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Grant number: AQ-50581-12

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AQ-50581-12

CUNY Research Foundation, John Jay College (New York, NY 10019-1007)
Jonathan Jacobs (Project Director: 09/21/2011 to present)

NEH Enduring Questions Course on "Is Virtue Its Own Reward?"

The development of an undergraduate course on the question, Is virtue its own reward?

Jonathan Jacobs, a professor of philosophy and the recently appointed director of the Institute for Criminal Justice and Ethics at John Jay College, develops an undergraduate course on the relationship between virtue and happiness. The matter, he argues, "is among the most fundamental and enduring concerns for any reflective person." Sub-themes under the general question include the varieties of moral value and how they are realized, what makes an excellent life, whether morality is "desirable and enjoyable for its own sake," and "whether vice and moral corruption undermine happiness and damage prospects for it." The course utilizes sources from Jewish, Islamic, Christian, and non-religious philosophical traditions as well as works of fiction. It begins with ancient perspectives in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and progresses to "Eight Chapters" and "Laws Concerning Character Traits" by Moses Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas's "Treatise on the Virtues," and Alfarabi's "The Attainment of Happiness." The early modern period is represented by Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Joseph Butler's "A Dissertation on the Nature of Virtue," and Immanuel Kant's The Doctrine of Virtue. The course then turns to Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim and Andre Gide's The Immoralist for literary treatments and to writings by Gabrielle Taylor, Thomas Nagel, and Bernard Williams on the concept of "moral luck." In justifying his use of the two novels, Professor Jacobs argues that they "are compelling studies of conscience, self-respect, moral aspiration, guilt, shame, love, friendship, the challenges of failures of integrity, and the effort to change one's character." The project director states that he stretches intellectually by investigating the subject of vice and weakness, learning how to incorporate literary narrative into his teaching with the help of colleagues, and closely studying several works on the course syllabus that are new to his teaching.

[Grant products]

Project fields:
Ethics

Program:
Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Division:
Education Programs

Total amounts:
$24,991 (approved)
$24,974 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2012 – 12/31/2014