Short Course on: Kierkegaard and the Happy Life
Principal Instructor: Jeff Hanson, Harvard University
Anticipated Dates: July 31-August 4, 2017
The work of Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is generally regarded as the product of a grim mind, one occupied with despair and death. Contrary to the stereotype of the brooding existentialist though, some of Kierkegaard’s most important and influential works can be read as addressing the most basic sort of issues of how we can be happy even when life involves suffering. His most famous book, Fear and Trembling, seems on the surface not much to do with happiness: It tells the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son Isaac and how his response to God’s scandalous demand exhibits faith. Readers are understandably fixated on Abraham’s anxiety and the shocking aspects of the story, but Kierkegaard intends shock to be therapeutic. The main argument of Fear and Trembling is ultimately that beyond Abraham’s distress is the prospect of a real and profound happiness that only faith can secure. A similar concern for human happiness in the face of trauma is also discernible in The Concept of Anxiety and The Sickness unto Death. Despite their forbidding titles, these works also explore the possibility of a faith that can bring genuine happiness. Both works discuss a number of false ways of thinking about life that omit faith and lead to misery, while the way of faith is shown to be the happiest path, even though walking it will inevitably entail suffering and pain.
Short Course on: Religion and Human Well-Being
Principal Instructor: Tyler VanderWeele, Harvard University
Anticipated Dates: July 24-28, 2017
The course will examine empirical, theoretical, and historical research on how religion has contributed to, and also at times inhibited, individual and societal well-being in the western world. The focus of the course will be on recent empirical research on how participation in religious communities contributes to virtue and character development, mental and physical health, happiness and life satisfaction, purpose and meaning in life, generosity and civic engagement, and marriage and social relationships. Discussion will also be given to religious communities’ understandings of well-being and wholeness. Evidence for the historic contributions of religious communities to individual and societal well-being will also be discussed.
Interdisciplinary Conference on Suffering
On January 3-6, 2017, the Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing hosted an interdisciplinary conference on suffering in Rome, Italy. The conference brought together philosophers, theologians, clinicians, and empirical researchers on the topic of suffering. The conference papers will be published in an edited volume.
Symposium on Religion and Health
On December 2, 2016 the Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing hosted a one-day symposium in Boston, MA at Harvard’s Medical School and T.H. Chan School of Public Health on “Religion and Health From Public Health to the End of Life: Current Research and Critical Issues of Practice.” More information about the conference program including videos is available on the conference site:
Short Course on Religion in the Social Sciences
From June 13-17, 2016, the Program on Integrative Knowledge and Human Flourishing hosted a graduate-level short course on religion in the social sciences in Cambridge, MA at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. Topics included measurement of religion, religion in politics, religion and the family, religion and public health, religion and cooperation, and civil religion. Students from Baylor University, Duke University, Emory University, Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Virginia, amongst others, participated. Faculty lecturers included David Campbell (University of Notre Dame), William English (Georgetown University), Martin Nowak (Harvard University), Laura Olson (Clemson University), Tyler VanderWeele (Harvard University), and Bradford Wilcox (University of Virginia).