Interview with Tom Angier, Summer Session Participant

Tom in treno

This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Tom Angier is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Cape Town.

 

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Tom Angier: I grew up in rather insignificant spots in southern England, though my mother is Canadian and I did a PhD in Toronto. 

 

VW: Tell me about your research.

TA: My main research is in Aristotelian and neo-Aristotelian ethics and political theory. The reason is that I think the ancients, and Aristotle in particular, supply the most fruitful and realistic framework for thinking about human practice. One of my projects is to explore and resurrect the metaphysically rich framework of Aristotle’s practical philosophy. For instance, I’ve recently written a paper arguing that Aristotle’s ethics is fundamentally theocentric, something downplayed (indeed denied) by generations of philosophers. More widely, I have done work on the 19th century philosopher Kierkegaard, and also on Alasdair MacIntyre. Recently I have been asked to translate a text by Knud Logstrup, a 20th century Danish philosopher who deserves a much wider audience in the Anglophone world.

 

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

TA:  I’m most looking forward to meeting people with similar intellectual interests, and to learning from experts in the field. It is rare that the notion of interdisciplinarity is genuinely honoured and acted on in academia, and our week together promises to be cross-disciplinary in a very fruitful way. What’s more, I have never visited Notre Dame or Chicago, but have heard a lot about them – this has whetted my appetite for the seminar series all the more.

 

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

TA: My non-academic interests centre on music, current cultural critique, humour, hiking, keeping fit, and drinking Belgian beer.

Interview with Charles Lockwood, Summer Session Participant

Lockwood

This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Charles Lockwood is Visiting Assistant Professor of Religion at Oberlin College.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Charles Lockwood: I grew up in Atlanta, and most of my family still lives in Georgia or in neighboring states. I spent my college and grad school years living in New England with some short stints living abroad along the way, and last year, I moved with my wife and 14-month-old son to Ohio, where I’m currently teaching in the religion department at Oberlin College.

 

VW: Tell me about your research.

CL: I locate my research at the intersection of ethics, theology, and philosophy of religion in the modern West. My current book project focuses on the theological and philosophical legacies of Immanuel Kant’s notion of autonomy, situated in relation to debates about
secularization and modernity. I’m especially interested in Kant because his emphasis on autonomy figures so strongly in both theological and philosophical narratives about modernity, and yet assessments of Kantian autonomy (as a either a good or bad thing) vary enormously. Kant’s emphasis on autonomy is also closely linked to his thinking about virtue, and while Kant parts ways at points with Aristotelian and other forms of virtue ethics, I’m also interested in how his approach to virtue can be brought into conversation with thinkers such as Aristotle. My hope is to highlight the ways that religious considerations shape Kant’s own understanding of virtue, particularly in terms of his understanding of the relationship between divine transcendence and immanent human activity.

 

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

CL: Aside from the chance to meet and have invigorating conversations with a lot of scholars sharing similar interests, I’m especially drawn to the seminar’s interdisciplinary structure (drawing as it does on theology/religious studies, philosophy, and psychology), as well as its focus on multiple traditions of reflection about virtue, including Aristotelian and various Christian construals of the moral life, as well as non-Western traditions. It’s often been noted that Kant seems to draw on empirical observations at various points in developing his ethical theory (especially in his reflections on radical evil and how such evil might be overcome), and I am eager to see how contemporary empirical work in psychology might present new insights for ethical theorizing. I am also interested in contributing to the seminar by bringing Kant into conversation with Aristotelian and various Christian conceptions of virtue.

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

CL: My main non-academic interests these days involve my young son, and the daily excitement of watching him grow has been a source of enormous joy.  I’m also an amateur singer, and my wife and I joined a community choir at Oberlin last year. It’s been our first chance to sing together since college, where we met in a singing group. I also try to squeeze in a run every so often (although my son’s schedule often throws a wrench in those plans!).

 

Interview with Anne Baril, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Anne Baril is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Mexico.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Anne Baril: Originally from Minnesota, I now live in New Mexico.

 

VW: Tell me about your research.

AB: I have research interests in ethics, epistemology, and their intersection.  I am especially interested in exploring the role of the epistemic virtues in the good life.  The development and exercise of traits like open-mindedness, fair-mindedness, intellectual charity, and intellectual generosity are important for living well- both for becoming good people, and for living good, satisfying lives.  I argue this in my current central research project.

 

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

AB: Having recently started my first job, I am looking forward to the opportunity to be a student again.  All of the sessions and topics sound fascinating, and certain to be helpful to me in my own research.  And—I’ll admit—I’ve looked up the other students online, and they sound amazing!  Can’t wait to meet them and discuss all things happy and virtuous.

 

 
VW: What are your non-academic interests?

AB: My daughter was born in February, and she is just getting to the age to enjoy storytime, sing-alongs, and walks in the woods with our dog, so right now those are my favorite activities!  With going out for a drink or a coffee for a chat with a real-live adult a current second favorite.

Interview with Jason Welle, Summer Seminar Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar.  Father Jason Welle, OFM of the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C. is doctoral student at Georgetown University in Theology and Religious Studies, with a focus on Christianity and Islam.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?
Jason Welle: I grew up in Albany, Minnesota, a small farming town in the central part of the state.  After completing a B.A. at St. Olaf College and an M.T.S. at the University of Notre Dame, I joined the Assumption BVM Province of Franciscan Friars, centered in Wisconsin.  I currently live in Washington, D.C., where I’m completing a doctorate at Georgetown University.  In the fall I will begin a visiting professorship at the Pontifical Institute for the Study of Arabic and Islam in Rome.

 

VW: Tell me about your research.

 JW: Georgetown’s doctoral program focuses on religious pluralism; my subject areas are Christianity and Islam.  I’m interested in Muslim-Christian relations broadly-speaking, especially in the middle ages and in connection with the Franciscan tradition.  My dissertation focuses on medieval Ṣūfism, specifically on the concept of companionship in the writings of the Ṣūfī master ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī (d. 412/1021).  In short, I chose this because I am interested in how people become better people.  Medieval Ṣūfīs had an acute sense for the way our friendships shape our relationship with God and our growth in the spiritual life.  My dissertation engages the theoretical work of Alasdair MacIntyre, arguing that he offers helpful resources to reconsider notions of virtue, character, and the role of a community’s practices within an Islamic context.

 

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

JW: I’m thrilled by the diversity of the participants.  While we all have an interest in virtue and character, I know that the different approaches to those themes will spark questions about my work that I had not anticipated.  Specifically, the seminar will help me advance one research project on which I’ve done some initial work: the role of emotions in the thought of Bernard Lonergan.  I intend to bring Lonergan’s framework into conversation with Martha Nussbaum’s research on “negative emotions” like shame and anger, looking at the way these can impede proper cognition.  The section of the seminar with Owen Flanagan on destructive emotions will assist me in developing my thoughts on this for publication.

 

VW: What are your non-academic interests?
JW: I remain gratefully active in sacramental ministry, celebrating masses and hearing confessions at our shrine church in Washington.  I am a pilgrim guide in the Holy Land and travel there once or twice a year to lead groups.  My brother Scott turned me into a marathoner; I train year-round and we run a full marathon together, shoulder-to-shoulder, at least once a year.  Outside of Christmas and Holy Week, this is one of my greatest joys.

Interview with Matthew Dugandzic, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Matthew Dugandzic  is a PhD student in moral theology/ethics, who does some research in psychology as well, at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Matthew Dugandzic: I come from suburban New York, attended college in Montréal, and currently reside in Washington, DC. 

 

VW: Tell me about your current research.

MD: My main research interest is in medieval psychology. I especially enjoy tracing the development of concepts over time during the 12th and 13th centuries and seeing how the introduction of Aristotelian philosophy to the Latin West shaped Scholastic thought. The purpose of all this is to try to understand why there is a disjunction between what people think they ought to do, what they feel they want to do, and what they actually do. And, of course, I want to learn to remedy that disjunction, which is why I’m also interested in contemporary research in neuroscience.

VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s Virtue & Happiness seminar?
MD: I’m looking forward to seeing what people with more scientific backgrounds have to say about virtue ethics and in exploring how an Aristotelian philosophical anthropology and a scientific understanding of human nature can benefit one another.

 

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

MD: Frisbee, winter sports, and proving to my Midwestern friends – with live demonstration – that there is not just one New York accent, but several.

 

Interview with Sungwoo Um, Summer Seminar Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Sungwoo Um is a PhD Philosophy student and  Assistant Director of the Center for Comparative Philosophy at Duke University.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Sungwoo Um: I was born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. But I stayed in the UK for three years to get one of my two master’s degrees and have been studying in the US for about three years. I feel blessed to go through such diverse cultural and academic experiences, which are enriching my character as well as my study.

 

VW: Tell me about your current research.

SU: I’m mainly interested in ethics, understood as any serious attempt to answer the question, “How should we live?” I hope my life and my study enrich each other, forming something like a soaring double helix. I want be happy, but I need to be virtuous. My philosophical journey has been an endeavor to harmonize these two (seemingly conflicting) thoughts in a good human life. This is why I have focused on examining the relationship between them and investigating the nature of particular virtues such as modesty or trustfulness. My ultimate goal is to defend the thesis that the happiest life for human beings can be achieved when they live virtuously.

Now I am particularly interested in how to make sense of personal relationships in living a good human life. This reflects my personal belief that large part of my happiness comes from the intimate personal relationships I share with my family and friends. I believe such partial aspects of human life have irreplaceable ethical value and thus cannot be simply overridden by impartial morality. To solve the puzzle of partiality and personal relationships, I am now trying to develop a version of virtue ethics that puts relational aspects of human life at the center.

 

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

SU:  The Virtue & Happiness summer seminar will be a perfect opportunity to enhance my research for two main reasons. First, the topics addressed in the seminar, especially self-transcendence and moral development, are closely relevant to my current and future research. I expect the discussion of self-transcendence will help me to give a better account of how virtue and happiness of the agent herself can be harmonized with morality, which are often considered as mainly other-regarding. The discussion of moral development will also help me to explain how to cultivate the ethical virtues that are essential for human happiness in a diachronic manner.

The second reason for my interest in this seminar is its interdisciplinary approach. Joint work among researchers from philosophy, psychology, and theology/religious studies will create a great platform to gain new insights on the topic of virtue and happiness. I believe any plausible ethical theory should adequately respect the facts about what kind of creatures we are. Interaction with psychologists will help me to have a clearer idea about what kind of happiness is possible to us and how are we to cultivate what sort of virtues. Views from religious background would also be important for broadening my perspective because many people have been, and still are, seeking their source of virtue and happiness in the religions they endorse.

 

 

VW: What are your non-academic interests?

SUWhen I don’t study, I spend most of my time with my wife and my baby boy. They are the inspiration and the source of motivation for both my life and study. 

Interview with Wenqing Zhao, Summer Seminar Participant

Wenqing Zhao

This post is part of a series of interviews with our incoming class for the “Virtue & Happiness” 2016 Summer Seminar. Wenqing Zhao is Post-doctoral Research Fellow and Assistant Director, the Center for Comparative Philosophy, Duke University.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?
Wenqing Zhao: I was born and raised in mainland China, and I spent most of my adult life in Hong Kong.

 

VW: Tell me about your current research.
WZ: My primary research areas are Confucian and comparative philosophy, moral psychology and applied ethics. I believe that the search for a sensible and productive moral foundation can only be the fruit of cross-cultural dialogue given what we know about ourselves from empirical psychology.

 

VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s Virtue & Happiness seminar?
WZ: I am really looking forward to learning about how different traditions conceive virtue, happiness and the meaning of life, and the latest neurobiological studies on moral development. It is also a wonderful opportunity to get to know other young researchers of virtue and happiness.

 

VW: What are your non-academic interests?
WZ: I love diving, traveling, stand-up and cross-talk comedy (xiangsheng 相声 in Chinese).