VanderWeele Teaching

The Human Flourishing Program Faculty and Research Associates aim to offer courses to Harvard undergraduate and graduate students annually. Below is a list of the courses we have offered.

HDS 2014: The Flourishing Life: Perspectives from Christian Theology & the Social Sciences

Fall 2022 (Brendan Case)

This course will consider perspectives on human nature and the nature of human flourishing from the Christian theological tradition and from the social sciences. We will also explore some important pathways to flourishing, including character & virtue in general and aspects of the virtues of love and religion in particular. The course will bring theological (and in some cases philosophical) readings, most often classics, into conversation with recent publications from the social and behavioral sciences. We’ll ask how these distinct disciplines might enrich, qualify, or challenge one another, and consider how their interaction leads to a deepened understanding of our shared pursuit of the good life. Finally, we’ll consider what practical implications our findings might have both for religious communities, public policy, and the individual pursuit of flourishing.

EPI 230: Religion, Well-Being, and Public Health

Spring 2023 (Tyler VanderWeele)

The course will give an overview of the current state of research on the relationship between religion, well-being, and public health. Over the past three decades, the research literature documenting these relationships has grown dramatically. Evidence has accumulated that religious participation has beneficial effects on all-cause mortality, mental health, cardiovascular disease survival, cancer survival, health behaviors, meaning and purpose, happiness and life satisfaction, social relationships, volunteering, and civic engagement. The course will provide a basic introduction to well-being research and will then review the research studies that have been conducted in this area, with a focus on some of the measurement and methodological challenges faced in this research. The course will explore future research directions in religion and well-being, as well as questions of relevance to the public health implications of the research. Specific topics will include religious participation and longevity, religion and mental health, religion and spirituality in end of life care, religion and purpose, religion and character development, religion and social relationships, forgiveness, and partnerships between religious organizations and public health institutions, including the various tensions encountered in such partnerships. Attention will be given throughout to questions of measurement, study design, and methodology, and the challenges in conducting rigorous research in this area.

Course Prerequisite(s): ID538 or ID200 or [(BIO200 or BIO201 or BIO202&203 or BIO206&207/8/9 or PHS2000A) and (EPI201 or EPI208 or EPI500 or EPI505 or ID201)]; may not be taken concurrently


Past courses:


HIST E-1402, Early Modern Britain, 1485-1714

Spring 2022 (Flynn Cratty)

The history of Tudor and Stuart Britain is filled with dramatic personalities and frequent catastrophes. It is no wonder that the period has inspired so many novels, films, and television shows. In addition to bodice rippings and beheadings, however, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries also witnessed the formation of British political, religious, intellectual, and economic institutions that would eventually be exported across the world. This course will survey these developments with special attention to the ways men and women sought to imagine new worlds in times of instability. Topics include the English and Scottish Reformations, magical and scientific cultures, Puritanism and Arminianism, the Civil Wars, the growth of the public sphere, and the evolving British political constitution.

PHI 175W: Wisdom of Work (Proseminar)

Spring 2019 (Jeffrey Hanson)

Human beings spend much of their waking lives at work. We invest much of our early lives and education thinking about and preparing for work, and as adults we regard the quality of our work as highly important. Yet we rarely reflect on what work even isor what role it can or should play in a fulfilling existence. Particularly since technological and economic changes seem to portend a future of radically different possibilities for work, questions related to the meaning of labor are receiving increased attention. Does work have a place in a philosophically and spiritually informed life? How does work relate to its ostensible opposite, leisure? Does work contribute to or distract from the highest human purposes? This course will consider contemporary questions like these in light of the tradition of Western philosophical reflection. The course will consider the foundational perspectives of Plato and Aristotle on work and leisure as well as the contributions of Augustine and Aquinas. Readings from a host of modern thinkers will be drawn from thinkers as diverse as Martin Luther, John Locke, Karl Marx, Simone Weil and Hannah Arendt.

SOCIOL 1152: Conflict, Justice, and Healing

Fall 2019, Fall 2020 (Matthew Lee)

Serious crime and other forms of conflict are experienced as a traumatic violation.  This is to be avoided at all costs.  And yet… some survivors experience surprising levels of resilience, a renewed sense of meaning and purpose, empowerment, and post-traumatic growth.  Some offenders turn towards a deeper sense of truth and existential responsibility.  Some communities transcend institutionalized patterns of dehumanization and violence to embrace the challenging path of forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, and inclusive flourishing. When and how do individuals and communities heal after conflict?  We engage with these issues through a series of diverse case studies, including contemporary examples drawn from the international Black Lives Matter movement, prisoner reintegration efforts in the U.S., victim/offender dialog in the Middle East, and embodied emancipation in post-apartheid South Africa, as well as classic cases such as the Cuban Missile Crisis.  A critical  engagement with the emerging fields of conflict transformation and  positive criminology reveals potential restorative pathways to  individual and communal well-being, and ultimately harm prevention.  A  growing body of empirical research on the social conditions and  processes that give rise to these outcomes will also help us explore  such timeless questions as: What is justice?  How can “enemies”  reconcile?   What is the good life?