Johann Neem discusses higher education

Neem_JJohann Neem is visiting the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture for the 2014-2015 academic year from Western Washington University, where he serves as professor of history. This week, Neem was featured on PBS Newshour, during which students and higher education faculty and staff discussed online college degree programs. Neem offered a look at competency-based education and the purpose of college education at large. Read the PBS Newshour in full, here.

2014-2015 Visiting Fellow Inazu on CNN


Visiting fellow John D. Inazu not only serves as associate professor of law at the Washington University in St. Louis, but his office is seven miles from Ferguson, Missouri, where eighteen-year-old Michael Brown was shot by a policeman.  Many competing narratives surround Brown’s death, and this tragedy tied to race and class has challenged those living and working in the suburbs of St. Louis—such as John Inazu—to reflect on the significance of the event. Inazu’s opinion on this multi-layered issue was released nationally this morning in the CNN op-ed section. He asks, “Are we Ferguson?” Read his reflection here.

Also, Inazu wrote another op-ed last week for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, entitled “Let’s talk about race.” He considers productive ways members of St. Louis can respond in the wake of the local tragedy.

Doctoral Fellow Christina McRorie and Philosophy of Economics

McRorie_CDoctoral Fellow Christina McRorie collaborated with other scholars this July at a conference held in San Sebastian, Spain. The conference entitled “Agency, Policy, and the Future of Macroeconomics: A Summer School in Economics and Philosophy” was put on by Durham University, in conjunction with the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS) and the International Network for Economic Method (INEM). McRorie and others attended lectures by intellectual leaders in the emerging field of the “philosophy of economics.” They exchanged ideas about some of the pressing topics that have surfaced since the recent financial crisis, such as rational choice theory and ethical aspects of economics.

This summer school informs McRorie’s work at the Institute, where she works closely with the Program on Culture, Capitalism, and Global Change and the Thriving Cities Project.

IASC featured in Harvard’s new research report


Data from the Institute’s Culture of American Families Project was cited by the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Making Caring Common Project in their report, “The Children We Mean to Raise: The Real Messages Adults Are Sending About Values.” The report is a response to unsettling national survey results: school-age children predominantly value individual achievement over caring for others. Harvard researchers reflect on findings from the Culture of American Families Project in tandem with other sources and propose steps American families and schools can take to redirect the cultural priority away from individualism and instead “make caring common.” The full report can be accessed here.

David Decosimo on Thomas Aquinas and Religious Pluralism


Institute alumni fellow David Decosimo, who now teaches in the Department of Theology at Loyola University Maryland, has released his first book. It is entitled Ethics as a Work of Charity: Thomas Aquinas and Pagan Virtue. Decosimo unpacks the ethics of Thomas Aquinas, arguing that Aquinas’ treatment of pagans and their distinctive vision of the good life can be a model for twenty-first century, pluralist society. Decosimo’s book will be the focus of a panel at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting in November.

Decosimo has also been selected as a Research Fellow at the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, New Jersey, where he will participate in the Center’s yearlong research program “Inquiry on Law and Religious Freedom.”

Learn more about Decosimo’s book on the Stanford University Press website.

Institute Fellow Ethan Schrum on University President Ousters


Ethan Schrum, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute, comments on the attempted ouster of University of Texas president Powers in The Houston Chronicle. Schrum discusses the attempted ouster of Powers and of University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan as compared to the firing of University of California president Clark Kerr in 1967. Read the commentary, “Case of UT’s Powers Echoes Another Crisis Involving Reagan.”

Charles Mathewes discusses today’s “desert of religious conversation”


In American Interest, Institute faculty and U.Va. religious studies professor Charles Mathewes reviews Ronald Dworkin’s Religion Without God and Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss in light of contemporary American culture. Mathewes’ article is entitled “What’s God Got to Do with Religion?” He reflects on the negative consequences of liberal individualism, arguing that while all individuals are deemed valuable under liberal individualism, it splinters American society into “isolation chambers.” The cell walls block individual conscience and the public sphere from interacting. One such manifestation is Americans’ inability to discuss our disparate religious beliefs with each other. We are adept at monologues but not genuine conversations, he says. In light of this backdrop, Mathewes discusses how the two authors, Dworkin and Wiman, both engage and gloss over the tragic effects of liberal individualism in their recent books. “Together, [the two books] may presage a new stage in our efforts to escape our deprivative privacy.”

Mathewes is currently producing a four-volume “Major Works” collection for Routledge Publishers on the field of Comparative Religious Ethics, with his co-editors Mark Storslee and Matthew Puffer, both fellows at the Institute.

Dan Turello on Renaissance views about production and consumption

Institute Associate Fellow Dan Turello has a newly published article in Renaissance Studies. “How much does it cost to be stylish? Ease, effort, and energy consumption in Benvenuto Cellini’s Vita” argues that Cellini offered an alternative to the commonly practiced aesthetic of sprezzatura, which praised the ability to conceal one’s effort. Viewed in the context of other 16th century writings on art and engineering, Turello contends the shift had significance in realms including the economic, the spiritual, and the environmental. Access the article on the Renaissance Studies website.

Joseph E. Davis presents at Bioethics Symposium in Israel

Davis_JOn June 10, 2014, the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Tel Aviv University, Israel hosted Institute Faculty Joseph E. Davis to present some of his recent work. The symposium centered around the theme: “The Ends of Life: Deepening Reflection on the Ethical Issues at the Beginning and End of Life.”

Davis presented his paper “Medicine and the Ends of Life: Self-Determination, the Loss of Objectivity, and the Undermining of the Healing Art.” In this paper, he explores various interpretations of the individual’s right to autonomy and how such understandings are progressively redefining the practice of medicine and undermining medicine’s role as a healing art. Davis argues, “Autonomy has proven an unstable and troublesome concept, it is time to bring beneficence back in.” Read Davis’ academic paper here.

The annual “Ends of Life” symposium welcomes philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, physicians, legal theorists, and religious studies scholars to present research and engage in discussion about international bioethics core issues: the origins of life, the nature of death and the practice of end-of-life care.

To learn more about Davis’ recent scholarship on this subject, check out his academic work presented at the Eastern Sociological Society‘s annual meeting in Baltimore, MD, February 23, 2014. It is titled “Appropriating Disorder: From Diagnostic Symbols to Accounts of Self.”

Institute Faculty Tony Tian-Ren Lin on WNYC News



Institute Faculty and Research Scholar Tony Tian-Ren Lin was quoted on WNYC News’ radio report, “At Latino Church, Faith as an Investment Strategy.” The report expresses suspicion about the weekly practice of ofrenda [offering] in Pentecostal churches affiliated with Iglesia Universal del Reino de Dios, a church based in Brazil with hundreds of church plants in the U.S. consisting predominantly of Latino immigrant congregations. Lin weighs in on the discussion by outlining the rationale of church attendees’ giving, explaining the kind of hope that drives their zealous generosity.

Lin’s work at the Institute focuses, in part, on the role of the prosperity gospel, particularly in the lives of first generation Latino immigrant. He is the author of an upcoming book on the subject.

Lin has commented on the prosperity gospel in an earlier report that ran on NPR’s Latino USA, “Dios Inc: Prosperity Gospel in Latino Communities.”