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LANCASTER, Pa.¬— What is love? What is the role of love and caring in human freedom and other aspects of human agency—our capacity to make choices and to impose those choices on the world around us? And how do love and caring affect our ability to reason and make decisions?
With a $640,000 grant from the prestigious The John Templeton Foundation, three philosophy professors—Franklin & Marshall College’s Bennett Helm, University of California-Riverside’s Agnieszka Jaworska and Vassar College’s Jeffrey Seidman—intend to answer those questions. An international team of philosophers, neuroscientists, psychologists, legal theorists, business administrators and economists will support the project, titled “Love and Human Agency: An Interdisciplinary Investigation.”
The overall budget for the project, which will be supported by funding from the three institutions and the nonprofit Brocher Foundation in Switzerland, is $1 million.
“Love is clearly central to our lives, and yet most attempts to understand human agency have left it out of the picture,” Helm said. “This risks distorting our understanding of ourselves in a way that misses the importance and meaningfulness that our actions and, indeed, that our lives as a whole can have for us.”
The research team anticipates the project will result in two or more books, dozens of peer-reviewed academic articles in a variety of disciplines, and presentations at major national and international conferences.
“Our aim is to encourage interdisciplinary dialogue on these issues so as to broaden and deepen what each discipline on its own can say about human agency. In the process, we hope to shape the future direction of the field,” Helm said.
The John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the “Big Questions” of human purpose and ultimate reality. 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.
Franklin & Marshall is a residential college dedicated to excellence in undergraduate liberal education. Its faculty aims to inspire in young people of high promise and diverse backgrounds a genuine and enduring love for learning, to teach them to read, write, and think critically, to instill in them the capacity for both independent and collaborative action, and to educate them to explore and understand the natural, social and cultural worlds in which they live. Professors foster in their students qualities of intellect, creativity, and character, that they may live fulfilling lives and contribute meaningfully to their occupations, their communities, and their world.