PHIL 272 Fall 2012 Free Will and Responsibility (W)

In moral and legal decisions we hold people responsible for their deliberate actions. This practice seems justified as long as people are free to make the choices that they do. But which criteria must a decision meet in order to qualify as free? Clearly, a free decision must not be the result of external coercion. But must the decision also be free from any outside influence at all? If so then freedom may seem impossible, for we are all deeply influenced by external factors ranging from the general laws of nature to specific features of our genetic endowment and social environment including religion, political ideology, and advertising. These affect not only our particular choices but also, more fundamentally, who we are and what we value. Since it is undeniable that we are pervasively influenced by such forces, the real question is whether, and how, free choice is possible amidst all of these influences. In this course we will examine the best-known recent philosophical attempts to make sense of the nature of free will and responsibility. Since these issues have a direct bearing on which theory of legal punishment we should accept, we will also examine influential theories of punishment. Our focus will be on works by contemporary authors. Emphasis will be placed on developing skills in reading, interpretation and oral argument as well as critical reasoning and writing.
Class Format: tutorial; students meet with the instructor in pairs for roughly an hour each week
Requirements/Evaluation: each student will write a 5- to 6-page paper every other week (6 in all) and comment on his or her tutorial partner's paper in alternate weeks
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Additional Info2:
Prerequisites: a 100-level philosophy course, PHIL 201, or PHIL 202
Enrollment Preference: current and prospective Philosophy majors
Department Notes: meets Contemporary Metaphysics & Epistemology requirement only if registration is under PHIL
Material and Lab Fees:
Distribution Notes:
Divisional Attributes: Division II,Writing Intensive
Other Attributes: JLST Theories of Justice/Law,PHIL Contemp Metaphysics & Epistemology Courses
Enrollment Limit: 10
Expected Enrollment: 10
Class Number: 1487
PHIL272-T1(F) TUT Free Will and Responsibility (W) Division 2: Social StudiesWriting Intensive Melissa J. Barry
TBA 1487
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