Moral Distress and Powerlessness – 23rd February 2018

Moral Distress poster

Our Spring 2018 workshop, ‘Moral Distress and Powerlessness’, took place at the Wivenhoe Sailing Club on Friday 23rd February 2018.

Moral distress is a key concept in nursing and more generally in the context of health care practices. It is the distress experienced by agents who know what the right course of action is but are prevented from taking it by external constraints (material, hierarchical or institutional, for example). Moral distress differs from moral conflict in that there is no dilemma about what to do, but a sense of being powerless to do what one thinks is right. In this workshop, we sought to understand the experience of moral distress, to determine whether/when it is ethically appropriate, and whether faith, hope and love might be of help in dealing with moral distress.

Addiction, Powerlessness and 12 Step Programmes – 24th November 2017

Addiction Poster

Our Autumn 2017 workshop, ‘Addiction, Powerlessness and 12 Step Programmes’, took place at the University of Essex on Friday 24th November 2017.

Addiction is a paradigmatic case of powerlessness. Conversely, powerlessness and the acknowledgement of powerlessness are central to the twelve-step programs, as are references to faith, love and hope. Yet many balk at these programmes’ reliance on trust in a ‘higher power’ and more generally at the crypto-theology they seem to involve. In this workshop, we sought to understand the experiences of powerlessness involved in addiction, to explore the limits of the helpfulness of the twelve-step programs, and to see whether a secularised version would be workable.

Autonomy Summer School 2017


The Ethics of Powerlessness team took part in the 2017 Autonomy Summer School, delivering modules on the Phenomenology of Powerlessness and The Power to be Oneself on Friday 7th July.

Faith, Hope and Love as Virtues in Modernity

2017 Conference Poster

Our 2017 end of year conference, ‘Faith, Hope and Love as Virtues in Modernity’ took place at Senate House, London on Friday and Saturday 23rd – 24th of June, 2017.

For Aquinas, faith, hope and love (caritas) form a distinct set of virtues: the theological virtues. Since Aquinas, the idea of the theological virtues has come under sustained attack: both from within Christian thought, not least from the early Reformers, and then as part of the general challenge on Christendom associated with the European Enlightenment and from thinkers such as Spinoza and Nietzsche. This conference explored how the theological virtues have fared in modernity, in the wake of these challenges.

The Theological Virtues in Critical Perspective


Our Spring 2017 workshop, ‘The Theological Virtues in Critical Perspective’, took place at the University of Essex on Friday 24th February 2017.

How suspicious should we be about the tradition in which faith, hope and love are regarded as virtues? Is faith only for the weak? Can hope be more than wishful thinking? Is love ever really virtuous? This workshop took up these and related questions from various critical perspectives, drawing especially on the Stoics, Spinoza, Nietzsche and Adorno.

Faith, Hope, and Love as Virtues in the Theological Tradition


Our Autumn 2016 workshop, ‘Faith, hope and love as virtues in the theological tradition’,took place at the University of Essex on Friday 25th November 2016.

The workshop examined the tradition in which faith, hope and love (caritas) are regarded as virtues. While often neglected in contemporary ethics, this tradition is rich in leads for thinking through the challenges arising from experiences of powerlessness. We examined some key moments in this tradition, from its early sources in Greek and early Christian thought, through lines of development in Augustine, Aquinas and later thinkers. Our aim was to tease out from this tradition its major themes and sources of contention, with a view to reassessing its on-going importance.

Virtue Theory and the Medio-Passive Agent

Conference Poster Image

Our end of year conference, ‘Virtue Theory and the Medio-Passive Agent’, took place in London on Friday and Saturday 17-18th of June, 2016. This event gathered together philosophers, working at the intersection of virtue theory and the philosophy of action, to debate whether and how the idea of medio-passive virtues can be made theoretically coherent and practically applicable.