Willa Lengyel


I feel privileged and grateful for the opportunity to take part in the Marty Seminar, and for the support the Martin Marty Center offers its Junior Fellows. With this support, I plan to work towards completing my dissertation about hope and morality in a time of environmental crisis. My research comes from the recognition that today we are surrounded by images and ideas of apocalypse and devastation—TV shows imagine it, religious movements invoke frenzy around it, and the environmental sciences seem at times to predict it. In this situation, I ask, for what can we hope? What ought to be hope’s role in facing the earth’s future? What does hope contribute to the human life and is it susceptible to harm? In the dissertation, I draw on interdisciplinary sources and methodologies (psychological, philosophical, ethical, theological) to build a phenomenology of human hope and argue from this a necessary connection between hope and morality. I then investigate how the—particularly Christian—moral life is to be sustained, when people are faced with the real possibility of undermined hopes, due to changes in their way of life, their culture, or the natural systems of which they are a part.

Given the interdisciplinary nature of my project, I am very much looking forward to the regular meeting of our diverse cohort and for the lively collegial and interdisciplinary conversations to be expected there. I know such dialogue will nuance and sharpen my thinking as I complete my dissertation. In addition, I am excited for the opportunity to engage with a wider public, which I know will help me further clarify my own thought.