Our scholar Fr. Thomas Joseph White, OP, introduces the work and spiritual life of Thomas Aquinas in “The Life and Sanctity of Thomas Aquinas”, recorded by the Thomistic Institute on November 17, 2017.
Listen to the talk, up on Soundcloud here.
Our principal investigator Candace Vogler will be at Vanderbilt University October 5 to speak on moral relativism, hosted by the 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.
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.