November 15, 2007
Anthony T. Kronman, Sterling Professor of Law and former Dean at Yale Law School, is one of America's most prominent legal theorists and public intellectuals. He combines the realism of an expert on several areas of the law with the idealism of a philosopher pondering the meaning of life. His pioneering contributions span the foundations of contract law, law and economics, professional responsibility, and the purpose of higher education.
Kronman discusses the idea of "gratitude" at the Baker Institute as part of the Ethics, Politics and Society Lecture Series, co-hosted with the Rice University Department of Philosophy. As Kronman states, gratitude is not merely a social virtue. It is a condition of well being in the souls of those who have it. Today, the value of gratitude is no longer recognized in our public life. It no longer can be recognized, for it conflicts with the ideal of autonomy that is the reigning moral value in the modern West. Paradoxically, the expulsion of gratitude from modern public life is a consequence of the extraordinary weight the Christian religion attaches to gratitude itself. If we are to learn, again, to be publicly grateful to other men and women we must overcome the habit of gratitude to God, understood as a transcendent creator whose makes the world from nothing and gives it to us as a gift. The pagan philosophy of Aristotle helps us see how this might be done, in a way that allows us to overcome the impossible demands of Christianity, while giving due weight to what Christianity properly values and Aristotle could not see: the infinite worth of every human being.
To view webcast details, visit the page on the Rice University Webpage.