In this section, we will use several different images of Hell to explore the topic of explanation. For social scientists, this means focusing on causation. For example, if we pose the following question, “How do we account for the fact that ‘Hell happens…?” we automatically consider possible causes. Since one or more causes are possible, our choice of one over another constitutes an explanation. This bring up a second issue. How do issues of cause and effect become muddled as a result of different understandings of a topic like Hell? If I believe Hell means one thing and you believe it means something quite different, we are likely to identify different causes. As we shall see later, this issue has implications for our actions.
TYRANTS, MURDERERS, AND MADMEN: “THE DEVIL’S DEEDS . . .”
13. Tuesday, October 6:
Discussion: In this section, we discuss those explanations of Hell that focus on the role of individual human beings.
Robert Todd Carroll, “Satan,” in the The Skeptic’s Dictionary: PRINT AND READ
Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin, pp. 56-84 PRINT AND READ
Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, pp. 36-55 PRINT AND READ
“Narcissistic Personality Disorder”: PRINT AND READ
Background information about various “devils”: National Public Radio interview with Riccardo Orizio about Talk about the Devil: LISTEN
STALIN’S TERROR: “A SELF-IMPOSED HELL . . . “
14. Thursday, October 8:
We will watch a film on this date. Instead of meeting in our normal classroom, we will meet in the lounge of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, 211 Brownson
I would like to show you the first half of the film in class and then invite you to dinner at the Nanovic Institute to see the rest of the film in the evening. We will begin at 6:00.
15. Tuesday, October 13:
Yevgenia Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind (Read the first half of the book)
16. Thursday, October 15:
Yevgenia Ginzburg, Journey into the Whirlwind (Finish the book)
MID-SEMESTER BREAK: October 18-24
TECHNOLOGY”R”US: “A HELL OF YOUR OWN MAKING”
17. Tuesday, October 27.
Begin discussion of one of the most prophetic works of modern times: Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. Read chapters 1-5.
Disneyland”R”Us: READ AND PRINT
18. Thursday, October 29.
Finish discussion of Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.
Are there elements of Huxley’s argument in “Loving Donation”? Or is this just an example of the positive uses to which modern technology can be put? What about 23andME? I would be grateful for your suggestions about other examples of technological innovation that would allow us to raise these questions? Also read:
“Loving Donation”: BROWSE THROUGH ALL OF THE PAGES ON THIS SITE
“Mary had a little lamb” RECITE
19. Tuesday, November 3. Discussion: What are the moral implications of the way we define what matters most in the world? Today, we will begin to discuss the moral implications of utilitarian judgments of human worth. There is a serious kernel of utilitarianism throughout Brave New World.
Peter Singer, “Taking Life: Humans,” from Practical Ethics (HAND-OUT)
Harriet Johnson, “Unspeakable Conversations” PRINT AND READ
Keith Fornier, “The Dignity of the Person” PRINT AND READ
Abdulaziz Sachedinar, “Reflections on Human Personhood: an Islamic Perspective” PRINT AND READ
For this discussion, I recommend that you surf around a bit to acquire a very general understanding of the philosophical approach known as “utilitarianism.”
As you read Singer’s work, consider an alternative perspective on human worth that is reflected in the passage from Jacques Maritain below. Maritain was a great Catholic philosopher and intellectual father of Vatican II:
“Let us think of the human being, not in an abstract and general way, but in the most concrete possible, the most personal fashion. Let us think of this certain old man we have known for years in the country—
this old farmer with his wrinkled face, his keen eyes which have beheld so many harvests and so many earthly horizons, his long habits of patience and suffering, courage, poverty and noble labor, a man perhaps like those parents of a great living American statesman whose photographs appeared some months ago in a particularly moving copy of a weekly magazine. Or let us of think of this certain boy or this girl who are our relatives or our friends, whose everyday life we well know, and whose loved appearance, whose soft or husky voice is enough to rejoice our hearts . . . . We perceive intuitively, in an indescribable not
inescapable flash, that nothing in the world is more precious than one single human being.”
—Jacques Maritain, “The Immortality of Man” (1941)
20. Thursday, November 5.
Meeting with Antonina Axenova in Rare Books Room of Hesburgh Library.
We will discuss Journey into the Whirlwind and examine the absolutely wonderful Ginzburg family archive
21. Tuesday, November 10
The Second Great Debate! Topic:
“When it comes to human dignity, Singer is far more humane than the Roman Catholic Church”