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Institute Colloquia


The Institute colloquium series provides a venue for Institute-affiliated scholars and other OU researchers to present and discuss their research. Students, faculty and staff are welcome to attend these free, public events.

In the spring 2018 semester, Colloquia will usually be held on Wednesdays, from 1:30 - 2:30 PM in Bizzell Library, Room LL118.

If you are interested in presenting, please contact Max Parish at

Upcoming Colloquia

Check back later for updates.

Spring 2018 Colloquia

Colloquium presentation abstracts can be viewed by clicking the titles below. See our Events page for a complete schedule.

Sympathy, Empathy and Ceyin Zhixin in Mengzi

Jan 24, 2018 | 2:00 - 3:00 PM | Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Postdoctoral Fellow
Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing

Abstract: What happens when empathy goes wrong? In this talk, I challenge the pessimistic view that empathy and other fellow feelings are biased and erratic motivation for morality. By discussing Mencius’ account on how empathy could be developed from its biased and erratic beginnings, I argue that empathy can be extended to less common objects, such as non-kin, the faraway, the unfamiliar, and the abstract. The extension facilitated by empathy in turn enhances one’s moral cognition towards the sufferings of less common objects; the extension helps to include less common objects into one’s circle of care. My discussion contributes to the ongoing discussion on moral cultivation in the Chinese philosophy community and the dispute over empathy’s role in morality in contemporary ethics.

Photos of this event are now posted on the Institute's Flickr page

The Soul & Rock N’ Roll: From Surviving to Thriving

Feb 14, 2018 | 1:30 - 2:30 PM | Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Professor of Psychology
Chair of the Department of Psychology
The University of Oklahoma

Abstract: Are you ready for the Night Train? The purpose of this talk is to show how looking at rock and roll music through the lens of psychological theory can provide a more enriched understanding of human nature, particularly with respect to notions of flourishing. I will argue that much of rock and roll shows the struggles and promises of life involve wrestling with a tension between two fundamental needs: belongingness and agency. Although the work of many artists will be referenced (e.g., Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, Tom Petty, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Pink Floyd, AC/DC, Motörhead, and Devo), James Brown will be spotlighted. In the spirit and celebration of Black History Month, I hope to provide you with a new appreciation for James Brown. As the Godfather of Soul and inventor of Funk, James Brown played a lynchpin role in how popular music is helping our culture evolve from a surviving to thriving mentality. Of course we will talk about sex and drugs, sex mostly. What would a talk about rock and roll be without discussing sex? And what might your mother think? But seriously, are you ready for the Night Train?

The Virtue of Intellectual Prudence & Disagreement

March 7, 2018 | 1:30 - 2:30 PM | Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Graduate Student, Department of Philosophy
University of Oklahoma


Abstract: How do intellectual virtues help us to navigate morally and epistemically complex disagreements with others? How can we discern which virtue is most relevant to a given disagreement, especially if they seem to conflict with one another? I argue that the virtue of intellectual prudence acts as a unifying virtue, enabling proper sensitivity to the specifics of particular cases of disagreement. I begin by grounding my account of intellectual prudence in discussions of its moral equivalent, showing how intellectual prudence extends the practical reasoning ordinarily identified as prudential to aim at true belief. Intellectual prudence intervenes in cases where other intellectual virtues seem to conflict with one another by determining which ought to be privileged—a common situation in disagreements, which often oppose intellectual humility and intellectual fortitude. The cultivation of intellectual prudence proves crucial to enabling epistemic agents to pursue and navigate disagreements rationally and virtuously.

Why Should We Care About Human Nature?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 | 1:30 - 2:30 PM
Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Manager, Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing
University of Oklahoma

Abstract: This talk is about the contemporary ethical approach known as Neo-Aristotelian Ethical Naturalism (or "Aristotelian naturalism" as I'll call it), which holds that moral goodness is a kind of natural goodness, like the goodness of an oak when its roots are strong and deep, or a wolf when it cooperates in the hunt. The natural goodness of an organism is determined by its nature. Thus, natural goodness is objective and species-relative. According to Aristotelian naturalism, moral goodness in humans is also a kind of natural goodness--the natural goodness of our ethically relevant aspects, like our actions, will and practical reason. A common criticism of this view is that whereas ethical facts and judgments give us reason to act, facts and judgments about natural goodness on their own do not give us reason to do anything—or, as it is sometimes put, that human nature is not normative. I call this the normativity objection. Although I find Aristotelian naturalism a promising approach to ethics, I believe this objection has not adequately been answered. In this presentation I explain why Aristotelian naturalist responses to this objection fail, and I explore some implications for the view.

Moral and Legal Reasoning in Norman High School Seniors

Wednesday, April 11, 2018 | 1:30 - 2:30 PM
Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Senior, Norman High School

Abstract: This study examines moral and legal reasoning in high school seniors as well as their perceptions of how moral and legal reasoning influence their behavior. The aim of this study was to discover if any correlation exists between moral reasoning, legal reasoning, and perceptions thereof. A quantitative survey was used to collect data and calculate Pearson’s correlation values between moral and legal reasoning, moral reasoning and perceptions, and legal reasoning and perceptions. This study found no apparent correlation between any of the three measured variables, but did find a difference in moral reasoning between males and females. The collected data indicates that there is no connection between the measures used for moral and legal reasoning, but there may be a connection between moral reasoning and perceptions of moral and legal reasoning.

The Architecture of Law:
Rebuilding Law in the Classical Tradition

Wednesday, May 2, 2018
3:30 - 4:30 PM
Oklahoma Memorial Union
Associates Room


Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Associate Director of the Law Center
Director of Legal Assistant Education; Orpha and Maurice Merrill Professor in Law
University of Oklahoma

What is law? How should law be made? Using St. Thomas Aquinas’s analogy of God as an architect, Brian McCall argues that classical natural law jurisprudence provides an answer to these questions far superior to those provided by legal positivism or the “new” natural law theories. The Architecture of Law explores the metaphor of law as an architectural building project, with eternal law as the foundation, natural law as the frame, divine law as the guidance provided by the architect, and human law as the provider of the defining details and ornamentation. Classical jurisprudence is presented as a synthesis of the work of the greatest minds of antiquity and the medieval period, including Cicero, Aristotle, Gratian, Augustine, and Aquinas. In addition to presenting an overview of the argument of this soon to be released book, the lecture will focus on how classical natural law jurisprudence fosters the virtues of intellectual humility in the law making process and fairness or justice which according to the classical natural law theory is the final and formal cause of law.

Fall 2017 Colloquia

Colloquium presentation abstracts can be viewed by clicking the titles below. See our Events page for a complete schedule.

Hope as a Democratic Civic Virtue

Aug 30, 2017 | 4:00 - 5:30 PM | Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Nancy Snow, Ph.D.
Director and Professor
Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing

Abstract: Against the backdrop of the recent emergence of disturbing currents of populism in several countries, including the United States, I wish to argue for a conception of hope as a democratic civic virtue.  In Part I, I offer a general overview of hope and sketch an initial conception of hope as a democratic civic virtue.  In Part II, the stage is set for further theorizing of this conception in the present American context. Drawing on the work of Ghassan Hage (2003), I make the point that the United States is in the process of becoming a nation of worriers in part because of the failure of the government to distribute social hope.  In Part III, I flesh out what hope as a democratic civic virtue could look like in the United States today.  Part IV concludes with brief comments about theorizing civic hope in the context of a modified pragmatism.

Childhood Adversity, Religion, and Human Resilience

Sept. 13, 2017 | 4:00 - 5:30 PM | Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Jong Jung, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing

Research indicates that childhood adversity is associated with poor mental health in adulthood. This study examines whether the deleterious long-term effects of childhood adversity on adult mental health are reduced for individuals who are involved in religious practices. Using longitudinal data from a representative sample of American adults (N = 1,635), I find that religious salience and spirituality buffer the noxious effects of childhood abuse on change in positive affect over time. By contrast, these stress-buffering properties of religion fail to emerge when negative affect serves as the outcome measure. These results underscore the importance of religion as a source of resilience in the face of early adversity. I discuss the theoretical implications of these findings for views about religion, childhood adversity, resilience, and mental well-being.

Narrative, Morality, and Imagination

Oct. 18, 2017 | 4:00 - 5:30 PM | Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Jessica Black
Dissertation Fellow
Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing

What can fiction actually do to us? How does it affect our beliefs about what is moral, and what is possible? In this talk, I will be giving a broad overview of research that focuses on the intersection of morality, imagination, and narrative exposure, with an emphasis on the effects of fiction on the imagination. First, I will briefly describe the issue: why should we worry about the effects of our interactions with fiction and the mechanisms that drive them? Next I will review correlation evidence of associations between book exposure, morality, and the imagination. I will then present causal evidence of the effects of fiction on the imagination and morally relevant variables, followed by a discussion of the relationship of fiction and social cognition. Finally, I will describe some ongoing research, touch on what comes next, and finish by discussing some of the big questions and why we should care about this topic.

Photos of this event are now posted on the Institute's Flickr page

Details coming soon!

The Problem of Compassion for Accomodationist Moral Anti-Realism

November 15, 2017 | 4:00 - 5:30 PM | Bizzell Library, Room LL118

Seth Robertson
Dissertation Fellow
Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing

Abstract: If our moral systems are social constructs, influenced by our evolutionary history and cultural development, how could moral claims be objectively true (that is, true completely independently of the particularities of our own minds and evaluate attitudes)? “Accomodationist” moral anti-realists (e.g. Mackie, Kitcher) argue that our moral claims are not objectively true, but still can be more or less justified. There is much to like about these views: they get the ontology of moral systems correct, they avoid major criticisms of moral realism such as Mackie’s and evolutionary debunking arguments, and they provide sensible paths towards explaining how certain moral claims are more justified than others. A key challenge about these theories, I argue, is whether they can provide an account of how to justify weighing various moral considerations and values against each other – that is, how any particular value could be a justified deciding factor in a moral decision. I then argue that this challenge can be met, leaning on work in empirical moral psychology, but only for certain values: in particular, compassion is the moral value most likely to be able to meet this challenge.

Photos of this event are now posted on the Institute's Flickr page

Awe, Prestige, and Social Perception

December 6, 2017 | 3:30 - 5:00 PM | Bizzell Library, Room 339

Alexander Danvers, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Fellow
Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing

Abstract: Experiences of the emotion awe influence information processing—making people evaluate information more carefully (Danvers & Shiota, 2017; Griskevicius, Shiota, & Neufeld, 2010)—and social behavior—increasing humility (Stellar et al., in press) and prosociality (Piff et al., 2015). Integrating these findings, I propose a social epistemological account of awe, in which this emotion is selectively elicited by others who have expert knowledge and prepares individuals to learn from them. I present empirical evidence confirming one part of this account—that awe responses track status associated with expertise but not with coercive power—and discuss future directions, including the idea that awe can help us identify and learn from wise teachers.