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Media Advisory: Virtue and Vice

Wake Forest awards nearly $1M to theologians, philosophers to study character

By Cheryl Walker, 336-758-6073, walkercv@wfu.edu Office of Communications and External Relations

To better understand virtue and vice and how to define good character, The Character Project at Wake Forest University has granted funding to theologians and philosophers from around the world.

The Character Project, a three-year, multi-million dollar program, awarded 16 grants, totaling nearly $1 million to scholars seeking new insights into the nature of character.

Eight projects on the philosophy of character and eight projects on the theology of character were selected. In total, 170 proposals were submitted.

Christian Miller, director of The Character Project and associate professor of philosophy at Wake Forest, oversaw the review process for the philosophy awards.

“We were thrilled with the quality of the submissions,” Miller said. “Those selected should contribute many new and far-reaching insights into our understanding of morality and character.”

Angela Knobel, associate professor of philosophy at The Catholic University of America, oversaw the review process for the theology awards.

“These projects, which focus on forgiveness, grace, humility and other theological aspects of character, will do much to advance an underexplored aspect of research into moral character,” Knobel said.

The awards complement the many other Character Project initiatives, including a major conference held during the summer.

“The Character Project has already made a number of discoveries about how and why we behave the way that we do, and these projects will take the existing research further by considering topics such as the characters of those who commit war crimes and the importance of following moral exemplars,” Miller said.

The Character Project is supported by a $4.2 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation with the goal of fostering new advances in the study of character in psychology, philosophy and theology.  Because of the quality of the research proposals, Miller also received a grant of $417,759 from the foundation to be able to fund all 16 of these projects.

Following is the list of winners:

Philosophy of Character

  • “Epistemic Justice and the Social Virtue of Deference” Principal Investigator: Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij (University of Kent)
  • “Vindicating Virtue” Principal Investigator: Bradford Cokelet (University of Miami)
  • “Virtue Epistemology:  Unexplored Territory” Principal Investigator:  Nathan King (Whitworth University)
  • “Aristotelian Autonomy” Principal Investigator: Rebecca Stangl (University of Virginia)
  • “Character, Emotion and Value” Principal Investigator: Charles Starkey (Clemson University)
  • “Virtue Epistemology & Intellectual Character” Principal Investigator: John Turri (University of Waterloo)
  • “War Crimes, Obedience, and Responsibility” Principal Investigator: Jessica Wolfendale (West Virginia University)
  • “Moral Exemplars in Theory and Practice” Principal Investigator: Linda Zagzebski (University of Oklahoma)

Theology of Character

  • “Humility:  A Study in Analytic Moral Theology” Principal Investigator:  Michael Austin (Eastern Kentucky University)
  • “Pious Fashion:  The Virtues of Hijabi Fashionistas” Principal Investigator:  Elizabeth Bucar (Northeastern University
  • “Virtue, Providence, and the Moral Life:  Retrieving the Stoics for Contemporary Christian Ethics” Principal Investigator:  Elizabeth Cochran (Duquesne University)
  • “Being for the Good:  Essays on Liturgy and Character” Principal Investigator:  Terence Cuneo (University of Vermont)
  • “Voles, Vasopressin, and Virtue” Principal Investigator:  Daniel McKaughan (Boston College)
  • “The Virtue of Forgiveness:  Between Jerusalem, Athens, and M.I.T.”  Principal Investigator:  Cristian Mihut (Bethel College)
  • “’And Afterward None Like Him Arose’: Exemplarity and the Limits of Exemplarity in Rabbinic Judaism” Principal Investigator:  Tzvi Novick (University of Notre Dame)
  • “Character Formation by Grace:  Towards a Model for Understanding the Role and Nature of Transforming Grace in Christian Character Formation” Principal Investigator:  Clemens Sedmak (King’s College London)

In 2011, the Character Project granted $2 million in funding to researchers focused on the psychology of character.

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About Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.

About the John Templeton Foundation

The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. The Foundation supports research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and infinity to creativity, forgiveness, love, and free will. It encourages civil, informed dialogue among scientists, philosophers, and theologians and between such experts and the public at large, for the purposes of definitional clarity and new insights. The Foundation’s vision is derived from the late Sir John Templeton’s optimism about the possibility of acquiring “new spiritual information” and from his commitment to rigorous scientific research and related scholarship. The Foundation’s motto, “How little we know, how eager to learn,” exemplifies its support for open-minded inquiry and its hope for advancing human progress through breakthrough discoveries.

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