Christianity, like other great spiritual traditions, is centrally concerned with the good life, with that “perfect peace” promised to those who trust in God (Isa. 26:3), or that “life abundant” which Christ came to offer (Jn. 10:10). Christian thinkers in every generation have reflected on the nature of human flourishing, the evils that threaten it, and the complex relationships among the temporal and eternal goods that comprise it.

Until recently, by contrast, the younger social sciences tended to focus myopically on understanding and preventing human illness and suffering, seeking (in Freud’s words) to “turn hysterical misery into ordinary unhappiness.” That has begun to change, with the rise of fields such as “positive psychology” and even “positive epidemiology,” which have sought instead to understand and promote human flourishing. Moreover, scholars from these fields have increasingly emphasized that religious participation promotes many aspects of well-being.

Co-sponsored by the Lumen Christi Institute, the Harvard Catholic Forum, and the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, and with generous support from the John Templeton Foundation, this seminar will consider the relationship between religion and human flourishing from the perspective both of the Christian theological tradition and contemporary social science. The seminar will be led by Dr. Brendan Case, a theologian and Associate Director for Research of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University, and will include instruction by notable social scientists and humanists, including Dr. Tyler VanderWeele (Harvard University), Dr. Jennifer Frey (University of Tulsa), and the interdisciplinary research team at the Human Flourishing Program.

Topics to be considered include 1) the nature and interrelation of theology and the social sciences; 2) the nature of human flourishing, and especially the relationship of temporal and eternal goods; 3) the nature of “religion” as a sociological category, and its relationship both to Christianity and to flourishing; 4) the significance of death and suffering for a flourishing life; 5) the nature and distribution of the moral virtues and vices; and 6) the role of interpersonal love in a flourishing life.

Application Information

Applications are welcome from doctoral students in theology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, public health, or related fields. Please submit the following:

  • A completed online application form.
  • An updated CV.
  • At least one and no more than two letter(s) of recommendation.
  • A statement of research interest no longer than 750 words, which includes an explanation of how this seminar might bear on the student’s current or future research plans.
  • One academic writing sample (30 pages maximum).

All application materials can be submitted via the online application. Incomplete applications will not be considered. Admitted students will receive lodging and meals for the duration of the seminar and a $350 travel stipend. 

For full consideration, applications should be submitted by May 14.

This seminar is made possible through the support of grant #62372 from the John Templeton Foundation, “In Lumine: Promoting the Catholic Intellectual Tradition on Campuses Nationwide.” This event is cosponsored by the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard's Institute for Quantitative Social Science and member institutes of the In Lumine Network, including the Harvard Catholic Forum, the Nova Forum, the Collegium Institute, COLLIS, the St. Anselm Institute, and the Lumen Christi Institute.