The Idea of Theological Virtues - Dr Daniel P Watts (University of Essex)

Theological values

Tuesday 20 November

4.30pm - 6pm

St Alphege Building 201, King Alfred Quarter, University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester, Hampshire SO22 4NR 

Research Seminar Series

The Idea of Theological Virtues - Dr Daniel P Watts (University of Essex)

The doctrine of the theological virtues holds that faith, hope and love are virtues of a special kind. Being divine gifts, and directed towards our supernatural telos, these virtues differ in kind from those on the classical lists, not least the ones Aquinas called ‘cardinal’. This doctrine gives rise prima facie to a dilemma. Either the theological virtues are capable of being cultivated through human agency, in which case they do not in this respect differ in kind from those on the classical lists – or they are incapable of being cultivated through human agency, in which case they are not really human virtues. In this paper, I chart possible responses to this dilemma and advance what I call a non-theological solution to the problem it articulates. Developing Alasdair MacIntyre’s notion of ‘virtues of acknowledged dependence’, I argue that there is a cogent way of thinking of faith, hope and love as virtues of a kind, without recourse to Aquinas’ views about human teleology or to any special theory of divine agency. On the approach I develop, faith, hope and love are virtues of a kind because of the way in which they express the distinctive stance involved in owning up to our human dependence and vulnerability. My overall aim is to show that ethicists still have much to learn from the idea of the theological virtues, even if they do not accept the Thomistic framework in which this idea is traditionally advanced.

Dr Daniel P. Watts is Senior Lecturer in the School of Philosophy and Art History, University of Essex. He completed his doctoral work in philosophy at the University of Sheffield, having also studied history and philosophy as an undergraduate there. He taught Continental Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin for two years, and then took up a postdoctoral fellowship awarded by the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences. He moved to Essex in 2007. Dan is currently working on a book entitled Thinking Humanly: Kierkegaard on Subjectivity and Thought, and on papers on Kierkegaard on the limits of thought, ethical repetition and truth. He is also Co-Investigator on the three-year AHRC-funded research project, The Ethics of Powerlessness: The Theological Virtues Today.

Theology, Religion and Philosophy

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