Alderman Stacks

Visions of the Good

Every individual and every society has at least implicit conceptions of the good that inform attitudes, beliefs, habits, and social practices. What do we value in human life? What kinds of lives are good lives? How do we define human flourishing?

In a diverse and interdependent world, these various conceptions of the good are often competing, and at times, incommensurable, and there can be enormous personal and political stakes involved in choosing particular conceptions or visions of the good. The aim of this forum is to introduce you to the variety of visions of the good, from ancient religious and philosophical traditions around the world to modern conceptions such as virtue ethics, utilitarianism, hedonism, and visions of the good that inform various religious, political, and social movements.

The forum is designed to help you develop the theoretical understanding, communication skills, and reflective practices that you need to begin analyzing a variety of texts, modes of expression, and social practices. Over the next two years, you will also begin developing your vision of the good. This vision will not only influence your capstone project at the end of your second year, it will guide the choices and decisions you make in the years to come.


Laura Hawthorne

My research interests focus on Christian theology and ethics. I am particularly interested in the ways that ideas about race, sexuality, and gender intersect with ideas about God and religious beliefs. I am currently focused on rethinking the concept of personal sin from a feminist perspective, drawing on the theology of Julian of Norwich from 14th century England and the work of contemporary scholars like Emilie Townes, Catherine Keller, and James Alison. I am also interested in the ways that religious ideas shape the American imagination, particularly as they surface in political speech. I teach classes in the Department of Religious Studies and have taught in the University¹s USOAR program, a program that places first- and second-year undergraduate students in paid, part-time research assistant positions with faculty across the University.

I am also an associate vice provost for administration at the University.

Building community is important to me as a teacher. In addition to helping my students learn more about the material in a course, I want them to know themselves, one another, and me better by the end of our time together. I am excited about being part of the forum because it will give us the chance to learn and grow together over two years. As we explore visions of the good from various perspectives and develop our own visions, I hope that we will challenge and support one another.

Erin Eaker

As a Philosophy professor I am excited to co-lead this Forum along with my Religious Studies colleague, Laura Hawthorne.  While both Philosophy and Religious Studies have become very specialized academic disciplines, at their heart is an interest in the “deep questions” of life.  My own interest in philosophy grew out of questions I had as an undergraduate about the respective foundations of religious and scientific belief.  I continued to explore this interest in belief as I earned my PhD in philosophy.  As a philosophy professor I have particularly enjoyed teaching classes on the philosophical issues raised by Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Few theories have so challenged our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world as Darwin’s.  Any vision of what it means to lead a good human life must start from an understanding of what it means to be human. 

I look forwarding to exploring diverse visions of the good with students in the Forum. We’ll look for insights from classical sources from ancient China, India, Greece and Rome; from religious traditions around the world; and from modern political thinkers, artists and novelists.  I particularly look forward to exploring Thomas Jefferson’s avowed vision of the good and seeing how that vision clashed with the realities described by the enslaved persons of Virginia in their own narratives.
I can think of no better time in life to explore and articulate one’s own vision of the good than as a young person starting at the University.  My hope for my students is that this class will help you to plot a deliberate and thoughtful path through your education as you discover your personal vocation and take meaningful steps toward pursuing it.

Navigating the  Forum

In the first semester (Fall ’16), you will enroll in FORU 1500: Visions of the Good. Team-taught by Laura Hawthorne and Erin Eaker, the course provides introductory guest lectures and workshops from UVA and visiting faculty across the arts and beyond. The course will cover a wide array of competing conceptions of the human good.

The forum would begin with a team-taught course covering a wide array of competing conceptions of the human good. Semesters two, three, and four would allow students to take directed electives from the four categories listed below. The fourth semester capstone course would return to the themes of the introductory course and require students to produce substantial reflective essays which analyze some particular account of the human good or some social, political, economic or scientific issue that demands a particular conception of the good.

In the fourth and final semester (Spring ’18) you will enroll in FORU 2500: Capstone Seminar. The capstone will again be team-taught by Lauran Hawthorne and Erin Eaker and will incorporate guest lectures and workshops at an intermediate level both in intellectual challenge and application of skills (skills in particular arts practices will vary among students). We will continue to study relevant and increasingly more advanced texts of the human good and participate in research concerning some social, political, economic or scientific issue that demands a particular conception of the good.

In addition, over the course of the two years you will choose and enroll in additional courses (totaling 24 credits) that relate to competing conceptions of the human good.


Core Required Courses (6 Credits)

FORU 1500: Introduction to Visions of the Good (Fall ’16)
FORU 2500: Capstone Seminar (Spring ’18)
Electives (24 Credits)

Variety and Visions of the good (at least 6 credits from two departments)

GETR 3400 German Intellectual History from Leibniz to Hegel
GETR 3410 Nietzsche and Modem Literature
GETR 3420 German Intellectual History from Nietzsche to the Present
GETR 3470 Literature of the Holocaust
HIEU 2101 Jewish history I: The Ancient and Medieval Experience
HIEU 3215 Dante’s Italy
HIEU 3221 The Culture of the Renaissance
HIEU 3231 Reformation Europe
HIEU 3321The Scientific Revolution, 1450-1700
HIEU 3322 Science in the Modern Age: 1789-1950
HIEU 3331 Intellectual History of Early Modem Europe
HIEU 3782 Origins of Modem Thought, 1580-1943
HIEU 3792 Intellectual History of Modem Europe
HIEU 3802 Origins of Contemporary Thought
HIEU 3812 Marx
HIME 3191 Christianity and Islam
PHIL 3180 Nietzche
RELA 2850 Afro-Creole Religions in the Americas
RELC 1210 Hebrew Bible/Old Testament
RELC 2050 The Rise of Christianity
RELC 2360 Elements of Christian Thought
RELC 3181 Medieval Christianity
RELC 1220 New Testament and Early Christianity
RELC 3447History of Christian Ethics
RELG 2245 Global Christianity
RELG 2660 Spiritual Not Religious: Spirituality in America
RELH 2090 Hinduism
RELI 2070 Classical Islam
RELI 2080 Islam in the Modern Age
RELI 3110 Muhammad and the Qur’an
RELI 3120 Sufism
RELJ 2030 Introduction to Judaism RUTR 2740 Tolstoy in Translation

Cross-Cultural Visions of the Good (at least 3 credits)

ANTH 1010 Introduction to Anthropology
ANTH 1050 Anthropology of Globalization
ANTH 2250 Nationalism, Racism, and Multiculturalism
ANTH 2280 Medical Anthropology
ANTH 2325 Anthropology of God
ANTH 2365 Art and Anthropology
ANTH 2375 Disaster
ANTH 2400 Language and Culture
ANTH 2621 Culture, Gender, Violence
EAST 1010 East Asian Canons and Cultures
RELA 2750 African Religions
RELA 2850 Afro-Creole Religions in the Americas RELB 2054 Tibetan Buddhism Introduction
RELB 2100 Buddhism
RELB 2450 Zen
RELB 2770 Daoism
RELB 3000 Buddhist Mysticism and Modernity
RELI 2070 Classical Islam
RELI 2080 Islam in the Modern Age
RELI 3110 Muhammad and the Qur’an
RELI 3120 Sufism

Analytical Reflection on the Good (at least 6 credits from two different departments)

PHIL 1730 Introduction to Moral and Political Philosophy
PHIL 1740 Issues of Life and Death
PHIL 2020 Know Thyself
PHIL 2660 Philosophy of Religion
PHIL 2690 Justice, Law, and Morality
PHIL 2720 Bioethics: A Philosophical Perspective
PHIL 2750 Democracy
PHIL 2760 Classics of Political Philosophy
PHIL 2770 Political Philosophy
PHIL 2780 Ancient Political Thought
PHIL 3110 Plato
PHIL 3120 Aristotle
PHIL 3130 Hellenistic Philosophy
PHIL 3140 History of Medieval Philosophy
PPL 2010 Morality, Law and the State
PLPT 1010 Introduction to Political Theory
PLPT 3010 Ancient and Medieval Political Theory
PLPT 3020 Modern Political Thought
PLPT 3030 Contemporary Political Thought
PLPT 3050 Survey of American Political Theory
PLPT 3200 African-American Political Thought
PLPT 3999 Philosophical Perspectives on Liberty
RELG 2210 Religion, Ethics, and the Environment
RELG 2300 Religious Ethics and Moral Problems
RELG 2380 Faith and Doubt in the Modem Age
RELG 2630 Business, Ethics and Society
RELG 2650 Theology, Ethics, and Medicine

Science of the Good (at least 6 credits from two different departments)

ASTR 1270 Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe
BIOL 1050 Genetics for an Informed Citizen
BIOL 1060 Principles of Nutrition
BIOL 1210 Human Biology and Disease
BIOL 2100 Introduction to Biology
BIOL 2200 Introduction to Biology
EVSC 1010 Introduction to Environmental Sciences
EVSC 1450 An Inconvenient Truce: Climate Change, You, and CO2
EVSC 2220 Conservation Ecology
PHYS 1090 Galileo and Einstein
PSYC 2200 A Survey of the Neural Basis of Behavior

Society, Politics, and Economics of the Good (at least 3 credits)

ANTH 2190 Desire and World Economics
AAS 1020 Intro to African American Studies II
AAAS 2224 Black Femininities and Masculinities in the US Media
ANTH 2240 Progress
ANTH 3220 Economic Anthropology
ANTH 3340 Ecology and Society: An Introduction to the New Ecological Anthropology
ANTH 3580 Science and Culture
ETP 2020 Global Sustainability
EVSC 2030 Politics, Science and Values
HIST 2201 Technology in World History
MDST 2000 Introduction to Media Studies
PLAP 1010 Intro to American Politics
PSYC 2150 Intro to Cognitive Science
PSYC 2600 Introduction to Social Psychology
PSYC 2700 Introduction to Child Psychology
SOC 2442 Systems of Inequality
SOC 2498 Prozac Culture
SOC 2900 Economics and Society
WGS 2100 Intro to Women and Gender Studies
WGS 4200 Sex and Gender go to the Movies

Required Summer ’16 Reading