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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
On 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 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.”
The Trouble With History: Morality, Revolution, and Counterrevolution, by renowned Easter European author Adam Michnik, was released last month. This book is the first in a new series offered by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture and Yale University Press. The series, Democracy and Its Discontents, is edited by Institute Executive Director James Davison Hunter and Institute faculty John M. Owen IV.
As a whole, Democracy and Its Discontents aims to assess and unpack the challenges of modern liberal democracy by discussing squarely its political culture throughout history and democracy’s compatibility in today’s national and global settings. A central question drives the series: can established modern democracy, an Enlightenment-era institution, survive in an increasingly post-Enlightenment culture? As the project pushes breadth of empirical focus, a common theme will unite the books: exploring the changing normative dynamics that underwrite modern and emerging democracies and global democratic institutions.
The voice and expertise of Adam Michnik, key figure of the Polish anti-communist opposition and award-winning journalist, opens the series. With bite and philosophical grasp, Michnik compares the political ideologies of contemporary Poland and post-revolutionary France. In particular, The Trouble with History provides a provoking critique of fundamentalist thought underpinning emerging democracies. Michnik offers a strong start to the new book series, as it explores questions of political and moral weight.
The Trouble with History is available for purchase at Yale University Press.
In a follow-up story, Milwaukee Public Radio, WUWM, explores the progress of the Thriving Cities Project in Milwaukee, a pilot city for the project, as the first phase wraps up. The story features David Flowers who has been researching and writing a profile of Milwaukee for the project, and working with Katherine Wilson, director of the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion, to develop community forums for Milwaukee citizens.
School Cultures and Student Formation Project scholar Jeffrey Dill has a new blog post based on his interviews of homeschool families. His initial research finds that mothers who homeschool their children may have succeeded in finding the elusive “work-life balance” that is the topic of so much cultural anxiety. “For some moms, homeschooling may serve as an outlet for balancing emotional intimacy, investment in their kids, purpose and fulfillment—all while putting their creative and intellectual resources to work.” Read the full piece here.