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Grant number like: AQ-50010-09

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Boston College (Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3858)
Alan Wolfe (Project Director: November 2008 to June 2011)

Enduring Questions: Pilot Course Grants
Education Programs

[Grant products]

$25,000 (approved)
$25,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2009 – 12/31/2010

Enduring Questions Course on Evil

The development of a seminar that scrutinizes conceptions of evil from antiquity to the twenty-first century.

I propose to teach a course on evil. Students will be asked to read and discuss three main bodies of readings: classic texts including Augustine, Shakespeare, Milton, and Kant; mid twentieth century reflections on the Holocaust and the Cold War (Arendt, Niebuhr, Primo Levi); and accounts by historians and social scientists dealing with contemporary examples of terrorism, genocide, and ethnic cleansing. The aim of the course is to discover whether Christian theology, Enlightenment moral philosophy, and the insights of great poets offer us appropriate tools for thinking clearly about the problem of evil in the world today. Some contemporary thinkers argue that they do not; we need new approaches, they insist, such as those offered by sociobiology, neuropsychology, or behavioral economics. I hope that the students will discover through this course that great works of the human imagination and spirit do have enduring value.