The Moral Psychology of Devotion

May 9, 2024 - May 10, 2024
Department of Philosophy, Boston University

Room 906, ninth floor
8 St. Mary's Street, Room 906
United States

View the Call For Papers


  • John Templeton Foundation
  • BU Center for the Humanities
  • BU Center for the History and Philosophy of Science


London School of Economics
Joseph Henrich
Harvard University
Harvard University
King's College London
New York University, Abu Dhabi
University of New England (United States)
Daryl Van Tongeren
Hope College
Brigham Young University
University of California, San Diego


Boston University

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The Moral Psychology of Devotion

May 9-10, 2024

Boston University

Some goals, relationships, and projects require sustained, long-term, resilient commitment.  In order to achieve these goals or sustain these relationships and projects, we have to persevere in the face of obstacles, challenges, and setbacks.  When these commitments are especially robust and resilient, we sometimes describe people as devoted to their goals, relationships, or projects.  But what exactly is devotion?  When we describe a person as devoted to some goal, relationship, or project, what does this mean?  Does devotion differ from standard forms of commitment in its intensity, stability, resistance to compromise, epistemic status, or deliberative weight?

While philosophers and psychologists have examined commitments, resilience, grit, and other forms of long-term engagement with ends, devotion remains a relatively unexplored topic. This workshop aims to explore the moral psychology of devotion.  We are especially interested in talks that connect devotion to topics in philosophical psychology or that draw on psychological research on devotion and other forms of wholehearted commitment.  Talks might focus on questions including (but not limited to): How should we understand devotion?  Does devotion involve a form of grit?  Does it require a particular epistemic stance toward the objects of devotion?  Does it involve loyalty?  Which kinds of communities, activities, and relationships provide opportunities for manifesting devotion?  What are the different objects and forms of devotion?  Are some forms of devotion more stable than others?  Might devotion be a basic motivation in human beings?  If so, why?  What are the consequences of failing to satisfy this motivation?  What are the most natural targets for devotion?


Location: 8 St. Mary’s Street (Photonics Center), Room 906

Thursday, May 9
11:00am.    Introduction, coffee, pastries

11:15-12:30     David Livingstone Smith (Univ. of New England, Philosophy), “The Politics of Salvation”

12:30-2:00    lunch break
2:00-3:00    Zoë Johnson King (Harvard, Philosophy), “Trying is Good”
3:15-4:30    Sarah Paul (NYU Abu Dhabi, Philosophy), “Devotion, Striving, and Surrender”
4:45-5:45    Paul Katsafanas (Boston Univ., Philosophy), "Devotion, Faith, and Grit"

Friday, May 10
10:30-11:45     Daryl Van Tongeren (Hope College, Psychology), “Existential Motivations for Religious Devotion”
12:00-1:00     Justin White (Brigham Young University, Philosophy), “Devotion and Gracious Love”

1:00-2:45     lunch break
2:45-4:00     Joseph Henrich (Harvard, Human Evolutionary Biology), “The Evolution of Faith”
4:15-5:30     Monique Wonderly (UCSD, Philosophy), “Devotion, Attachment, and Moral Risk”

5:30-7:00    Reception

Organized by Paul Katsafanas (BU) and Jesse Preston (Warwick).

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2 people are attending:

Nanjing Normal University (Alumnus)
Boston University

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