PHIL 272
Free Will and Responsibility Fall 2014
Division II Writing Skills
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Class Details

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.
The Class: Format: tutorial; students meet with the instructor in pairs for roughly an hour each week
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1627
Grading: OPG
Requirements/Evaluation: each student will write a 5- to 6-page paper every other week and comment on his or her tutorial partner's paper in alternate weeks
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis
Prerequisites: at least one philosophy course, or permission of the instructor
Enrollment Preferences: current and prospective Philosophy majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Attributes: PHIL Contemp Metaphysics + Epistemology Courses

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