The Moral Imagination -  Michael Matheson Miller
The Moral Imagination
Ep. 38: Dr. Margarita Mooney Nicaraguan Journey: From Technocracy to Solidarity through Small Acts of Love
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Ep. 38: Dr. Margarita Mooney Nicaraguan Journey: From Technocracy to Solidarity through Small Acts of Love

In the episode, I speak with Professor Margarita Mooney about her time in Nicaragua and how these experiences shaped her scholarly work and teaching at the intersection of sociology and philosophy.  

Margarita tells a story of her time in Nicaragua and how a weekend trip to a political rally in a small community where she almost was kidnapped challenged her assumptions about elite education in the United States.  Margarita explains how her engagement with poor women farmers and micro-entrepreneurs helped her realize the power of small acts of love and solidarity to help alleviate the problems of violence from the bottom up – and how these things are neither taught nor accounted for at elite universities where a technocratic approach reigns.  Margarita discusses how sociology does not address the problem of evil but rather sees it as a social or structural problem, but this does not align with ethnographic studies and the real work of talking to people about their experiences of war and violence.

Margarita talks about her founding of the Scala Foundation to address questions of meaning, beauty, and wisdom because she was worried that many Ivy League and other universities are creating a culture of resentment and anger for people who are genuinely concerned about justice but don’t have a framework to understand justice, subsidiarity, solidarity, truth, and law outside of power and politics.

As she explains in her essay “Why Choose Mystery over Ideology”

“The void left by the denigration of beauty and a classical liberal arts education is directing more and more people to “woke” social justice activism or alt-right movements because those movements offer them meaning, purpose, and hope, as well as community and a sense of belonging. Others burn out psychologically or resort to social isolation because trust and intimacy are hard to experience. Yet others resort to drugs, pornography, or another temporary pleasure to fill the void. Still, others pursue ambitious and demanding careers without reflecting on how they should live or why they exist to begin with. The result is skyrocketing rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide. Educational institutions have not succeeded in addressing these problems, leading many people to seek alternatives to feed their minds and souls.”

Any conversation with Margarita Mooney is interesting and wide-ranging and we discuss a number of broad themes and thinkers including:

  • Subsidiarity and Solidarity

  • Fascination with Violence

  • Rene Girard

  • Jacques Maritain

  • Participation as a remedy to alienation

  • The Nicaraguan Civil War -- Contras and Sandinista

  • Haiti

  • St. Thomas Aquinas on just war, violence, and pacifism

  • Solidarity as a means to inclusion

  • Solidarity Structures, institutions, property rights, law, exchange, are required to serve families

  • Family as a place of moral formation

  • The proper role of government

  •     The Bruderhof Communities and Plough Magazine

  • Edmund Burke’s ideas about society as a “partnership” among the living, dead, and yet to be born

  • Commutative Justice — exchange

  • John Paul II on participation

  • The documentary, Poverty, Inc.

  • Rwandan Genocide and Rwandan reconciliation

  • Integration of the Virtues

  • Moral Formation

  • Sin and Redemption

  • Law and Justice

  • Beauty

  • Ideology and the closed systems that close of access to the transcendent

  • Hopelessness

  • Critique of utilitarianism that reduces the value to the economic value

  • The dangers of cultural imperialism

  • Virtues –Cardinal Virtues, Daughters of Virtues and Vices

  •     Augusto Del Noce

  • Luigi Giussani on Education

  • Karl Stern –poetic knowledge in The Flight from Woman

Biography

Margarita Mooney is an Associate Professor in the Department of Practical Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. She teaches courses on the philosophy of social science, Christianity and the liberal arts tradition, aesthetics, research methods for congregational leaders, and sociology of religion.

Margarita founded Scala Foundation in 2016 and continues to serve as Scala’s Executive Director. Scala’s mission is to infuse meaning and purpose into American education by restoring a classical liberal arts education. At Scala’s conferences, reading groups, seminars, webinars, student trips, intellectual retreats, and intensive summer program, Scala equips students, writers, artists, intellectuals and teachers with the ideas and networks needed to revitalize culture.

Margarita’s most recent book with Cluny Media, The Love of Learning: Seven Dialogues on the Liberal Arts (2021), grew out of her decades of experience as a teacher and scholar. Her book Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora (University of California Press, 2009) demonstrated how religious communities support the successful adaptation of Haitian immigrants in the U.S., Canada and France, and she’s the co-author (with Camille Z. Charles, Mary S. Fischer, and Douglas S. Massey) of Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities (Princeton University Press, 2009).

Margarita received her B.A. in Psychology from Yale University and her M.A and Ph.D. in Sociology from Princeton University. She has also been on the faculty at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Yale University, Princeton University, and Pepperdine University.

https://www.bruderhof.com/

https://www.povertyinc.org/

https://www.themoralimagination.com/episodes/carlo-lancell

Poverty Inc. Documentary

Video: Immaculee Ilibigiza on Reconciliation in Rwanda

The Love of Learning: Seven Dialogues on the Liberal Arts

By Mooney, Margarita A.

Taming the River: Negotiating the Academic, Financial, and Social Currents in Selective Colleges and Universities (The William G. Bowen Series, 51)

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

By Ilibagiza, Immaculee

Scholasticisn and Politics

By Jacques Maritan

Man and the State (Not In A Series)

By Jacques Maritain

Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora

By Mooney, Margarita

The Crisis of Modernity (Volume 64)

By Del Noce, Augusto, Lancellotti, Carlo

Art & Scholasticism

By Maritain, Jacques

From Aid to Trade: How Aid Organizations, Businesses, and Governments Can Work Together: Lessons Learned from Haiti

By Jean-Louis, Daniel, Klamer, Jacqueline

Flight From Woman

By Stern, Karl

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The Moral Imagination -  Michael Matheson Miller
The Moral Imagination
Welcome to the Moral Imagination Podcast.
The overarching theme of my podcast is what it means to be a human person and what makes for a meaningful and good life.
We will discuss philosophy of the human person, culture, religion, social philosophy, and many other related topics, like education, learning, economics, food, technology, artificial intelligence, and intellectual history. My goal is to interact with ideas and people whose work I find challenging, and intellectually and socially important.