Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Summer Seminar: Aquinas and Contemporary Ethical Theory

This summer, the Lumen Christi Institute at the University of Chicago is sponsoring an intensive week long graduate seminar for graduate students in philosophy. The seminar, entitled "Aquinas and Contemporary Ethical Theory" is devoted to exploring the intersection between the practical philosophy of Aquinas and contemporary analytical approaches to moral theory that, either implicitly or explicitly, draw upon it. The seminar will be led by Professor Mark Murphy, of Georgetown University.

Description of Seminar:

Recently within contemporary moral philosophy there has been a striking increase in explicit interest in Aquinas’s ethics both among writers who identify themselves as Thomists (e.g. John Finnis, Alasdair MacIntyre) and also among writers who while not self-identifying as Thomists still to some extent rely upon central Thomistic moral theses (e.g. Philippa Foot, Michael Thompson, Candace Vogler). But what is perhaps less obvious is how much appreciation there is for distinctively Thomistic theses about the nature of the good, the relationship between goodness and rightness, and the character of moral norms by writers who do not seem to exhibit any sympathy for Aquinas’s ethical thought.

This seminar will examine Aquinas’s place in ongoing debates in contemporary ethical theory. We will aim to get a clearer sense of the character of Aquinas’s moral theory by looking at some of his texts; and we will aim to get a sense of some of the central issues animating contemporary metaethical and normative theory. The point will be to situate Aquinas’s views within that contemporary conversation, noting both the powerful challenges posed to Aquinas’s views by rival positions and the resources that Aquinas and witting and unwitting defenders of Aquinas’s views can bring to bear in responding to these challenges.


No more than fifteen students will be selected to participate in a five-day seminar with two-hour sessions twice daily. Books, lodging, and airfare or regional travel will be included, and there is no cost or stipend for attendees. The seminar will take place at USML Conference Center, Mundelein, Il (a Northern suburb of Chicago) from Tuesday June 21st to Sunday June 26th, 2011.

Application Process:

Any graduate student in philosophy or with philosophical interests may apply for consideration. Completed Applications must be received by February 25, 2011. Students will be notified of their application status by late March or early April. Applications may be downloaded online here: http://www.lumenchristi.org/?page_id=34

Seminar Leader:

Mark C. Murphy is Fr. Joseph T. Durkin, S.J. Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University. Some of his recent books include Philosophy of Law: the Fundamentals (Blackwell, 2006), Natural Law in Jurisprudence and Politics (Cambridge University Press, 2006) and Natural Law and Practical Rationality (Cambridge U. Press, 2001).

About Lumen Christi:

Founded by Catholic scholars at the University of Chicago in 1997, the Lumen Christi Institute aims at enriching the intellectual community of the University of Chicago by cultivating the Catholic intellectual and spiritual traditions through on-campus lectures, non-credit courses, and conferences. Both Catholics and non-Catholics regularly participate and are encouraged to attend. Past lecturers and participants have included Charles Taylor, Alasdair MacIntyre, David Tracy, Louis Dupré, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and many others. More information can be found at www.lumenchristi.org. Past seminars have been led by Corey Barnes (Oberlin College) on “Thomas Aquinas’s Christology” and Paul Griffiths (Duke University) on “The Later Augustine: De Trinitate and De Civitate Dei.”

Further questions should be directed to:
Andrew Litschi: alitschi@gmail.com
Jennifer Frey: frey.jenn@gmail.com

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