Culture, Religion, and Eudaimonia

(March 21–23, 2019)

Co-sponsored by William Horton Jr. (’91) and Charissa Horton (’92)

Group Photo


Eudaimonia is Aristotle’s word for “well-being,” “happiness,” or “flourishing.” The well-being and the flourishing of individuals, the happiness of families, and the prospering of communities is strongly affected by the economic, political, moral, religious, and cultural institutions in which they live.

This conference will bring together leading scholars from a wide range of disciplines and perspectives to explore the question: What roles do cultural and religious institutions and processes play in the development of eudaimonia? This will include exploration of the cultural or religious processes that may lead potentially to states of unhappiness and “ill-being.”  To live a productive and fulfilling life requires an understanding of the profound ways these institutions shape and are shaped by individuals’ life projects. We will engage, as well, with recent debates about whether human well-being and flourishing are improving or declining in the modern world.

This year’s keynote will be delivered Thursday evening by James Davison Hunter, the LaBrosse-Levinson Distinguished Professor of Religion, Culture and Social Theory Professor of Sociology at the University of Virginia, where he is also the Executive Director of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture.

Hunter has written nine books, edited four books, and published a wide range of essays, articles, and reviews—all variously concerned with the problem of meaning and moral order in a time of political and cultural change in American life. His newest book is Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality (Yale, 2018). In recent years, he published The Death of Character: Moral Education in an Age without Good or Evil (2000), Is There A Culture War? A Dialogue on Values and American Public Life (with Alan Wolfe, 2006), and To Change the World (2010). These works have earned him national recognition and numerous literary awards. In 1988, he received the Distinguished Book Award from the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion for Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation. In 1991, he was the recipient of the Gustavus Myers Award for the Study of Human Rights for Articles of Faith, Articles of Peace. The Los Angeles Times named Hunter as a finalist for their 1992 Book Prize for Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. In 2004, he was appointed by the White House to a six-year term to the National Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2005, he won the Weaver Prize for Scholarly Letters.

Among theologians, religion is, of course, explicitly tied to the ideal of eudaimonia at the communal and individual level of existence. Diffusion of the idea of eudaimonia in the social sciences—and of virtue ethics more generally—is increasingly manifest in fields such as positive psychology, economics, political theory, sociology, and anthropology and has fostered vigorous and exciting new directions in tying these fields, both theoretically and empirically, to the field of ethics.

Wake Forest University President Nathan Hatch will offer welcoming remarks.

You can view the detailed schedule here.


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Conference Registration

Dates and Locations

Conference dates: March 2123, 2019 (Winston-Salem, NC)

Keynote address: March 21, 2019 at Graylyn Conference Center at Wake Forest University

Paper Presentations: March 22–23, 2019 at Graylyn Conference Center at Wake Forest University

Detailed Schedule  – View conference presentations here

Conference Program Committee

Thomas Cushman (Wellesley College and WFU)

Adam S. Hyde (WFU)

Rethinking Community (October 19-21, 2017)

Rethinking Community Logo

In this closing plenary session James Otteson engages with Sarah Brown of the Chronicle Higher Education to offer a vision for American college education. Otteson will then take questions and engage with Wake Forest University student leaders who have also offered their vision for community during the Rethinking Community Student Hub. This interactive plenary is an unique opportunity to witness two of America’s most thoughtful academic minds as they engage directly with college students about the future of higher education.  Closing Plenary


Jim Otteson and Sarah Brown Rethinking Community


Rethinking Community was a three-day conference hosted by the Eudaimonia Institute and the Pro Humanitate Institute of Wake Forest University. It is our response to a call by Provost Rogan Kersh, to convene our counterparts across higher education to grapple with the effects of living in a society more virtual, diverse, polarized, and global than ever.

World-renowned scholars, journalists, elected officials, and public intellectuals from across the ideological spectrum attended in courageous, robust engagement with the animating questions of our academic and political world. We brought together a diverse group of stakeholders willing to meet each other with the mutual respect and dignity necessary for our communities to flourish. We hope this is the first of many opportunities—at universities and beyond—for us all to foster open discourse and reflection upon what we expect of our communities, cultures, and selves.

Deirdre McCloskey

Eudaimonia Conference (April 20-22, 2017)

This year’s keynote address, entitled Eudaimonia is not Measurable Pleasure, But the Fruit of a Liberal Life, will be delivered by Deirdre McCloskey, Distinguished Professor Emerita of Economics, History, English, and of Communication, University of Illinois at Chicago.  Dr. McCloskey has written 17 books and around 400 scholarly pieces on topics ranging from technical economics and statistical theory to transgender advocacy and the ethics of the bourgeois virtues.  Her economics-based arguments that equality, liberty, and justice have caused the “Great Enrichment” of the world have been featured recently in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, National Review, and Reason, among others.  McCloskey’s life and accomplishments were the subject of The Chronicle of Higher Education’s March 2016 cover story and she is author, most recently, of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World. (Click here to view a video of Dr. McCloskey’s keynote address.)

Carol GrahamThis year’s program includes Distinguished Scholar Carol Graham, the Leo Pasvolsky  Fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development group and College Park Professor at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy.  A pioneer and international authority in the field of happiness and well-being research, Dr. Graham has authored numerous books on the economics of well-being.  Her recent work, Happiness for All? Unequal Lives and Hopes in Pursuit of the American Dream is forthcoming from the Princeton University Press. (Click here to view a video of Carol Graham’s presentation.)

This conference aims to promote high-quality interdisciplinary theoretical and empirical research that develops a better understanding of eudaimonia, its determinants, and its institutional implications.  Eudaimonia is Aristotle’s word for “well-being,” “happiness,” or “flourishing.” The well-being and the flourishing of individuals, the happiness of families, and the prospering of communities is strongly affected by the economic, political, moral, and cultural institutions in which they live. To live a productive and fulfilling life requires an understanding of the nature, benefits, and liabilities these institutions, and of the profound ways these institutions shape and are shaped by individuals’ life projects. Our challenge is to explore, understand, and prepare ourselves and the next generations to take advantage of the enormous potential for human flourishing created by sound institutions.


Eudaimonia Conference Logo

Detailed Schedule Here

Dates and Locations

Conference dates: April 2022, 2017 (Winston-Salem, NC)

Keynote address: April 20, 2017 at Wake Forest University School of Business

Paper Presentations: April 21–22, 2017 at Reynolda House Museum of American Art


Conference Program Committee

Adam S. Hyde (WFU)

Erik Angner (Stockholm University)

Malika Roman Isler (WFU)

Conference Sponsors

Eudaimonia Institute, Wake Forest University

BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism, Wake Forest University

Center for Bioethics, Health, and Society, Wake Forest University

Thrive, the Office of Wellbeing, Wake Forest University

Wake Forest School of Business, Wake Forest University