COVID-19: Essential Information

Lorraine Besser

Professor of Philosophy

 
 work(802) 443-5098
 In-person: Thursdays 12:30-1:30pm Remote: hours vary; sign up via https://appt.link/lorraine-besser
 Twilight Hall 310

Lorraine Besser earned her PhD in philosophy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has MA degrees from UNC and the Claremont Graduate School, and a BA from Tulane University. Before joining the philosophy department at Middlebury College, she held positions at the University of Waterloo and Stanford University.

Professor Besser’s primary area of research is moral psychology. She is particularly interested in the topics of happiness and well-being and her work frequently draws on psychological and neuroscientific research on these themes.

Her most recent book, The Philosophy of Happiness: An Interdisciplinary Introduction, is now available.

She is also the author of Eudaimonic Ethics: The Philosophy and Psychology of Living Well (2014) and the co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Virtue Ethics (2015). She has published  journal articles and book chapters on topics ranging from Hume’s moral psychology, to contemporary virtue ethics, to psychological conceptions of the good life.  Her most recent publications include: “Learning Virtue”, published in the Journal of Moral Education; “The Psychologically Rich Life” (lead author, with Shige Oishi), published in Philosophical Psychology; and “Virtue and Moral Psychology in Hume’s Enquiry”, forthcoming in the Critical Guide to Hume’s Enquiry Concerning Principles of Morals (Cambridge University Press).

She teaches courses on happiness and well-being, ethical theory, applied ethics, and early modern philosophy.

 

Courses

Course List: 

Courses offered in the past four years.
indicates offered in the current term
indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]

FYSE 1519 - Happiness      

Happiness
Once the philosophers’ domain, research on happiness is now burgeoning across disciplines. This interdisciplinary push re-awakens longstanding philosophical questions (What is happiness? What is the connection between happiness and virtue?) and breathes new life into our philosophical analyses of happiness. In this seminar we will explore new research on happiness. We begin with tough philosophical questions about the nature of happiness and how best to characterize happiness. We will then explore leading theories and interdisciplinary research on what makes us happy and the implications these theories have for the study of happiness. 3 hrs. sem. CW PHL

Fall 2018

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PHIL 0156 - Contemporary Moral Issues      

Contemporary Moral Issues
We will examine a selection of pressing moral problems of our day, seeking to understand the substance of the issues and learning how moral arguments work. We will focus on developing our analytical skills, which we can then use to present and criticize arguments on difficult moral issues. Selected topics may include world poverty, animal rights, abortion, euthanasia, human rights, just and unjust wars, capital punishment, and racial and gender issues. You will be encouraged to question your own beliefs on these issues, and in the process to explore the limit and extent to which ethical theory can play a role in everyday ethical decision making. 2 hrs.lect./1 hr. disc. PHL

Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Fall 2020

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PHIL 0160 - Theories of the Good      

Theories of the Good
What makes for a good person? What makes for a good society? What makes for a good piece of art? What makes for a good life? This introductory course will explore theories of the good within ethics, political philosophy, and aesthetics. Drawing on both historical and contemporary works, we will consider a diverse range of perspectives on what makes someone or something good. 2 hrs. lect/1 hr. disc. PHL

Fall 2021

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PHIL 0205 - Human Nature & Ethics      

Human Nature and Ethics
This course offers a historical introduction to different views of morality and human nature, and the relationship between them. We will cover the central figures of both the ancient and modern periods of philosophy and consider their answers to questions fundamental to our lives and the decisions we make. We will consider the nature of the good life, happiness, and the virtues; whether or not a moral life is in our nature, and whether reason or emotions are the best guides to morality; and the nature of justice, and what role it plays for creatures like us. The philosophers we will study include Aristotle, Hobbes, Butler, Mill, and Kant. 3 hrs lect. EUR PHL

Spring 2021

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PHIL 0230 - Moral Psychology      

Moral Psychology
Moral psychology is the study of human behavior in the context of morality. How do we think about morality? How do we make moral judgments? How do we behave in moral situations? Answering these questions forces us to think deeply about the nature of our actions and the way we do and should evaluate them. In this course we will explore these questions and more. Specific topics covered may include altruism and egoism, moral judgment, moral responsibility, practical deliberation, intentional action, virtue and vice, character, and moral development. Readings will be drawn from both philosophy and psychology. (not open to students who have taken PHIL 0310) 3 hrs. sem. PHL SOC

Spring 2022

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PHIL 0250 - Early Modern Philosophy      

Early Modern Philosophy
This course offers an introduction to some of the most influential European philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries: Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. We will consider and critically examine the responses these thinkers gave to various questions in metaphysics and epistemology, including the following: What is the relationship between reality and our perception of reality? What is the nature of the mind and how is it related to the body? What is the nature of physical reality? Which of our beliefs, if any, do we have good reason to maintain in the face of radical skepticism? 3 hrs lect. EUR PHL

Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Spring 2021, Spring 2022

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PHIL 0310 - Moral Psychology      

Moral Psychology
Moral psychology is the study of human behavior in the context of morality. How do we think about morality? How do we make moral judgments? How do we behave in moral situations? Answering these questions forces us to think deeply about the nature of our actions and the way we do and should evaluate them. In this course we will explore these questions and more. Specific topics covered may include altruism and egoism, moral judgment, moral responsibility, practical deliberation, intentional action, virtue and vice, character, and moral development. Readings will be drawn from both philosophy and psychology. 3 hrs sem PHL SOC

Spring 2019

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PHIL 0364 - Philosophy of Happiness      

The Philosophy of Happiness
This is a course on the philosophy of happiness, well-being, and human flourishing. We will consider both the big questions about the nature of these states (for instance, “What is happiness?” and “Is it necessary for a worthwhile life?”) and the specific topics typically taken to be essential to these states, such as pleasure, life satisfaction, virtue, and agency. While working from a philosophical perspective, we will integrate psychological research from the field of “positive psychology” into our analyses. Our readings will draw on contemporary works by both philosophers and psychologists, and will include works by Haybron, Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi, Diener, and Seligman. (Not open to students who have taken FYSE 1519 or PHIL 1010) 3 hrs. sem. PHL

Fall 2021

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PHIL 0500 - Resrch In Philosophy      

Research in Philosophy
Supervised independent research in philosophy. (Approval required).

Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019, Winter 2020, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Winter 2021, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Winter 2022, Spring 2022

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PHIL 0700 - Senior Thesis      

Senior Thesis
(Approval Required)

Fall 2018

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PHIL 0710 - Senior Independent Research      

Senior Independent Research
In this course senior philosophy majors will complete an independent research project. The course has two components: (1) a group workshop in which students refine their research skills and develop parts of their projects, and (2) individual meetings with an adviser who is knowledgeable about the student's research topic. Students will engage in research activities such as tutorials and peer reviews. Before the course begins, students’ research topics and advisers will be decided in consultation with members of the department. (Senior majors.) 3 hrs. sem.

Fall 2020

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PHIL 1010 - Philosophy of Happiness      

The Philosophy of Happiness
This is a course on the philosophy of happiness, well-being, and human flourishing. We will consider both the big questions about the nature of these states (for instance, “What is happiness?” and “Is it necessary for a worthwhile life?”) and the specific topics typically taken to be essential to these states, such as pleasure, life satisfaction, virtue, and agency. While working from a philosophical perspective, we will integrate psychological research from the field of “positive psychology” into our analyses. Our readings will draw on contemporary works by both philosophers and psychologists, and will include works by Haybron, Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi, Diener, and Seligman. (Not open to students who have taken FYSE 1519). PHL WTR

Winter 2019

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Recent Articles and Book Chapters

“The Psychologically Rich Life.” (lead author, with Shige Oishi) Philosophical Psychology,  2020. DOI: 10.1080/09515089.2020.1778662

“Learning Virtue” Journal of Moral Education. Special Issue on Self-Determination Theory, Morality, and Virtue. Ed. Randall Curren and Tobias Krettenauer. DOI: 10.1080/03057240.2020.1714564

“The Psychologically Rich Life Questionnaire” (with Oishi, Choi, Buttrick,   Heintzelman, Kushlev, Westgate, Tucker, Ebersole, Axt, Gilbert, Ng, and Besser) Journal of Research in Personality 89 (2019), pp. 257-270.

“Hume’s Moral Philosophy and Contemporary Moral Psychology” The Humean Mind, ed. Angela Coventry and Alex Sager (New York: Routledge Press, 2019) pp. 458-469.

“Empathy, Intersubjectivity, and Morality: Building from Hume’s Account.”  Humean Value Theory and Contemporary Psychology, ed. Rico Vitz and Phil Reed. (New York: Routledge Press, 2018), pp. 209-225.

“Virtue of Self-Regulation.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 20(3), (2017), pp. 505-517. Special Issue on New Directions of Character and Virtue, ed. Nancy Snow. 

“Virtue Traits and Personality Traits.” in Moral Psychology, vol 5: Virtues and Vices, ed Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Christian Miller (MIT Press, 2017), pp. 105-112.

 

Department of Philosophy

Twilight Hall
50 Franklin Street
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753

802.443.6011 fax