WFU receives $4.2 million to further study of human flourishing

Today Wake Forest University announced nearly $4.2 million in new research funding to further the study of human flourishing through the Eudaimonia Institute. Eudaimonia (yoo-dye-mo-NEE-uh) is Aristotle’s term for “flourishing.”

Established earlier this summer, the Eudaimonia Institute’s mission is to study the nature of human flourishing, as well as the institutions, attitudes and cultural practices that encourage it. An interdisciplinary intellectual community of scholars will explore the concept beyond the typical scope of how happiness is understood or used in everyday conversation.

Jim Otteson, Executive Director of the Eudaimonia Institute, says he expects the institute will put forth the first call for research proposals later this year.

An independent Faculty Advisory Board of a dozen faculty members from across the University – including those from the humanities, social sciences, business, law and divinity – will evaluate the proposals, following standard University practices. They anticipate the research proposals they receive will be as wide-ranging as the scholarly interests at Wake Forest.

“If we are talking about a society that is not only diverse but also aspires to be inclusive, we should expect diverse views,” said Simeon Ilesanmi, Washington M. Wingate Professor of Religion and Eudaimonia Institute Faculty Advisory Board member.

Ilesanmi continued, “My training is in religious ethics and law. These are two disciplines that also explore the kinds of topics that the Eudaimonia Institute will consider – looking at the kind of society we ought to live in and the institutions that can promote human flourishing. What are the values society should invest its resources in and what impacts will those have on our lives? How do we account for the presence and distribution of well-being? I think the University is a proper place to explore various ideas and metaphors that constitute the complex significations of human flourishing or the highest good.”

“The Eudaimonia Institute presents a great opportunity to take us back to questions that are at the core of the liberal arts. When we think about the liberal arts historically, we often think about a broad education that prepares us to grapple with big questions about human life and how we interact with and relate to each other,” said Eudaimonia Institute Faculty Advisory Board member Ana Iltis, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for Bioethics, Health and Society.

“Wake Forest now has a very concrete way to support teacher-scholars who seek to explore those questions. We’re always talking about interdisciplinary work and cross-disciplinary work. The Eudaimonia Institute offers us another opportunity to partner with each other across disciplines to pursue meaningful work,” Iltis said.