corners of the globe and will convene at the University of Chicago for a week this June. These young researchers will participate in intensive workshop sessions with our faculty to deepen their own research  through conversations with a network of fellow collaborators in the areas of Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology/Religious Studies.

The accepted participants for the 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” are:

Alberto Arruda, University of Lisbon
Samuel Baker, University of South Alabama
Maureen Bielinski, University of St. Thomas, TX
Sarah Bixler, Princeton Theological Seminary
Andrew Christy, Texas A&M University
Ellen Dulaney, DePaul University
Marta Faria, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome
Andrew Flynn, University of California – Los Angeles
Madison Gilbertson, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
Craig Iffland, University of Notre Dame
Anne Jeffrey, University of South Alabama
Jane Klinger, University of Waterloo
David McPherson, Creighton University
Samantha Mendez, University of the Philippines- Diliman
Elise Murray, Tufts University
Omowumi Ogunyemi, Institute of humanities of the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos
Cabrini Pak, The Catholic University of America
Carissa Phillips-Garrett, Rice University
Timothy Reilly, University of Notre Dame
James Dominic Rooney, Saint Louis University
Jennifer Rothschild, University of Florida
Theresa Smart, University of Notre Dame
Joseph Stenberg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Sanaz Talaifar, University of Texas at Austin
Andrea Yetzer, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs