Interview with Adam Omelianchuk, our new graduate research assistant

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Where are you from?

The Twin Cities of Minnesota.

What drew you to want to work with our project?

There are two things that come to mind. First, there is my long-standing interest in virtue ethics as a normative system that can potentially supply what I call a “thick” view of the good life. What I mean by that is wonderfully illustrated in C.S. Lewis’ little parable of the voyage of the ships, which represent the three concerns any picture of the good life should address:

The voyage will be a success only, in the first place, if the ships do not collide and get in one another’s way; and, secondly, if each ship is seaworthy and has her engines in good order. As a matter of fact, you cannot have either of these two things without the other. If the ships keep on having collisions they will not remain seaworthy very long. On the other hand, if their steering gears are out of order they will not be able to avoid collisions… But there is one thing we have not yet taken into account. We have not asked where the fleet is try to get to… however well the fleet sailed, its voyage would be a failure if it were meant to reach New York and actually arrived at Calcutta.

Lewis’ dissatisfaction with modern ethics, and one that I share, is that the view of the good life is too thin. That is to say, modern ethics tends to care chiefly about not hurting others and secondarily about achieving harmony within the individual; nonetheless, they tend to leave aside altogether the idea that there is some purpose or end for which human life is meant to satisfy. But the sort of research involved with Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life does not intend to leave out the third question, even if answering it proves to be notoriously difficult. Hence, my interest.

Secondly, there is my recently formed interest in Elizabeth Anscombe and her theory of intention. It is a long story about how I became interested in her, but the short of it is that I’ve found that her notion of voluntary action directed by reason to some end or goal to be ethically richer than the common tendency to reduce our actions to causal relations between different events of physical activity or inactivity.
So when Professor Jennifer Frey [Principal Investigator with our project], who is on my dissertation committee, kindly asked me to be her research assistant, I jumped at the chance.


Tell me more about your research.

My research primarily focuses on the issues relevant to moral status, specifically, the properties by virtue of which something is made morally considerable when judging a practice or action to be permissible or not. This concern motivates further research in metaphysics, particularly in the areas of human ontology and personal identity as well as general moral theory. The concrete results of this research has already yielded published articles on topics ranging from the wrongness of killing to the equality people share with one another by virtue of being human. Currently, I am writing my dissertation on what makes killing for organs wrong, which in turn, results in a defense of the so-called ‘dead-donor’ rule in transplant ethics. In my view, the rule says if the surgery used to retrieve the relevant organs would kill the patient, we ought not perform it. Thus, I seek to explain why killing for organs is wrong even if the donor consents to be killed.
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As I have come to work out of my views, I have found that contemporary moral values such as “do no harm” and “respect people’s autonomy” to be far too weak for making sense of our most deeply held moral beliefs, which are often shaped by concepts of sanctity and dignity. No doubt, making sense of these concepts is difficult, but the view I am attracted to currently is one that is influenced by Thomistic and Aristotelian streams of thought: different kinds of things are to be distinguished by their potentialities, and the non-instrumental worth things possess involves the ends to which they are directed.

What do you like to do outside of academia?

I like to read fiction, keep tabs on cool new cars, participate in the life of my local church, cook a nice meal for my wife, and play with my two-year old daughter.

Adam Omelianchuk is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at the University of South Carolina, and a graduate assistant with the project Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Save the date! WED December 14, 2016 | Talbot Brewer, “What Good are the Humanities?” at UofSC

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Daphne garden sculpture (Dessa Kirk). Photo by Chris Smith.

Talbot Brewer, Philosopher and Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life, will deliver a public lecture “What Good are the Humanities?”, followed by a Q & A on Wednesday, December 14, 2016, 5:30pm at University of South Carolina Law School, 701 Main Street, Columbia.

Please join us, or watch live streamed at virtue.uchicago.edu at 5:30 EST/4:30CST.

The president of University of South Carolina, Harris Pastides, will deliver an introductory address. A reception will follow the Q & A. Free and open to the public. RSVP requested.

brewer_tTalbot Brewer is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of the Philosophy Department at the University of Virginia and a Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life. He specializes in ethics and political philosophy, with particular attention to moral psychology and Aristotelian ethics.  He is the author of numerous essays, including “Reflections on the Cultural Commons” (in Nestor García, ed, Being Human in a Consumerist Society, 2014), “Two Pictures of Practical Thinking” (in Jost and Wuerth, eds, Perfecting Virtue, 2011), “Is Welfare an Independent Good?” (Social Philosophy & Policy 26, 2009), “Three Dogmas of Desire” (in Chappell, ed, Values and Virtues, 2007), “Virtues We Can Share: A Reading of Aristotle’s Ethics” (Ethics 115, 2005), “Two Kinds of Commitments (And Two Kinds of Social Groups)” (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66, 2003), and “Maxims and Virtues” (The Philosophical Review 3, 2002). He has been a visiting professor in the Harvard University Philosophy Department and has authored two books, the most recent of which is The Retrieval of Ethics (Oxford University Press, 2009).  He is currently at work on two books, one on Aristotelian action theory and its intersection with ethics, and another on a phenomenon that he calls “tragedies of the cultural commons”.

This event is made possible by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation for the project Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life, and co-sponsored by the Center for Value, Law, and the Humanities at the University of South Carolina.

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For more information, contact: Valerie Wallace, Associate Director, Communications
Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life
vwallace@uchicago.edu

Video: Jennifer A. Frey, “Transcendence”

University of South Carolina’s Breakthrough Magazine features our own PI Jennifer A. Frey in their article “Happiness Granted” and video (below).

“USC assistant professor of philosophy Jennifer Frey and co-PI Candace Vogler of the University of Chicago landed just such a princely sum this past fall, and they’re hardly bummed about it. Their pursuit of happiness, however, is really just beginning.” Read full article here.

Video: John Haldane, “Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life”

Professor John Haldane’s lecture “Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life” at the University of South Carolina on December 14, 2015 explored how virtues are the cornerstone of a happy life, including how the sciences of human behavior are related to philosophical investigations of value and conduct, and how ethical evaluation of action has to do with the issues of existential meaning and happiness. Haldane’s lecture was the keynote for the Virtue, Happiness, and Meaning of Life first Working Group Meeting.

John Haldane is professor of philosophy and director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of St Andrews, and the J. Newton Rayzor, Sr., Distinguished Professor in Philosophy at Baylor University. He is a scholar with the “Virtue, Happiness, and Meaning of Life” project. This lecture was funded by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. For more information, visit https://virtue.uchicago.edu/haldane.

Monday! Live streaming John Haldane’s lecture “Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life” 12-14-15

live-stream-Haldane-Dec-14-John Haldane will discuss the growing consensus in the field of positive psychology that virtues are the cornerstone of a happy life, including how the sciences of human behavior are related to philosophical investigations of value and conduct, and how ethical evaluation of action has to do with the issues of existential meaning and happiness.

This lecture will live stream from the University of South Carolina at 6pm cst, 7pm est.

John Haldane is professor of philosophy and director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of St Andrews, and the J. Newton Rayzor, Sr., Distinguished Professor in Philosophy at Baylor University. He is a scholar with the “Virtue, Happiness, and Meaning of Life” project.

Haldane’s research interests include issues in the history of philosophy; philosophy of mind; social and political philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics. Prof. Haldane obtained a bachelor of arts in philosophy in 1980 and a Ph.D. in 1984. He has held fellowships from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Pittsburgh. A proponent of analytical approaches to the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, Prof. Haldane has authored or edited dozens of articles and books, including “An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Religion”, “Faithful Reason: Essays Catholic and Philosophical”, “Reasonable Faith”, and “Atheism and Theism”. He has also appeared on several BBC radio and television programs and contributed to the Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, and several other outlets.

For more information, visit https://virtue.uchicago.edu/haldane.

Save the Date! Live streaming John Haldane’s lecture “Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life” 12-14-15

live-stream-Haldane-Dec-14-John Haldane will discuss the growing consensus in the field of positive psychology that virtues are the cornerstone of a happy life, including how the sciences of human behavior are related to philosophical investigations of value and conduct, and how ethical evaluation of action has to do with the issues of existential meaning and happiness.

This lecture will live stream from the University of South Carolina at 6pm cst, 7pm est.

John Haldane is professor of philosophy and director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs at the University of St Andrews, and the J. Newton Rayzor, Sr., Distinguished Professor in Philosophy at Baylor University. He is a scholar with the “Virtue, Happiness, and Meaning of Life” project.

Haldane’s research interests include issues in the history of philosophy; philosophy of mind; social and political philosophy, ethics, and aesthetics. Prof. Haldane obtained a bachelor of arts in philosophy in 1980 and a Ph.D. in 1984. He has held fellowships from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Pittsburgh. A proponent of analytical approaches to the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, Prof. Haldane has authored or edited dozens of articles and books, including “An Intelligent Person’s Guide to Religion”, “Faithful Reason: Essays Catholic and Philosophical”, “Reasonable Faith”, and “Atheism and Theism”. He has also appeared on several BBC radio and television programs and contributed to the Times, the Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, and several other outlets.

For more information, visit https://virtue.uchicago.edu/haldane.