Virtue Talk Podcast: Dan P. McAdams on Generativity

virtuetalklogorsClick the link below to hear our scholar Dan P. McAdams discuss his psychology research in generativity and redemptive life narratives.

Dan P. McAdams | Virtue Talk

Dan P. McAdams is the Henry Wade Rogers Professor of Psychology and Professor of Human Development and Social Policy at Northwestern University. He was awarded the Ph.D. in Psychology and Social Relations from Harvard University in 1979.
McAdams studies personality development across the human life course, with an emphasis on the narratives that people construct to make meaning out of their lives. He is the author most recently of THE REDEMPTIVE SELF:  STORIES AMERICANS LIVE BY (Oxford University Press, 2013) and THE ART AND SCIENCE OF PERSONALITY DEVELOPMENT (Guilford Press, 2015), and President-elect of the Association for Research in Personality.


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On finding meaning by looking beyond the self – part 1

Silhouette of a girl watching the clouds after sunset.

Candace Vogler spoke about Self-Transcendence, Virtue, Happiness, and Meaning on the Matt Townsend Show. We’re providing this transcript (in 2 parts) to accompany the audio of the program, which aired February 25, 2016.


Matt Townsend: Our guest today, Dr. Candace Vogler, joins us from Chicago to talk about some research she is doing and a project she is undertaking to basically help us transcend ourselves. Dr. Candace Vogler, welcome to the Matt Townsend show!


Candace Vogler: Thank you very much, and thanks for having me.


Matt: You bet. This is to me a really interesting subject. I mean, we tied it to selfies, but this is an age-old issue, right? I mean our philosophers—cause you’re a philosopher, right? And this isn’t a new concept of people becoming too self-absorbed.


Candace: No, I don’t think there’s anything brand new about it. I think it’s a kind of central temptation for a whole lot of people, and has been for a very long time.


Matt: Talk to us about your research. You did just receive some money, a grant to do a research project about getting over yourself.


Candace: What we’ve got is a $2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation called “Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life,” and the inspiration for this grant came from people who are actually leading pretty solid lives, but find themselves at odds with themselves in all kinds of ways. They’re pretty good people, they’ve got something that looks like a solid family—whatever counts as that for them—they’ve got jobs that don’t grind them into the dust, they’ve got some kind of community, and yet there’s this sense that these lives they have worked so hard to put into place for themselves are hollow.


So for me this started as the question about the difference between people who felt like their lives were hollowed out, and people who didn’t have that sense, whether or not they were sort of stunningly privileged by global standards. So what we’re doing is getting together a group of 25 very prominent scholars. They’re cognitive scientists, psychologists, people who do religious studies of various kinds, and philosophers, to think about the hypothesis that part of what is going wrong in these lives that seem empty is that people aren’t looking far enough beyond themselves to find a sense of meaning.


Matt: Interesting.


Candace: If you can understand your life as lived in relation to something that goes well beyond personal expression, personal actualization, and even the safety and comfort of members of your immediate family or community, then you’ve got a much better chance of being able to enjoy what you’ve put in place for yourself, and find it meaningful in a day-to-day way.


Matt: And that is self-transcendence, right?


Candace: And that is self-transcendence. And there’s lots of different kinds of it.


Matt: Well, how amazing! This seems like such a novel idea, but it blows my mind that this is novel, cause you’ve got a headline, one of the headlines was that you received 2 million dollars for this research, and everyone was surprised, but this has been going on, and I know you use Aquinas as a source of kind of your philosophical underpinning of all of this, but talk to us, teach us about why we aren’t naturally moving towards transcendence.


Candace: Well, some kinds of religious positions think that we are. It’s just that we get in our own ways all the time. So the figure I work on a lot is as you mentioned is Thomas Aquinas, and he’s a 13th century philosopher and theologian, and I’m not myself Catholic, but he’s a major source for Catholic theology.


Aquinas’s view is that the interesting thing about human beings is that we have all these different kinds of capacities and powers, and that we have emotional and feeling capacities and powers, and we sense things and perceive things, we have capacities to love, and to think and to reason, but those powers tend not always to cooperate with one another.


So I sometimes say that in my apartment, the cats that live in my apartment , if they’re going for something, it tends to be the kind of thing that’s pretty good for cats—it’s play, it’s food, it’s love, it’s the best place to sit on the windowsill on a sunny day. The humans in my apartment have a much harder time going straight for things that are good for human beings. It’s much easier for us to go after things that are not good for us, in all kinds of ways, and it’s much easier for us to be insensitive to the world we’re inhabiting, to one other, to all kinds of stuff, and it’s much easier for us to get caught up psychologically in being just very, very worried about self-expression, self-actualization, self-enhancement, comfort, all these kinds of things.


Matt: That–that to me is the American way.


Candace: Yes—it’s been the way for a lot of different people in a lot of different times.


Matt: it’s interesting, because one of the things you brought up in one of your articles was the fact that you’re coming at this, so theological scholars would study this more naturally, because it’s related to their religion, like Aquinas, but you’re saying psychologists might even study it, to some degree, but this is a newer idea to study in philosophy.


Candace: Yes—it’s actually pretty new in philosophy, this way of going about it, even though a lot of our historical sources, if you take a look at them are basically saying, you need to be connected to some good that’s bigger than you are for things to go well for you. That’s a fairly common theme in a lot of philosophical work, well, in a lot of European-based philosophy, and certainly clear in a lot of Asian philosophy. It’s really a pretty common thing there. And the thing that was really the most interesting for me is that the term self-transcendence is one that we’re taking from empirical psychology.


Matt: Right—Maslow was the first time I ever heard the word used. Self-actualization, transcendence.


Candace: Yes—self-transcendence is higher than self-actualization, in his most mature work.


Matt: But transcendence is “me” kind of getting out of me and into helping the “thee” in everyone else.


Candace: That’s certainly the way Maslow is understanding it. One of our psychologists, Dan McAdams, who is the chair of the psychology department at Northwestern University, studies it in connection with intergenerational families. So if I understand the good that I’ve got as something that was made possible for me by the struggle of ancestors back there—I may not even know their names, the ancestors back behind me—but I understand what I’m trying to do here as making some good—possibly good I won’t even be able to imagine—as possible for people in the future, that my own life is in that kind of multigenerational context, that is a form of self-transcendence. If I’m working for the environment really hard, I’m working for a sustainability or something, I’m working for something that may benefit people I may never meet, and other kinds of animals I may never meet, as well, or never see. If I’m some incredibly dedicated intellectual who is, like, I’m after truth here, and truth is important, then I’m connected to something, I’m seeing my work in light of something much bigger. And for most people, if they have powerful religious convictions, then some piece of the lives they lead are lead in relation to the divine, or to something sacred, or something that deserves reverence.


Matt: And what’s amazing about this, Dr. Vogler, is the idea that self transcendence the way you just described it can happen in any realm, in any professional endeavor, in any art, it can happen in anything, it’s just more my focus.


Candace: Yes–it has to do with how you understand what you’re up to and what it connects to.


Matt: You don’t need to be a monk. You don’t need to be a devout whatever—you just need a shift in your view.


Candace: Yes I think that’s right. And in the United States probably the poster child for the problem here was American writer David Foster Wallace, who along with a lot of his friends suddenly realized that he was stunningly successful, and leading a completely empty life. Like he had achieved all the goals he wanted to achieve, and his life was completely meaningless. And it was for him a lethal situation; he killed himself, which is terrible.


Matt: Maybe that’s why so many are committing suicide—they’re so lonely. They’re so empty.


Candace: I think that it is just very perplexing if you’ve been raised on a steady diet that lets you think that self- achievement, self-actualization, and self-expression are the highest goals you could have, and then you find yourself feeling like you’ve expressed yourself and actualized yourself and realized your goals, and all of that leaves you alienated from anything that might provide you with a stable and sustaining source of meaning in your life.


Aquinas and the Value of Philosophy

Thomas Aquinas

It can be difficult to convince people to read Thomas Aquinas, arguably the greatest medieval Western philosopher. And let’s face it, the impediments are real. First, there is our culturally inherited caricature of the Middle Ages as an interregnum of intellectual darkness during which all the knowledge acquired in the ancient world was lost or actively suppressed. The fact that one is likely to get advanced degrees in philosophy without ever having read or discussed a single medieval philosopher (or even caught a whiff of medieval history!) only further entrenches these ignorant and hackneyed clichés. Second, there is the fact that Aquinas is difficult to understand. Although he famously writes at the outset of his oversized Summa Theologiae that it is intended for “beginners” one needn’t get more than a few paragraphs in to wonder just how out of touch Thomas must have been with an average student! Frankly, it’s impossible to understand much of what he is up to without some grasp of Aristotelian metaphysics. And unlike Plato or Augustine, Aquinas’s prose is technical and bereft of literary flourishes—he sticks to arguments that adhere to the rigors of logic as he understood it, which leaves some readers cold. Finally, there is the persistent and pervasive sense that it is sufficient to read Aristotle, and Aquinas is simply not worth the bother.


In an earlier post (“Why Aquinas?”), I gave some initial reasons to think that Aquinas is worth the effort. But I’d like to go further today and argue that the form and structure of the Summa is an exemplar of philosophical inquiry quite generally, and that this literary form points us not only to the true value of philosophy, but also to a better understanding of its place as the cornerstone of the liberal arts.[1]


The Summa (an unfinished work!) is divided into 512 topics (quaestiones), which are subdivided into 2, 668 articles (articuli). The fewest articles that Thomas devotes to a single topic is two, the most he devotes to a single topic is seventeen. All articles that fall under a topic also begin with a question, the determination of a further problem relating to the main topic to be addressed. For example, under the topic of Free Will, Aquinas asks: (1) Whether man has free will? (2) Whether free will is a power? (3) Whether free will is an appetite? (4) Whether free will is a power distinct from the will? But notice that not any old question will do to begin an article—it must be framed so as to admit to opposing answers, a pro and a con. Such questions are, according to Otto Bird, “formally dialectical.” A dialectical question is distinguished from all others by the fact that it leaves one free to take either side of a contradiction. [Aristotle, De Interpretatione, 20b23-30] Questions of the form, “What is the nature of X?” are not dialectical, because they admit of only one answer. For that reason, Aquinas avoids them.


Having posed a question that admits of opposing answers, which demonstrates that we are in the realm of a disputation, Aquinas proceeds to give arguments for both sides. He uses the language of “sic proceditur” which is best translated as “thus it is argued or disputed.” This signals to the reader that an answer will not simply be given to the reader, but that real work needs to be undertaken in order to reach a resolution to the problem at hand.   Notably, Aquinas always begins by giving the argument for the side he will ultimately oppose, called “objections” and he usually presents three or four of them at the start. In presenting objections to his own view, Aquinas is not simply engaging in conceptual analysis or surveying logical space. Rather, at this stage he is consulting the “authorities,” those whose opinions have been handed down to us as worthy of serious engagement. For Aquinas, these authorities are the Patristics (the “Fathers” of the early Church, both Latin and Greek), other medieval philosophers, including Jews (Maimonides) and Arabic philosophers, (Avicenna and Averroes), and of course pagan thinkers like Plato, Cicero, and most especially Aristotle, who carries such weight and authority with Aquinas that he simply refers to him as “the Philosopher.”


Following the initial set of arguments or objections we make our way to the sed contra, the arguments for the contrary view, and the one that Aquinas will ultimately favor. Having looked at arguments on both sides, the reader finds herself in a state of indetermination. She is ready to move on to the next part of the article, known as the respondeo, (“I respond thus”). The respondeo contains Aquinas’s own considered view and his arguments for it—it is his resolution of the problem at hand. The respondeo is clearly the heart of the entire article, but certainly not the whole of it. It would be a huge mistake to skip what proceeds and follows it.


It is crucial to the form of the article that it does not end with Aquinas’s arguments in favor of his own view. Instead, the article draws to a close by revisiting the initial arguments opposing those given in the respondeo. These are called the “replies to the objections” and Aquinas painstakingly goes through each objection and offers a detailed response to it. Only once his opponent has been given his full due does Aquinas move on to the next question.


The value of this method, which we may call “dialectical disputation” is that it forces the reader to actively participate in a discourse that will allow her to learn by seeing for herself how the resolution to the problem has been arrived at. In fact, the article format itself is a model of how discourse ought to operate: one begins one’s inquiry with an open ended, dialectical question, carefully considers the best arguments from renown thinkers on both sides, and then works up one’s own arguments for the view one favors. Having grasped the reasons for one’s own conclusion, one must give one’s opponent full due by responding to him in detail.


One sees that Aquinas’s method is the antithesis of what we have been conditioned to expect from a medieval thinker—it is neither dogmatic (in the negative sense), nor insular, nor ignorant, nor closed-minded. The value of the method displays the value of philosophy itself: the mind’s active and open search for truth, that good in which the mind naturally rests. This search is demanding, and it requires that we consider propositions and arguments we find deeply offensive and problematic (for instance, Aquinas constantly entertains arguments against the basic tenets of his own faith throughout the Summa). The reason Thomas must consider opposing views is that some of the best minds he knows of have reached conclusions that are opposed to his own deeply held convictions—convictions that shape his identity as a Christian friar and structure his way of life.


Aquinas’ method shows that the pursuit of truth takes diligent effort, courage, and charity. But the pursuit of truth is worth the risks and the strain, because it allows us to attain the good of the intellect, a crucial component of the good life. For this reason philosophy—the pursuit of wisdom—is the center of a liberal arts education, which, by contrast with the servile arts, aims at nothing other than human freedom and fulfillment.


Jennifer A. Frey is a principal investigator with Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life.


Further Reading

Otto Bird. “How To Read An Article of the Summa.” New Scholasticism 27(1), 1953.

McGinn, Bernard. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae: A Biography. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.

Torrell, Jean-Pierre, O.P. Aquinas’s Summa: Background, Structure, and Reception. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of American Press, 2005.

[1] For my own understanding of the structure and importance of this format, I am deeply indebted to Otto Bird’s “How To Read An Article of the Summa” New Scholasticism 27 (1), 1953. Otto Bird was the founder of Notre Dame’s Program of Liberal Studies, a “great books” program that focuses on a traditional liberal arts education.

The Will and the Moral Emotions

The Will and the Moral Emotions

What is the relationship between appetite and inclination? How does the distinctively rational character of the will correspond to its function within the operations that sustain human life? Finally, how are our actions determined by this rational will?

The will is the capacity to desire and pursue one’s own overall existence and full development in accordance with some reasoned conception of what it means to live an appropriate, or desirable, or ideal human life. Other kinds of animals neither have nor need this kind of capacity, because their passions naturally operate in such a way as to generate appropriate, beneficial behavior. Our passions cannot play a similar part in our own lives, even after they are informed by habits, because they are not sufficiently integrated to work together in a coordinated way to promote our overall good. Over and above the specific desires generated by the passions, the human person needs an overarching desire to exist, and to live and flourish in an appropriate way – which is to say, she stands in need of the appetite of the will, which provides the impetus for action throughout her life.

We can now begin to see how Aquinas situates the will within the context of his overall metaphysical account of existence, operation, and perfection. The inclinations of the will are naturally oriented towards goods that are in some way an expression and extension of the creature’s full actuality, or in other words, its perfection. Understood in these terms, the will is essentially similar to any other appetite, including the appetites of non-living creatures. More specifically, the will is an appetite of a living, sentient creature, that is to say, an animal. As such, its operations depend on some kind of conscious awareness of a desirable object, which calls forth an inclination of desire, thus moving the creature to action. A distinctive kind of rational appetite that characterizes human existence, the will depends for its operations on a reasoned, abstract conception of one’s good, eliciting inclinations towards those objects which the agent judges to be necessary to, or appropriately suited to, the attainment and enjoyment of that good. Aquinas holds that every rational agent necessarily desires its perfection and directs all his or her activities towards the attainment or enjoyment of that end. And since–as he also believes–the perfection of a rational creature is equivalent to its happiness, this is equivalent to saying that everyone necessarily desires happiness and directs all actions, in some way or other, towards that end.

When we move from the operations of natural appetite to the inclinations and operations of the higher animals, we encounter a distinctively new kind of activity, corresponding to a new level of normativity. Similarly, the operations of rational creatures introduce a new level of activity, and correspondingly, a new level of normative considerations. The other higher animals can be said to move themselves to act, insofar as they act out of inclinations elicited by objects held within their own consciousness. The rational creature, in contrast, acts out of a reasoned, self-reflective conception of his overall good, comprehensively considered. Aquinas brings this point out in the context of comparing the diverse ways in which different kinds of creatures are subject to divine providence.

As he explains, all creatures are subject to God’s providence, which unfolds through the dynamic operations of the specific forms of existence in which each is created – thus, creatures can be said to desire and seek God, simply because of their natural or sensual appetites for their own perfection. The same may be said of the rational creature, but Aquinas adds an important qualification: “Among the rest, however the rational creature is subject to divine providence in a more excellent way, insofar as he becomes a participant in providence, being provident for himself and others.” In contrast to other kinds of animals, then, the human person is capable of thinking about herself as the subject of a kind of life, reflecting on what it would mean to live well, and reflectively desiring and choosing activities in accordance with her overall aims. Indeed, without some degree of reflection on her aims and activities, the human person cannot live an independent, properly human life at all.

The distinctively human capacity for self-reflective activity opens up possibilities for self-evaluation and appraisals of others’ conduct, in accordance with objective, mutually acknowledged standards. As we noted above, non-human animals act in accordance with normative standards of the pleasant and the unpleasant, and the criteria for their overall success are determined by natural tendencies to live and reproduce. Rational agents, on the other hand, act in accordance with normative standards of the reasonable and the unreasonable, or what is contrary to reason. These standards open up new kinds of normative practices, grounded in giving reasons for one’s actions, offering rational objections to the actions of another, demanding something on the basis of a reasonable claim, and the like. These practices, in turn, go along with fundamental moral concepts such as responsibility, accountability, and authority, each of which implies some kind of demand or justification for conduct framed in terms of one’s reasons for acting. In other words, the distinctively human capacity for self-reflective activity allows us to think and act with an eye to something we understand, along with others, as “right” or “wrong.”

Part I: The Moral Emotions and the Will – December 1, 2015.

Jean Porter is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Notre Dame and a scholar with Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life.

The Moral Emotions and the Will

The Moral Emotions and the Will

The moral emotions are spontaneous inclinations by individuals towards others, but at the same time, they reflect some understanding of a pattern of social relationships, grounded in the way of life appropriate to creatures of a given kind. As such, they lead individual beings to act in such a way as to promote the overall well-being of the community, in and through appropriate interrelationships with one another. The formation of individual virtue and the promotion of communal well-being are thus bound up together, and distortions at either level are bound to have repercussions at the other level.

In my book on justice as a virtue, I looked at justice in Aquinas, starting with Aquinas’ claim that justice, as a virtue, is a perfection of the will. Aquinas continually returns to the idea that the will is directed towards actions that bring a person into relation with the external world and, critically, other people. Justice as a perfection of the will makes a person relate to others in the right way, out of a stable desire to respect the value and the claims of each individual. This approach allows Aquinas to develop a clear defense of the ideal of equality as the key to justice, and it also helps him interpret the requirements of justice as deontological, obligatory norms.

In the course of developing this reading of Aquinas, I drew on recent work on the moral emotions in the process of trying to account for the way in which the disposition of justice might emerge out of processes of development and interaction with others. In doing so, I obviously had to go beyond anything that Aquinas or his interlocutors would have known, but the general idea of a morally structured emotion or passion is not foreign to him, either, nor indeed is it foreign to Aristotle. Both are aware that the passion of anger is structured in accordance with a sense of justice, and Aquinas has interesting things to say about the relation between a properly human form of anger, and the kind of spontaneous indignation that we share with other kinds of animals. Taking Aquinas’ treatment of anger as a starting point, I argued that the moral emotions can be understood as passions, or more exactly inclinations of passions, understanding the passions in Aristotelian/Thomistic terms as capacities to respond with desire or aversion to immediate apprehensions of social relations. As such, the moral emotions by themselves cannot account for justice or morality, but they do provide the kind of framework of structured desires necessary if justice is to emerge.

Aquinas identifies the will as the characteristic appetite of the rational and intellectual part of the soul. As such, it has no direct counterpart in the capacities of non-rational animals, but it does have a kind of functional counterpart in the ensemble of animal passions, which operate together in such a way as to elicit appropriate operations. The passions of non-rational animals are innately oriented towards appropriate objects, but in addition, they also spontaneously operate in tandem, in accordance with an estimative sense, which prompts an overall response to a complex set of perceptions and desires. In this way, the animal’s perceptions and inclinations lead directly to appropriate, coordinated activities, naturally oriented towards its full development and operation as a creature of a certain kind. In contrast, the passions of the human creature do not spontaneously operate in such a way as to lead her to act in accordance with her overall good. This would seem to be true, even assuming that the agent’s passions are formed through virtuous habits, in such a way as to be oriented towards appropriate objects of desire and aversion. The passions and their characteristic virtues respond to the kinds of particular goods that we perceive through the senses, and in themselves, they cannot generate principles which would enable them to integrate diverse satisfactions and aversions in the necessary way. For this reason, the human creature, uniquely among material beings, needs an appetite directed towards her overall good, which integrates diverse inclinations towards particular goods into a higher-order inclination towards the good as such.

This appetite is of course the will, which is innately oriented towards a person’s overall existence and perfection as a creature of a certain kind. In contrast to the passions, which incline towards particular objects as perceived through the senses, memory, or imagination, the will inclines towards something judged to be good in accordance with a general, abstract conception of goodness. Thus the will, Aquinas argues, is a distinctively human kind of appetite because it depends for its operations on the distinctively human capacity of reason.

In order to appreciate the full significance of this point, we need to place it within the context of Aquinas’s comparative analysis of appetite and inclination as these are manifest at every level of existence. In my next post I will look at how the distinctively rational character of the will corresponds to its distinctive function within the operations that sustain human life.


Part II: The Will and the Moral Emotions – December 2, 2015.

Jean Porter is the John A. O’Brien Professor of Theological Ethics at the University of Notre Dame and a scholar with Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life.

On the speculative and normative in theology

photo by Robert Kozloff

I am a theologian. Theo-logy, “logos”—speech, reflection, thought about and eventually knowledge of “theos,” God as first principle—is the goal or end of the science (science here used in the traditional sense of methodological inquiry) called first philosophy or metaphysics. It is called “natural theology.” But theology can also be the starting point of another science, one that works on the supposition not only that God exists but that God has spoken. The fundamental supposition of revealed (in contrast to natural) theology is that this direct divine communication culminates in the divine self-revelation of the Incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ. This divine communication is mediated by way of inspired canonical Scriptures, the apostolic tradition, and is explicated in normative teaching (dogmas and doctrines). This is why revealed theology is at its center essentially sacred teaching. Everything that is revealed and everything that can be inferred from this revelation belongs to the scope of this science, whose interior unity is that of a single academic discipline with interpretive, historical, and normative aspects. Metaphysics, philology, and history play important instrumental roles for theology. The goal of revealed theology or sacred teaching is to ever deepen our understanding of the truth conveyed in revelation, to display its coherence with the truths attained in other sciences, to dialogue with other religious and philosophical traditions, and to meet their objections. One of the most profound and influential practitioners of theology as sacred teaching (metaphysics being its privileged instrument) was Thomas Aquinas.

My own work belongs to the speculative and normative aspects of theology. This aspect is in contemporary parlance most often called systematic theology and encompasses dogmatic, moral, and also philosophical theology. I take my orientation and inspiration from Thomas Aquinas, and one of the interventions I want to make in my field is to reintroduce Thomas Aquinas’s vision of theology as sacred teaching into the contemporary discourse of systematic theology, which will demonstrate that he has constructive solutions for many of the dead ends we find in present theological discussions. One of the issues that drives my work is the recovery of human flourishing as a central purpose for our various academic efforts and enterprises. Rightly understood, everything is ordered to happiness or beatitude (blessedness). Aquinas has written a profound treatise on happiness/beatitude in which he draws upon the tradition of classical philosophy, especially Aristotle and neo-Platonism, and upon the tradition of the church fathers, especially Augustine. It is an integral account of human flourishing that stands up to modern philosophical alternatives and that actually advances powerful anticipatory critiques of such alternatives.

For Aquinas, attaining genuine and everlasting happiness in communion with God requires the virtue of religion. Everlasting happiness in communion with God is the final end divine providence has ordained for humanity. Aquinas sees the ultimate end of perfect and everlasting participation in the divine life—the beatific vision—as unattainable without the sojourner living the virtue of religion. This vital virtue signifies the stable disposition, formed by charity, which submits its will to God in the interior act of devotion, directs its mind completely to God in the interior act of prayer, and renders due honor and reverence to God in exterior acts of adoration, sacrifice, oblation, tithes, and vows.

Aquinas advances an account of the virtue of religion as happiness that is especially relevant for a secular world that believes religion is irrelevant. In combination with his theory of soul/body unity, and his theory of the emotions, dispositions, and virtues as working together for the greater good, Aquinas’s analysis of human flourishing and happiness could be profoundly useful to contemporary disciplines in search of interdisciplinary focus, offering a unifying theory that can encompass the humanities and natural sciences in one arch. It is an approach that begs for dialogue with contemporary philosophy, psychology, the bio-sciences, and related fields.

Reinhard Hütter is Professor of Christian Theology at Duke University Divinity School where he teaches dogmatic, philosophical, and moral theology ad mentem S. Thomae. He is presently the Paluch Chair in Theology at the University of Saint Mary on the Lake/Mundelein Seminary of the Archdiocese of Chicago (2015-16). He is a scholar with Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life.

Professor Hütter will be at the Lumen Christi Institute in Chicago to give a lecture and teach a master class this week. For more information, follow the links below.

Thursday, November 19, 4:305:30pm
Reinhard Hütter, “Divine Faith and Private Judgement in Newman and Aquinas” – Lumen Christi Institute
Friday, November 20, 23pm
Reinhard Hütter, A master class on “Faith and Reason in the thought of John Henry Newman: The Oxford University Sermons” – Lumen Christi Institute