One of the things that has frustrated the heck out of me has been my inability to find anyone else who’s walking the goodness trail. I can find lots of people slogging through the muddy woods to find happiness or understand evil, but goodness seems to be a topic smeared with skunk. Today I’m pleased to report that I’ve just discovered Dr. Ruth Grant of Duke University who’s also wading knee-deep through the ethical and psychological confusion of goodness. (Hello, Dr. Grant!)
Grant has hosted a conference on the topic and is editing a book on goodness with contributions from political scientists, psychologists, philosophers and a divinity professor. We even settled on the same name for our quests: In Search of Goodness. (And no, I had no idea she had used that title when I set up my blog.)
The fact that we landed on the same title even though we didn’t know of each other’s existence doesn’t surprise me. That’s because the true nature of goodness may always be slippery. Grant appears to be just as wary as I am of declaring that one can ever find the righteous, rock bottom absolute good of goodness. From a news release:
“The idea of ‘goodness’ is an elusive one,” said Grant, professor of political science and philosophy and senior fellow in the Kenan Institute for Ethics. “How do we know what constitutes goodness? Can we identify goodness only in the face of evil? Are the things we consider ‘good’—altruism, courage, justice, patience—always good?”
I’m delighted by her interdisciplinary approach and by the fact that she is seeing an increasing interest in the topic. I’m scrambling now to interview her. I’ll let you know how that goes. Meanwhile, mark April 2011 on your calendar. That’s when Grant’s book, In Search of Goodness, comes out.
The page with the news release also contains an interesting video clip with Grant discussing some aspects of goodness. For some reason, I can’t get the thing to embed in my blog, so click on this link.