Virtues Close to Our Heart: Non-Cardinal Virtues in Literature and Film

HPI Character and Action Seminar led by Thomas Pavel (bio)


The seminar will focus on three virtues that are far from insignificant, although they have been less frequently discussed by classical moral theology and philosophy: attention, trust, and incumbency.
Incumbency refers to those situations that are not covered by clear rules, norms, or duties prescribing us what we should do. Yet, somehow, we silently sense that it might be incumbent on us to act in a certain way. A superb story by Henry James, The Beast in the Jungle, will help us see what is involved.
Trust, both initial trust and, in some situations, final trust allow us to approach our fellow human beings with the respect they do, or at least they might, deserve. Heinrich von Kleist’s The Marquise of O is probably the best example.
Finally, attention makes us look carefully at our fellow human beings, their worries, their needs, and their actions. A few excerpts from Simone Weil will guide us and, as a conclusion, we’ll watch and discuss Robert Bresson’s movie A Man Escaped.
Each of the classes will begin with a lecture, followed by discussion of the materials you have read in preparation for class. Please bring a copy of the readings to class.


  • Dates: January 13th and 20th, 1:30 pm – 2:45 pm; January 27th, 1:30 pm-4:00 pm
  • Location: Jan 13th & 27th, Cobb Hall, Room 402; January 20th, Rosenwald Hall, Room 405
  • Eligible: All University of Chicago students are eligible to participate, but space is limited
  • Participation: There is no application. Please RSVP for the seminar by contacting Zack Loveless:
  • Readings: Reading will be assigned for each seminar, but there will be no written work. All readings for the seminar and the reading schedule will be provided upon RSVPing for the course
  • Deadline: Please RSVP for the course by January 8th.