Group Photo and Last Day of the Summer Seminar “Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence”

“I feel very fortunate to have listened to and engaged with such gifted people from so many places…”

“I’m having a great fascinating time and I’ve heard attendees from all perspectives/traditions express how appreciative they are of getting this opportunity to have a respectful interdisciplinary discussion on these topics.”

We feel the same, and grateful for the comments already coming our way from our fabulous participants.

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From left: Madison Gilbertson, Carissa Phillips-Garrett, Sarah Ann Bixler, Cabrini Pak, Dan McAdams, Andrea Yetzer, Candace Vogler, Jennifer Rothschild, Ellen Dulaney, Anselm Mueller, Samantha Mendez, David McPherson, Joseph Stenberg, Fr. Steve Brock, Andrew Flynn, Jennifer A. Frey, James Dominic Rooney, Jane Klinger, Molly Ogunyemi, Tim Reilly, Craig Iffland, Marta Faria, Elise Murray, Andrew Christy, Alberto Arruda, Sanaz Talaifar, Theresa Smart, Maureen Bielinski, Samuel Baker, Jaime Hovey, Tal Brewer, Anne Jeffrey.

Today’s sessions are Jennifer Frey on Happiness and Candace Vogler on Happiness and Social Life; follow along with our live-tweeting from @UChiVirtue.

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Below is a sampling from yesterday’s sessions with Fr Stephen Brock on Aquinas and the Law and Dan McAdams on Generativity.

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Live-tweeting our Summer Seminar “Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence” – days 3 and 4

Our Summer Session participants have been discussing research and application in the areas of philosophy, psychology, and theology – we’re live-tweeting from @UChiVirtue #vhml17.

Talbot Brewer, Dan McAdams, Jennifer A. Frey, and Fr. Stephen Brock have been leading discussions.

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Interview with Craig Iffland, 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. Craig Iffland is a John Templeton Fellow at the University of Notre Dame Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Craig Iffland: I’m from Centreville, Virginia, which is a small suburb about thirty minutes outside Washington D.C.

VW: Tell me about your research.

CI: I work in fundamental moral theology. My dissertation focuses on the intersection between law, sin, and obligation in Thomas Aquinas, paying particular attention to his conception of law as a measure and rule. My aim in so doing is to bring some conceptual clarity to debates over exceptionless moral rules, particularly among contemporary moral theologians. As those debates also turn on questions of intention and action, I have had an abiding interest in the thought of Elizabeth Anscombe. As a John Templeton Fellow at the University of Notre Dame Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing, I’ve also had the opportunity to do quite a bit of interdisciplinary research on social cognition, particularly in the area of collective intentionality.

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

CI: First, learning from an incredible roster of faculty for this year’s seminar. In particular, I’m excited to get some class time with Talbot Brewer since I never had a class with him during my undergraduate years at the University of Virginia. Second, conversations with my fellow students, particularly those working in psychology. I’ve found that engagement with those working in the sciences really help me to sharpen my own views about the underlying capacities that enable and help shape moral discourse.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

CI: I’m really into movies. My favorite director is Quentin Tarantino. I run a little “film forum” once a month for students at Notre Dame, usually focusing on a common theme or genre (e.g., the “Western”). I like travelling, meeting new people, and making new friends. The place that has the felt the most “home away from home” is Johannesburg, South Africa, where I spent the past two summers doing research.

Interview with Marta Faria, 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. Marta Faria is a PhD student in Philosophy at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Marta Faria: I am originally from Portugal and I am studying in Rome even though I spend half of the year in Lisbon and half of the year in Rome.

VW: Tell me about your research.

MF: I am doing a Ph.D. in Thomistic Metaphysics. My topic is the Common Good of the Universe in Saint Thomas Aquinas. I am mostly interested in the metaphysical foundations of Ethics, Politics and Human Action in general. As a philosophical topic of inquiry, the common good has traditionally been a topic of disciplines like Ethics and Political Philosophy.  When one analyzes the common good from these intermediate perspectives, it calls for a relative definition: it is the good of a certain collective subject such as the family, the city, or the state. Additionally, we see that, in the doctrine of Saint Thomas Aquinas, these intermediate subjects are conceived as parts of a whole (eg: a particular family is a part of civil society) and can only be fully understood as such. This implies that the intelligible character of these intermediate conceptions of the common good needs to be derived from the good to which each is immediately ordered. For instance, the proper good of the individual is ordered to the common good of the family, which is ordered to the common good of the city, which is ordered to the common good of the state, which is ordered to the universal common good. This happens to be the case because the common good is a good and therefore an end. Consequently, the formal character of the common good must be derived from the ultimate end to which all intermediate partial common goods are finally ordered: the common good of the universe.
Along with being fundamental for the understanding of the intermediary common goods, the question of the universal common good is also interesting for another reason. Saint Thomas makes his own the Dionysian adagio “bonum diffusivum sui”, which implies that for the Angelic Doctor the “good qua good” is communicable. Therefore, the comprehension of the universal common good is also necessary to fully grasp the same nature of the good as intrinsically communicable. There is no other good whose communication is more pervasive than the universal common good, therefore, it must be the highest good of all, not just extensively, as that comes from its own definition, but also intensively. My research being mostly metaphysical aims to study the metaphysical foundations of the good, the key concept of any ethical project.

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

MF:  Even though it is obvious that I expect to learn greatly from the talks of the main speakers I also find that the interaction and discussions with the other participants are extremely interesting. I will get to learn different perspectives over topics that I am used to frame in a specific manner and I will have the opportunity to confront my ideas with other people and to test how consistent they are.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

MF: All sports in general but mainly jogging and volleyball.

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.