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)? How do love and caring give purpose to our activity? How are they central to our capacity to reason and make decisions?
With a $640,000 grant from the prestigious John Templeton Foundation, three philosophy professors— Agnieszka Jaworska, University of California, Riverside; Bennett Helm, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, Penn., and Jeffrey Seidman, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, N.Y. —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.”
“Given recent progress in the neuroscience of the emotions, we think the time is ripe to tackle the complex concepts of love and caring in an interdisciplinary way,” Jaworska said. “By integrating what the various disciplines contribute to our understanding of conditions in which the capacity to love and care is compromised or distorted, we hope to develop new paradigms for capturing the central role of love and caring in human agency.”
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.
“Love is clearly central to our lives, and yet most attempts to understand human agency have left it out of the picture,” Helm says. “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 John Templeton Foundation serves as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to 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.