World Philosophy Day Keynote Address: “The Wisdom of Frugality: Why Less is More—More or Less”

In honor of World Philosophy Day, Dr. Emrys Westacott will examines why so many philosophers have been advocating frugality and simple living as the key to the good life.

Date: November 16, 2017 - November 16, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Golisano Gateway Midlevel

This talk is sponsored by the William and Helen Cavanaugh Chair of Catholic Studies, the Department of Philosophy, and the Department of Religious Studies.

Emrys Westacott

From Socrates to Thoreau, most philosophers, moralists, and religious leaders have seen frugality as a moral virtue and have associated simple living with wisdom, integrity, and happiness. But why? And are they right?  Is a taste for luxury fundamentally misguided? If one has the means to be a spendthrift, is it foolish or reprehensible to be extravagant? Or is frugality today like chastity, an outdated value?

In this talk, based on his recent book, The Wisdom of Frugality (Princeton University Press, 2016), Westacott examines why, for more than two millennia, so many philosophers and people with a reputation for wisdom have been advocating frugality and simple living as the key to the good life. He also looks at why most people have ignored them, but argues that, in a world facing environmental crisis, it may finally be time to listen to the advocates of a simpler way of life. The Wisdom of Frugality explores what simplicity means, why it's supposed to make us better and happier, and why, despite its benefits, it has always been such a hard sell. Westacott will argue that we will be better off—as individuals and as a society—if we move away from the materialistic individualism that currently rules.

Westacott is a professor of philosophy at Alfred University in Alfred, New York, and the author of The Virtues of Our Vices (Princeton). His work has been featured in the New York Times and has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Philosopher's Magazine, Philosophy Now, and many other publications. Copies of The Wisdom of Frugality will be available for sale after his presentation.

This talk, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the William and Helen Cavanaugh Chair of Catholic Studies, the Department of Philosophy, and the Department of Religious Studies at St. John Fisher College. For more information, contact Tim Madigan at: tmadigan@sjfc.edu.