University of Southern California

The Virtues and Vices Series - this series started in fall 2014 as a partnership between the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics and the USC Thematic Option Honors Program. The series encourages student discussions about virtues, vices, and their role in everyday life. 

Format: 

  • Audience: The target audience for the Virtues and Vices Series are undergraduate and graduate students from all programs at USC.
  • When: Virtues and Vices events are offered one time per semester, but may increase in frequency as the series progresses.  Currently the moderated discussions are 1.5 hours in length.
  • Approximate Number of Participants: Meetings typically garner 40-50 students.
  • Focus of Meetings: The Virtues and Vices Series engages students with the role of virtue and character in our daily lives. For example, the first two discussion themes were “What is Courage?” and “What is Justice?” Why might it be important for us to determine the limits of courage? How might we best be courageous in our daily lives?  In the discussion about justice, students navigate this difficult terrain with special focus on how we might best be just in our own lives.

Funding and Operations:

  • Support: Funding for the Virtues and Vices Series is provided by the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics.
  • Operations: The Virtues and Vices Series has a budget of approximate $600 per academic year.

Description

Virtues and Vices Series:

  • What is Courage?

Join us for a wide-ranging discussion that tries to get at the virtue of courage. Why might it be important for us to determine the limits of courage? When is an act courageous? When might the same act instead be cowardly or reckless? Can someone act with courage without understanding what courage is? What is the relationship between the virtue of courage and other virtues like wisdom, justice, and reverence? How might we best be courageous in our daily lives?

  • What is Justice?

Following the workshop on courage, we will now move to the virtue of justice. Aristotle noted that, among the canonical virtues, justice is a special case primarily because people mean so many different things when they appeal to it. Sometimes what is lawful is just, while at other times justice may require unlawful action. Sometimes justice can be equated with fairness, and yet at other times justice may require actions that seem inequitable. According to Aristotle, justice is also difficult to determine because, of the two parties which it involves, one often has a higher status than the other. We will navigate this difficult terrain with special focus, as ever, on how we might best be just in our daily lives.

History

The Virtues and Vices Series started in fall 2014 as a partnership between the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics and the USC Thematic Option Honors Program.  The series encourages student discussions about virtues, vices, and their role in everyday life.  The discussions are guided by the Levan Institute Undergraduate Fellows and students from Thematic Option and are moderated by James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics. The first two topics of the series were courage and justice.

The program idea came from the director of the institute as a new way to invite a wide variety of students to reflect on how philosophy and the classics can be relevant to their everyday lives. The idea is to have informal conversations about virtues such as courage and justice to encourage reflection on daily decisions both large and small and how one acts as an ethical person.

Recommended Resources

The Virtues and Vices Home Page: http://dornsife.usc.edu/virtues-and-vices

James Collins, Assistant Professor of Classics and a Levan Institute Faculty Fellow, prepares the program for each Virtues and Vices event. 

Administration/Operations

Funding for the Virtues and Vices Series is provided by the USC Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics. The Virtues and Vices Series has a budget of approximate $600.00 per academic year.

Assessment

The Levan Institute tracks attendance at Virtues and Vices events.  In the future, we plan to interview students post-discussion to understand the impact of the event.