James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky Book Discussion: "Science and the Good"

Science And The Good Book Cover 2

James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky will visit NDIAS seminar on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 to discuss their recent book Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality with NDIAS fellows and invited guests.

"In this illuminating book, James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky recount the centuries-long, passionate quest to discover a scientific foundation for morality. The 'new moral science' led by such figures as E.O. Wilson, Patricia Churchland and Joshua Greene is only the newest manifestation of an effort that has failed repeatedly. Though claims for its accomplishments are often wildly exaggerated, this new iteration has been no more successful than its predecessors. Hunter and Nedelisky argue that in the end, science cannot tell us how we should live or why we should be good and not evil, and this is for both philosophical and scientific reasons.

In the face of this failure, the new moral science has taken a surprising turn. Whereas earlier efforts sought to demonstrate what is right and wrong, the new moral scientists have concluded that right and wrong, because they are not amenable to scientific study, don’t actually exist. Their (perhaps unwitting) moral nihilism turns the science of morality into a social engineering project. If there is nothing moral for science to discover, the science of morality becomes, at best, a program to achieve arbitrary societal goals." (Excerpt from publisher's website.)

James Davison Hunter is LaBrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory in the Department of Sociology and Religious Studies and the Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. He has written nine books, edited four books, and published a wide range of essays, articles, and reviews all variously concerned with the problem of meaning and moral order in a time of political and cultural change in American life. Over the years, his research findings have been presented to audiences on National Public Radio and C-Span, at the National Endowment for the Arts, and at dozens of colleges and universities around the country. He was appointed by the White House in 2004 to a six-year term to the National Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and he has been a consultant to the White House, the Bicentennial Commission for the U.S. Constitution, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the National Commission on Civic Renewal.

Paul Nedelisky is a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture at the University of Virginia. His research interests center on issues in metaphysics and ethics. His work in metaphysics primarily concerns the nature of the fundamental constituents of reality—the basic building blocks of the world. He has also published, with James Davison Hunter, “Where the New Science of Morality Goes Wrong” in The Hedgehog Review (2016). Nedelisky has won several teaching awards and was named as an honoree of the Seven Society’s Graduate Fellowship for Superb Teaching.