PHIL 21723/31723 The Will: Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas
Aristotle’s approach to ethics is sometimes termed intellectualist, meaning that it has no room for a notion of the will, understood as a principle of human action distinct from intellect or reason. Such a notion, it is said, gained currency only centuries later, at least partly through influences alien to Greek philosophy. St Augustine is often cited as one of the thinkers most responsible for the notion’s becoming prevalent. St Thomas Aquinas, however, presents a highly articulated theory of human action that appears to integrate a robust conception of the will, and one heavily indebted to Augustine, into a largely Aristotelian framework. We will read and discuss substantial passages from these three authors bearing on the question of the will, in the hope that seeing them side by side can help to get at what they really mean and what the philosophical merits of their views are.
Led by Fr. Stephen Brock
PHIL 24098/ECON 12300 Character and Commerce: Practical Wisdom in Economic Life
Most of us seek to be reasonably good people leading what we take to be successful and satisfying lives. There is a mountain of evidence suggesting that most of us fail to live up to our own standards. Worse, we often fail to mark our own failures in ways that could help us improve ourselves. The context in which we try to live good lives is shaped by the vicissitudes of the global economy. The global economy is obviously of interest to those of us studying economics or planning on careers in business. Aspiring entrepreneurs or corporate leaders have clear stakes in understanding practical wisdom in the economic sphere. But anyone who relies upon her pay – or someone else’s – to cover her living expenses has some interest in economic life.
In this course, we will bring work in neo-Aristotelian ethics and neo-classical economics into conversation with empirical work from behavioral economics and behavioral ethics, to read, write, talk, and think about cultivating wisdom in our economic dealings. While our focus will be on business, the kinds of problems we will consider, and the ways of addressing these, occur in ordinary life more generally – at home, in academic settings, and in our efforts to participate in the daily production and reproduction of sound modes of social interaction.
Led by Candace Vogler.
PHIL 21509/31509 Practical Rationality
Humans are said to be rational animals. What does rationality, understood as a capacity, consist in? And what is practicalrationality, understood as a qualified way of thinking, feeling, and acting? – In this course we are going to consider a roughly Aristotelian framework for answering these and related questions. The place of reason in human nature is characterized by a complex teleology: its employment is both purpose and instrument. To make use of reason is, centrally, to infer, i.e. to think and act for reasons. The roles of reasons are various: they validate, justify, prompt and guide, explain … To act on a reason is, typically, to do something for the sake of some end. This is so, in particular, in the context of more or less technical reasoning. But the most basic and ultimate reasons, the ones by heeding which we act justly or unjustly and, more generally, well or badly, seem not to be of this form. How then do they enter the constitution of a good human life?
Led by Anselm Mueller and Candace Vogler
PHIL/FNDL 20003/53058 Thomas Aquinas's Philosophy of Law
We will work through most of the so-called Treatise on Law in Aquinas’s Summa theologiae (I-II, qq. 90-108), together with other texts of his that offer helpful background and context.
Led by Fr. Stephen Brock.
CCTS 21004 Christian Traditions and Medicine in the Late Modern World
The course rests on the assumption that contemporary challenges in medicine stem from a moral pluralism reflecting the cultural conditions of late modernity, as well as from a growing inability to maintain clinical excellence in an increasingly complex and bureaucratic health care system. Throughout American history, Christians have often worked toward cultural change in various vocational spheres in order to align their practices in the world toward a religious and spiritual ideal. This course will explore a theological foundation for a different paradigm of active cultural engagement in medicine and bioethics. First, students will examine traditional Christian accounts both of medicine and of moral formation, to consider how they might inform answer to the question, How does one become (and remain) a good physician? Students will study sacred texts, traditions, and practices of Christianity to search for moral, spiritual, conceptual and practical resources within the tradition that physicians might draw upon to recover ways of practicing medicine as a vocation, as a sacred calling. Second, students will examine the empirical literature from vocational psychology on work motivation, focusing particularly on the construct of calling and its application to the pursuit of clinical excellence in medicine. Third, students will also examine recent research in the field of moral psychology that is shaping contemporary views regarding moral and professional formation and identity. Lastly, after surveying the contemporary challenges in medicine through the above interdisciplinary analyses, students will explore various Christian theological perspectives that attempt to re-imagine what “faithful presence” might entail in the current vocational sphere of medicine. Students will explore the diverse theological perspectives of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy and bring them to bear on the following questions: “What religious and spiritual resources does their Christian tradition bring to bear on the challenges and opportunities in the vocational sphere of medicine and bioethics? What would it mean to exhibit a “faithful presence” in medicine”? What it might mean for the institutions that shape medicine to truly enhance the communities in which they live?”