PHIL 480

3rd Athens Philosophy Seminar in Athens - Capitalism and Human Flourishing

Major Discipline(s):
Summer Session I (May 27 - June 22, 2019)
The topic of this year’s APS is Capitalism and Human Flourishing.

The aim of the seminar is to introduce students to a view of human flourishing that challenges contemporary assumptions about human life and happiness as well as highlighting some of the obstacles to this flourishing that arise out of economic structures and practices dominant in conditions of late capitalism. This alternative view of human flourishing draws its inspiration from the Platonic and Aristotelian accounts of human life and eudaimonia, and it finds a voice in contemporary philosophy after the second half of the 20th century.

The distinguished guest is Professor Talbot Brewer from the University of Virginia. He specializes in ethics and political philosophy, with a particular focus on moral psychology and Aristotelian ethics. He is the author of numerous essays on virtue and the human good, desire and happiness, practical thought and knowledge, the goodness of welfare, the nature of alienated emotions, and the tragedy of the cultural commons. These have appeared in publications such as Ethics, Philosophical Review, and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Professor Brewer is also the author of two books, The Bounds of Choice: Unchosen Virtues, Unchosen Commitments (2000, Routledge) and The Retrieval of Ethics (2009, Oxford University Press). He will give five lectures during the seminar.

The instructor of the seminars, Dr. Evgenia Mylonaki, has studied practical philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh, is an AAUW, DAAD, Andrew Mellon alumna, and currently holds a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Athens. Her work on action, moral perception, practical reasoning and knowledge, and instrumental rationality has appeared in the European Journal of Philosophy, The Philosophical Quarterly and is forthcoming in the Journal of Value Inquiry and Oxford Bibliographies. She is currently editing a volume of essays (with Matthew Boyle, University of Chicago) in honor of John McDowell (University of Pittsburgh) for Harvard University Press.

This year’s APS has two parts. In the first part of the seminar (3 weeks), students will have the chance to study:
1) The view of human flourishing as a kind of activity - in fact, as the characteristically human activity- we find in the works of Plato and Aristotle, 2) The most important contemporary formulations of the nature of this activity, and 3) The Marxian idea that this characteristically human activity is alienated from itself in conditions of the capitalist mode of production. Thus, students will study classic texts (Plato, Aristotle, Marx, Keynes) in combination with contemporary works from the philosophy of action, as well as from moral, economic and political philosophy (e.g. G.E.M. Anscombe, Iris Murdoch, Alasdair Macintyre, John McDowell, Cora Diamond, Talbot Brewer, Karl Polanyi).

In the second part of the seminar (final week), students will have the chance to familiarize themselves with the work of Professor Brewer through the five lectures he will give. The lectures will present Professor Brewer’s distinctive account of the nature and sources of human agency and action; of the nature of human excellence and flourishing, and of the obstacles to this flourishing that current economic structures and practices present.
The five lectures will be on the following topics:
1. Desire and Action
2. Pleasure and Complete Activity
3. Complete Activity and the Human Good
4. A Brief History of Capitalism
5. Capitalism and the Human Good