PHIL 291
Violence: Its Trajectory and Its Causes Fall 2018
Division II Writing Skills
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Class Details

This tutorial focuses on two books by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker: The Better Angels of our Nature. Why Violence Has Declined (2011) and Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress (2018). We focus first on the controversial theses that—despite two world wars and the Holocaust—the twentieth century was not the most violent so far, and that, over the entire course of history, human beings have become decreasingly violent. We then turn to the books’ explanations of the factors they identify as leading us to be violent—our “inner demons”—and as curbing our violence—our “better angels,” among which the books particularly emphasize reason, science, and humanism.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1130
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: tutorial papers and responses to partner's tutorial papers, in alternating weeks; participation in tutorial discussions
Extra Info: may not be taken on a pass/fail basis; not available for the fifth course option
Prerequisites: none; the books are written for general readers, not for those with expertise in any academic discipline
Enrollment Preferences: Philosophy majors and potential majors
Distributions: Division II Writing Skills
Attributes: JLST Interdepartmental Electives
PHIL Contemporary Value Theory Courses

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