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Parr Center Presents: Nancy Sherman (Georgetown), “Stoics on Stuff: Consolations on Attachment and Loss”

April 7, 2022 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm

Stoics on Stuff: Consolations on Attachment and Loss 

This lecture will take place on Zoom

The ancient Stoics force us to rethink our views on attachment and loss.  Pushing the Socratic view to an extreme, they hold that virtue alone is sufficient for happiness. External goods are classified as “indifferents,” to be preferred rather than dispreferred, but not themselves the kinds of things that can make or break our happiness.  We may lose our homes and homeland to natural disaster or war, our loved ones to disease and untimely death, but for the wise person or advanced moral aspirant, they amount to a different kind of injury from that of losing or failing to cultivate one’s goodness. 

The view strikes many of us as inhumane and an expression of the overly austere side of Stoicism.  We may rehearse “bads” in order to protect ourselves psychologically against actual harm.  But to claim that there are no real harms or moral injuries, individual or collective, in the wake of significant loss is quite another matter. 

Still, the Stoic view gives us space to wonder if we don’t at times underestimate our adaptiveness or fail to cultivate ways attitudes that build greater resilience. Are there viable ancient Stoic lessons for modern resilience?

Nancy Sherman is a distinguished University Professor and Professor of Philosophy at Georgetown University.  A New York Times Notable Author, her most recent book is Stoic Wisdom: Ancient Lessons for Modern Resilience (2021). Other books include Afterwar, The Untold War (a NYT editors’ pick), Stoic WarriorsMaking a Necessity of Virtue, and The Fabric of Character. She is the editor of Critical Essays on the Classics: Aristotle’s Ethics. In the mid-nineties, she served as the inaugural Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy. She has written over 60 articles in the area of ethics, military ethics, the history of moral philosophy, ancient ethics, the emotions, moral psychology, and psychoanalysis.

Sherman has written for the NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times and contributes frequently to many other media outlets in the U.S. and abroad.  Her NY Times essays were selected for The Stone Reader. She is a frequent guest on podcasts.

Sherman has received numerous honors and awards for her work, among them from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Wilson Center, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council for Learned Societies, the Mellon Foundation, the American Philosophical Society, The Charlotte Newcombe Fellowship (of the Institute for Citizens and Scholars), and NYU’s Center for Ballet and the Arts. In 2005, she visited Guantanamo Bay Detention Center as part of an expert independent observer team assessing the medical and mental health care of detainees. Sherman lectures internationally on ancient philosophy, military ethics, moral injury, and the emotions.

Sherman holds a Ph.D. from Harvard in ancient philosophy, a B.A. from Bryn Mawr College, and an M.Litt. from the University of Edinburgh. She has research training in psychoanalytic therapy from the Washington Center for Psychoanalysis. She taught at Yale before joining the Georgetown faculty.

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April 7, 2022
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm


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