From the News Office of The University of Chicago:
Scholars initiate research to ‘jumpstart new field of inquiry’ on virtues
March 15, 2010
by William Harms
The sciences, the humanities and religion all provide
perspectives on what constitutes good behavior, according to scholars
leading the New Science of Virtues project and awarding grants to
researchers at Chicago and other institutions to further explore the
“The project,” said Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman
Rockefeller Professor in the Divinity School, “is an attempt to bring
together scholars from a variety of disciplines to explore the question
of virtue and establish an organized, coherent body of knowledge, thus,
creating a ‘science’ of virtue.
“It doesn’t mean that everything about virtue can be tested in a
laboratory, but rather it passes certain tests of coherence and logic,
makes sense, and has data to support certain kinds of conclusions,”
said Elshtain, a co-principal investigator. Other co-principal
investigators are Don Browning, the Alexander Campbell Professor of
Religious Ethics and the Social Sciences Emeritus in the Divinity
School, and Howard Nusbaum, Chair of Psychology, who also is scientific
advisor for the project.
The New Science of Virtues project, generated by the interdisciplinary research incubator on campus called the Arete Initiative,
welcomed 40 scholars from such fields as philosophy, neuroscience,
anthropology and economics to present potential studies at a January
conference. Researchers of 19 of the proposed projects were chosen to
share $3 million from the John Templeton Foundation to pursue their research.
“The goal of the New Science of Virtues Project is to try to
jumpstart a new field of inquiry,” Nusbaum said. UChicago scholars
whose projects were chosen are:
Scholars said the interdisciplinary nature of the research will help them explore the topics more thoroughly.
“I had a deep sense of what a pleasure it would be to learn from
people who are so deeply formed in a discipline that I only know at a
very surface level,” Curlin said. “Their understanding can inform my
work, making it much more precise, and then, in the end, come up with
interpretations and inferences that are really sound.”
The project leaders also expect that the scholarly community
established around the topic of virtues will stimulate a whole new
conversation. “One of the goals is to get a wide academic and cultural
discussion going,” Browning said.
The New Science of Virtues project website, www.scienceofvirtues.org, will facilitate this goal by providing a public platform for scholarly conversation.
Click here to VIEW THE VIDEO.
Click here to view the list of winners.
Photo by Jasmine Kwong.
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