Category: Acton University

Blog author: jballor
Friday, November 11, 2016
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Edward Feser, with a nod to Thomas Aquinas, discusses whether there might be such a thing as virtuous Schadenfreude. As Feser puts it, “On the one hand, the suffering of a person is not as such something to rejoice in, for suffering, considered just by itself, is an evil…. However, there can be something ‘annexed’ to the suffering which is a cause for rejoicing.”

My collaborator and friend Victor Claar and I ran up against something like this in our engagement with Thomas on the topic of envy, and Thomas’ treatment of these questions should be read as an annex to the part of the Summa that Feser looks at. Envy is defined, following Aristotle, as grief or sadness or sorrow at the good of another. When you take the responses of grief and joy to another’s good or ill, you can plot them into four possibilities: joy at another’s good, joy at another’s ill, grief at another’s good, and grief at another’s ill.

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Envy and Schadenfreude are linked because they are opposite reactions to the evil or good of another. The envious person is the kind of person who will rejoice in the ills suffered by another, and vice versa.

And just as Thomas cautions against joy at the suffering of another because suffering in itself is evil, so too does he caution against grieving at the good of another, even as he leaves open the possibility of what might be called “righteous indignation” at the unjust or undeserved goods enjoyed by an evil person. In this case, Thomas warns against such feelings, because it really is only up to God to judge what someone really and truly deserves, and, in fact, something might be “annexed” to that good that makes it turn out to be even worse for that person.

For more on envy in relationship to economics, check out: Jordan J. Ballor and Victor V. Claar, “Envy in the Market Economy: Sin, Fairness, and Spontaneous (Dis)Order,” Faith & Economics 61/62 (Spring/Fall 2013) 33-54.

Victor has also spoken on envy in numerous venues for Acton, including Acton University. Here’s a link to a talk from a number of years back.

On June 17th, Acton Institute President and Co-founder Rev. Robert A. Sirico delivered the final evening plenary address of Acton University 2016. We’re pleased to present the video of his address here on the PowerBlog.

A beautiful day in Grand Rapids, Michigan. | Photo by Steven Depolo, Flickr

Growing up impoverished in the Grand Rapids area himself, Justin Beene brings a unique perspective to his lecture on Community and Economic Development. He has seen first-hand the good intentions behind top-down investing to eliminate poverty and racial injustice, and the consequential damage wreaked upon such communities. Urban cities have largely been developed through three forces: gentrification, pouring resources into them, and community development. Beene asserts that we need to cut off top-down funding and start supporting neighborhoods in solving their own problems. We must do things with its citizens, not for them or to them. Instead of enacting additional programming or conducting further needs assessments, we need to eliminate the “broken vending machine” that is development today, and break the cycle of toxic charity that runs rampant in creating gratitude, anticipation, expectation, entitlement, and dependency among the poor. (more…)

Luis Hernandez traveled to Acton University from Mexico City, where he works as a pastoral coordinator for Anáhuac Sur University. He is responsible for managing projects and spiritual activities to help both the university students and the surrounding community. He also holds a degree in Industrial Engineering, and frequently travels throughout Mexico helping communities build churches. He was excited to attend Acton University to learn about “ways that communities can take control of their own development.” (more…)

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Pinheiro lectures at Acton University.

In an Acton University lecture titled “Religious Freedom: The Dawn of the First Amendment,” John Pinheiro sought to give a fuller understanding of the meaning of the First Amendment through its historical context. Contrary to a current widespread belief, religious freedom has not always been valued in the United States and has been almost constantly threatened, even after the ratification of the Constitution.  Pinheiro described the Founders’ fight for religious liberty as both radical and counter-cultural because of the religious conflict and disdain for true religious freedom that existed throughout the history of the United States and continues today.

The historical context of the First Amendment starts with the history of the colonies and the political thought of the time period.  Many of the colonists came to North America seeking freedom from religious persecution and state established churches, most notably the Puritans leaving to escape the Church of England.

At the same time, Enlightenment thinking was developing and gaining acceptance.  The emergence of a belief that religion is opposed to reason and something that humanity will, and should, outgrow meant that it was less consequential which religion people practiced. Toleration of other religions, in that way grew out of a belief that none of them held the final truth, so none was above the other. (more…)

Blog author: ECrandell
Thursday, June 30, 2016
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The Family & the Market, an Acton University lecture by Jennifer Roback Morse, uses Christian theology and logic to illustrate unique connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of society, at least to the secular world. Morse is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, where she discovered that the economy depends on the intact family raising children. This Institute has a dream: that every child is welcomed into a loving home with a married mother and father. Their goal is to create a lasting and Christ-like social movement, and to clean up the consequences of the Sexual Revolution.

Students in this course learn the importance of both parents raising their own children together, as opposed to divorcing, sharing custody, or placing children in foster care. This is vital in order to “respect, honor, and preserve” the genetic identity and cultural heritage of every adult, without exception. Morse emphasizes that when this practice is violated, it gives way to structural injustice and the political correctness of “Alternative Family Forms.” These terms, such as multi-partner fertility, are indicators of our broken reality, and of life problems for children in these environments, mainly, stirring up feelings of resentment in an unloved child. (more…)

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Carl Menger (1840-1921) | Wikimedia Commons

The central theme of the Austrian tradition, which might better be called the liberal tradition, is that society runs itself. This is strongly linked to the idea of freedom in the liberal sense, meaning the opportunity for the individual to advance and to create wealth. Jeffrey Tucker, Director of Content at FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) argues that the Austrian school started by Carl Menger revived an old method of thinking in the liberal tradition of economic order. He recently gave a lecture on the topic, “The Austrian Tradition on Social and Economic Order” at Acton University.

In the nineteenth century, many intellectuals began to abandon this tradition. They became enamored with the ideas of science, and of “rational” planning, rather than the market and spontaneous order. Tucker began his analysis with Frédéric Bastiat, a nineteenth century French political economist, who saw the economic order as naturally harmonious and the source of wealth creation. (more…)