‘Prospects for an Ethics of Self-Cultivation’ is a two-year research project investigating the revival of ethical self-cultivation within the European philosophical tradition.
The project will host two international conferences and workshops. The first, entitled ‘Hellenistic Ethics from Nietzsche to Foucault’, took place at the University of Warwick, UK in September 2014. The second, entitled ‘Modern Appraisals of the Hellenistic Legacy’, will be at Monash University's campus in Prato, Italy in June 2015.
While contemporary ethics continues to be dominated by deontological and utilitarian moral theories, this project aims to investigate the strengths of an ethics directed at the cultivation of self, character, and individual well-being. These themes have of course been influential in contemporary virtue ethics, although this interest is often restricted to Aristotle’s account of character formation. The ideal and practice of self-cultivation has been understood in a broader and more inclusive sense in the modern European tradition, which in many ways remains closer to the conception of ethics that dominated the Hellenistic world. Turning to European thinkers, from Montaigne to Spinoza to Nietzsche and Foucault, offers us a new way of thinking about Hellenistic ethics and offers a foundation for a new ‘cultivation of the self’ strand within contemporary ethics.
The project is organised by research students from the universities of Warwick and Monash and is funded by the Monash-Warwick Alliance.
The primary objective of the project is to investigate and expand the conceptual basis for an ethics of self-cultivation and to evaluate its prospects as a moral theory. The secondary is to recast our understanding of modern European thinkers as important contributors to the modern revival of virtue ethics.
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