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Conference to discuss ‘the good’

Meghan Thomassen | Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What is the nature of “the good?”

Starting Monday and running through Wednesday, premiere scholars representing Notre Dame and universities across the globe will look to answer that question at “Dimensions of Goodness,” a conference hosted by the Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study (NDIAS).

The event, hosted in McKenna Hall, aims to draw in perspectives on “the good” from members of business, humanitarian, legal, social and natural scientific fields.

Director of NDIAS Vittorio Hösle said the concept of the event holds particular importance for members of the Notre Dame community.

“One of the great questions you have to answer as a student is what is good,” he said. “As a student of a prevalent Catholic university, you have to engage in the ultimate search for goodness. Students should try to think about the ultimate questions.”

Hösle said he and Associate Director Don Stelluto began preparations for “Dimensions of Goodness” over a year in advance.

“We have to invite a distinguished group of speakers because these questions need to be answered in an interdisciplinary way,” he said. “A student in business may be interested to know what a business ethicist has to say about what is good in business, or a political science student may want to know what is right when developing countries.”

Stelluto said acquiring international speakers requires planning and foresight.

“We need to be identifying which questions we want to address one to two years out, which means we have to get on their calendars early on,” he said.

Stelluto said the institute invites a wide variety of speakers because of the multifaceted premise of the conference.

“Complex problems are not limited to one discipline,” he said.

Hösle said this year’s conference is the second installment in a three-part lecture series corresponding with NDIAS’s motto of “Verum, Bonum, Pulchrum,” Latin for “The True, The Good, The Beautiful.” The institute hosted “Facets of Beauty” last January, and plans to present the final conference next April, he said.

NDIAS will be holding student seminars through Wednesday. Stelluto said Eric Bugyis, a former fellow of NDIAS, would facilitate the group discussions with a different question for each night.

“What we want to do is provide a forum for primarily undergraduate students so that they don’t feel so intimidated, trying to absorb it all, and then wondering, ‘what do I do with it?’ Eric will really engage them on real questions,” Stelluto said. “At these conferences you can hear some of the leading experts of their disciplines and take those robust, rigorous questions with you into graduate school and the real world.”

Stelluto said the conference demonstrates to students how different areas of study are related.

“[The speakers] pull together different disciplines in [a] way that Notre Dame students understand,” Stelluto said. “They are accustomed to work outside of a disciplinary boundary, and that is how this conference will speak to them.”

Stelluto said one of the most important aspects of the conference is its ability to prepare students for challenges they will face in the postgraduate world.

“[The event will] teach them how academics really work at a high level,” Stelluto said. “Engaging a historian and biologist will demonstrate what graduate school would be like. Even if they wanted to be a corporate CEO, if they took this approach into the business world — wow.”