2024-2025: The Good Life

During the 2024-2025 academic year, the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study is sponsoring residential research projects that investigate The Good Life.

The Good Life fellowship program will bring together ethicists, humanities faculty, scientists, social scientists, policy scholars, and artists with projects that advance our understanding of human flourishing. We are particularly interested in projects that contribute to ethical research and debates surrounding flourishing, including foundational topics in philosophy and psychology but also applied questions across many different disciplines. We seek scholars who will deepen our understanding, teach us novel methods, and translate the institute’s discussions into interdisciplinary and public debates about the good life.

Potential research proposal topics on The Good Life may address, but are not limited to:

  • Ethics: What is the relationship between having a good life and satisfying the demands of morality? Is morality demanding to the point that these tend to be in conflict? What are the limitations of virtue ethics and/or other philosophical approaches to studying the good life? How can virtue ethics be expanded to speak to modern challenges to flourishing from technological, social, and economic change?
  • Philosophy: How should we understand concepts like flourishing, well-being, and pleasure? Can the conditions for flourishing be taught? How should disabilities or cognitive and physical differences shape our conceptions of the good life? What is the proper relationship between philosophical and psychological examinations of the good life? Is a good life only one that is shared or can it be lived alone?
  • Theology and Religious Studies: What is the role of religious faith and spiritual practice in a life well lived? How are particular theological traditions developing or responding to speak to modern challenges to flourishing, especially from technological, social, or economic change? What theological sources from history could be studied or re-engaged to better understand the good life?
  • History: How have our concepts of flourishing or well-being developed over time? What stories of “progress” with respect to individual flourishing deserve a critical re-examination? What historical episodes in developing our concept of the good life need a wider audience? We are also interested in projects that deal with the history of positive psychology, utopian experiments, approaches to intentional living, and individual wellness.
  • Sociology: What social structures promote or inhibit individual flourishing? How should we best measure flourishing in marginalized communities or in the face of various forms of structural inequality? How do features of everyday social life (parks and recreational spaces, virtual communities, and religious spaces, etc.) affect the good life? How do conceptions of flourishing change through time or across cultures?
  • Psychology: How should we measure flourishing or well-being? What effects operate in subjective assessments of well-being? How should we interpret recent data about loneliness and alienation, and how can psychologists best partner with disciplines like public health or sociology to understand these phenomena? What ways can clinical support and therapeutic practices benefit from research insights from other disciplines?
  • Economics: How do we measure the connection between economic inputs and individual flourishing or well-being? How might new or projected economic trends change life satisfaction? What does the evidence show about connections between perceived well-being and economic features of an individual’s circumstances like family income, economic efficiency, economic security, economic equality, and/or economic opportunity?
  • Technology: How can AI be used to promote or inhibit human flourishing? Can virtual spaces help support a good life? To achieve the good life, should we try to augment human capacities (e.g., life-span, health, cognition) through the use of technology? When does something have moral status, in the sense that it matters morally whether its life goes well? Could a machine have this kind of moral status?
  • Environmental Studies: How do climate change and ecological crises challenge paradigmatic ideas of the good life? When we imagine the good life, what counts as life? Must we mean only humans, or should we include non-human animals or other aspects of the natural world? How do we connect large, complex collective action challenges with individuals’ sense of flourishing and meaning?
  • Political Science: Can one live a good life in a polarized or uncivil political order? What role do political beliefs and identities play in individual experiences of the good life? How does mass migration impact and influence the notion of a good life? Are loneliness and alienation properly conceived of as public health problems? What role can/should government interventions play in promoting flourishing?
  • Literature and Media Studies: How are happiness, flourishing, loneliness, and alienation portrayed through stories and media? Do assessments of flourishing depend on the type of story being enacted by a life? How does our desire for narrative closure live in tension with our desire for judgment? How can particular literary sources, genres, and movements bear on contemporary debates about the good life?
  • Fine Arts, Architecture, Urban Studies: How do our ideas of the good life take shape in the arts? How can the arts help us think about the good life in novel or more sophisticated ways? How have the design of buildings and built environments contributed to or detracted from a life well lived? Are sports, recreation, and leisure necessary for or hallmarks of a good life? How have the outdoor tourism and sports industries shaped our vision of the good life.
  • Global Affairs/Area Studies: How is the good of the individual related to the good of their local or global community? How do cultures, religious beliefs, and lifestyles help determine the norms of a good life? How might a global understanding of the good life transcend particular national or ideological beliefs? What role does integral human development play in a global understanding of the good life?

The NDIAS is also interested in supporting artistic works—fiction writing, visual arts, musical composition, etc.—that challenge our perception or understanding of the good life.

The above list is a mere sampling of projects that fit with the theme: the NDIAS welcomes any research project that fits with The Good Life, whether or not it is explicitly specified above. The NDIAS also welcomes projects that fit the theme in creative or surprising ways.

Learn More about Faculty Fellowships on The Good Life