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The Williams College Mission statement says that “free inquiry requires open-mindedness, and commitment to community draws on concern for others”. The question of this course is whether these values are in conflict. Does free inquiry clash with concern for others, or do they (or can they) work together? We will begin with John Stuart Mill’s powerful defense of free speech in On Liberty, but will then investigate challenges to Mill’s traditional liberalism from thinkers, such as Catharine MacKinnon, who believe that such rights are never neutral. Our subjects will include hate speech, press censorship, pornography, controversial art, sacrilegious speech and campus controversies. We will, undoubtedly, have to adjust the syllabus to respond to breaking international, national and local news. The course will, I hope, provide the students an opportunity and the tools to intellectually examine deeply emotional and contentious issues. This course is part of the John Hyde Teaching Fellowship.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
several short responses (including op-eds on current controversies) and longer final projects (a 12- to 15-page paper or equivalent work in other media)
seniors, then juniors, then sophomores