Education Programs: Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants

Period of Performance

6/1/2012 - 12/31/2013

Funding Totals

$25,000.00 (approved)
$25,000.00 (awarded)

NEH Enduring Questions Course on "What Is Free Will?"

FAIN: AQ-50616-12

Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH 44106-1712)
William Deal (Project Director: September 2011 to September 2014)

The development of an undergraduate seminar on the question, What is free will?

William Deal, a history of religion professor at Case Western Reserve University, develops a writing- and discussion-intensive seminar that explores the problem of free will over centuries and across cultural traditions. Taking into account determinist, indeterminist, and libertarian positions, students engage in inquiries such as: Do human beings primarily function on the basis of freely chosen actions? What is karma? What is predestination? What is the mandate of heaven? What are moral and legal responsibilities? The course is structured around topics including early Greek philosophy, medieval monotheisms, Chinese Confucian and Daoist philosophy, Mahayana Buddhist thought, Enlightenment philosophy, contemporary philosophy, and cognitive science. Students read works by Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Thomas Aquinas, Maimonides, Al-Ghazali, Confucius, Laozi, Nagarjuna, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Daniel Dennett, and Nancey Murphy and Warren Brown. Interactive activities include multimedia presentations and blog posts; students also develop a research essay exploring a topic in depth. A course content and learning outcomes assessment is conducted in consultation with the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education.