On Friday May 6th 2022, we held the inaugural “The Ways and Power of Love Seminar” at Linacre College in the refurbished Tanner Room. This one day seminar bought together theologians, philosophers, historians and teachers from the UK and the USA to discuss the work of the Russian Sociologist Pitirim Sorokin (1889 – 1968).
Pitirim Sorokin was born in Russia and emigrated to the USA, where he founded Harvard’s Sociology Department. Sorokin dedicated the later years of his life to the study of Altruism, and bought his findings together in his 1954 book, The Ways and Power of Love: Types, Factors and Techniques of Moral Transformation.
Using Sorokin’s text as our starting point and a constant reference throughout the Seminar, the discussion began with a colourful debate about the usefulness of the language of sacrifice when discussing the practice of Altruism, following the presentation of a paper by Professor Keith Ward, who was a founding student member of the College.
Professor Stephen G. Post of Stony Brook University presented on Pitirim Sorokin’s work on uncovering techniques for becoming more Altruistic and loving.
Following a buffet lunch, we were happily joined by members of The Oxford Character Project, which aims to bridge the divide between theory and practice when it comes to Altruism. Professor Matthew T. Lee of Harvard University expanded on his pioneering work in this field; the discussion returned to Professor Keith Ward’s earlier use of the language of evolution to suggest that we can say that rather than sacrificing part of our identities when becoming more altruistic, we are instead evolving to a higher level of being.
Finally, a paper by Professor Celia Deane-Drummond of Oxford University threw new light on Sorokin’s work with a comparison to the work of Thomas Aquinas.
It was agreed that such a stimulating day should be repeated and we are looking to make this a yearly seminar, focusing on a different writer, or group of writers each year, so long as the focus is on Altruism and Love.
The day finished with an enjoyable meal in the Small Dining Room. A handful of delegates met up on Saturday for a tour of the Natural History Museum and lunch at a French bistro.
Funding for this unique event was provided by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.
Dr Stephen Bardle (2002)