July 28-August 3, 2024
Princeton, New Jersey
Thomistic Seminar: Human Nature
There may be hundreds of human universals—features of human society, culture, and behavior found among all peoples known to ethnography and history. Human cultures have myths and legends, modes of bodily adornment, and specialized tools. Human societies are organized partly through kinship systems and divisions of labor. Natural human languages have grammars and phonemes. Such features can provide starting points for various kinds of empirical research. Such research seeks to develop precise and careful descriptions of human life.
Normative questions—questions that are not just about what we are like, what we tend to do, and how we tend to manage life together, but about what we should be like, how we ought to conduct ourselves, and what it would mean for us to produce and daily reproduce sound social life together—take thinkers beyond even especially rich and detailed descriptive accounts of our lot. Some philosophers link their accounts of normativity to empirical work on evolutionary biology, social psychology, or economic theory. Some philosophers seek normative accounts of human life in abstract concepts of agency or rationality. But some philosophers look to the more concrete, and much more elusive, concept of human nature. In this seminar, we will think about human nature as providing substantial grounding for the norms crucial to proper esteem for, and expression of, our shared humanity, drawing from contemporary analytic philosophy and Aquinas’s work.
Candace Vogler, University of Chicago
Dhananjay Jagannathan, Columbia University
Therese Cory, Notre Dame University
Michael Gorman, Catholic University of America
John Schwenkler, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
This seminar is open to graduate students in philosophy and related fields.
The following documents are required of applicants: cover letter explaining your interest in the seminar, resume or curriculum vitae, copies of your unofficial transcripts, and two letters of recommendation. All application materials must be submitted online on or before February 22, 2024; applications received by email will not be considered.
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Admitted students will be notified of their status in mid-March. A non-refundable $350 registration fee is required of all admitted students to offset the costs of tuition, room, and board to attend this program held on Princeton University’s campus.
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