4/12/2012 Jason Klinger

F&M’s Helm Receives Grant to Explore Role of Love in Decision-Making

  • Bennett Helm, professor of philosophy

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 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 also 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 Templeton Foundation defines itself as a “philanthropic catalyst” for discoveries relating to questions about human purpose and ultimate reality. It awards $70 million a year in research grants and programs. The foundation’s five core areas of interest are science and the big questions; character development; freedom and free enterprise; exceptional cognitive talent and genius; and genetics.

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