Thank you for your interest in joining our NEH Summer Institute on Moral Psychology and Education. This is the first Institute we have directed and we bring to this project all the excitement and creativity of a new venture.
We first met years ago at a conference and discovered a shared respect for the Scottish Enlightenment philosophers and joint interests in applied ethics. Since that time, we have worked together on a host of projects in what has become a true intellectual partnership.
This Institute grew out of our collaboration on a volume we co-edited with Wade L. Robison on Developing Moral Sensitivity. We hail from different theoretical backgrounds that compliment each other nicely. As a Hume scholar, Peggy has extensive textual knowledge and interests in explaining the origin of the sentiments and their development in social contexts. As a philosopher who works in the area of moral psychology, Deborah is steeped in literature on moral cognition and interested in questions about the development of virtue and skills for moral action. These differing backgrounds afford an extended theoretical resource to each of us—and also drive different intuitions and starting assumptions.
In the process of working on the book, we realized that these differing backgrounds were a tremendous asset. We learned an extraordinary amount from each other and the understanding of our own theoretical positions deepened. The impetus for this Institute is precisely that realization: the theoretical richness that comes from sustained examination of issues from the diversity of specialties, areas, and disciplines.
We are also deeply committed to applied ethics and moral education, knowing that the work we do in teaching students has long-term effects on them as individuals and incrementally for a generation of students in our respective regions. But while ethics courses often concentrate on the practical application of moral rules or guidelines, the humanities enable us to raise questions of value, reflect on our human experiences and social conditions, expand our knowledge and understanding, and develop as moral persons. The humanities, as repositories of our cultural history and values, themselves drive and shape our views on history, economics, politics, religion, philosophy, science—even the importance of education itself.
For all of these reasons, we sought faculty whose specialties not only contribute to the theoretical content of the Institute, but also whose work has clear, practical application to teaching. We hope you will agree that we have assembled a stellar cast of faculty: a mixture of foundational scholars of international renown as well as innovative rising stars pushing interdisciplinary boundaries. The threads that bind us and are the base upon which we build our study in this Institute are interests in moral development, the role that the humanities play in developing moral persons, and the import of the humanities within moral education for our society.
We appreciate your interest in the Moral Psychology and Education Institute. We look forward to our future work together in what we hope will become a long-term and fruitful collaboration.
Deborah S. Mower and Phyllis (Peggy) Vandenberg, Institute Co-Directors