Agency, Character, and Complicity

Fall 2016
Th 1:30pm - 3:20pm
Area II
Permission Required
Limited Enrollment
Course Description: 

Christians confess that we live in a fallen world, one created in goodness but nevertheless full of harm, suffering, and loss. Some of those harms we bring about directly and on our own; others are mediated by social, economic, and political practices in which our perceptible impact is vanishingly small. Irrespective of their causes, perhaps most instances of harm should elicit our sorrow, even if no one is to blame; others are rightly called wrongs, and should elicit our anger—to say nothing of repentance, resistance, and rebuke. Yet, a number of puzzles enter when it comes to spelling out the warrants for these very different kinds of response: What are the sources of wrongdoing? Is it necessarily irrational? What distinguishes wrongdoing from lamentable albeit blameless instances of harm? Are we morally responsible for the distant harms spawned, say, by our participation in seemingly benign market transactions? This seminar will examine classical and contemporary work on agency, with an interest in exploring these questions. The inquiry is divided into three parts: (i) we will consider Thomas Aquinas’s widely influential account of human agency, before (ii) turning to some important philosophical work on intention, character, and rationality. On these bases, we will grapple with some recent discussions of complicity and moral responsibility.

Background Expected: 

REL 615a OR strong background in the theological and/or philosophical disciplines.

Course Requirements: 

To pass this course students must: (1) carefully prepare for, and responsibly participate in, the weekly seminar discussion, which each student must initiate at least once (25%); (2) complete three 5-7 page papers; PhD students students may elect to instead complete one 15-20 page paper (75%)

Basis of Evaluation: 

See above.