What is the good life? What is human excellence, and what does it mean to be human? What is “the Good,” and how does it relate to “God”? What is the difference between seeking a just community and seeking righteousness before God? What is “ethics” and how does one go about doing it?
Conflicting answers have been given to such questions in the history of western religious thought, answers which may still inform the possibilities for ethics (religious and otherwise) in the present. The project of the course is not to consider discrete, contemporary moral issues. Rather, it serves as an historical introduction to western religious ethics, especially as influenced by Christianity, and provides a solid foundation for further study of today’s pressing ethical questions.
The goal of the class is to equip students with the historical knowledge necessary so that they can situate think on their own about how to relate religion and ethics in the present.
Our class time together will be spent trying to make sense of primary texts. Our collective enterprise is to attempt to understand how religious beliefs, for better or for worse, have influenced western ethical reflection. We will first acquaint ourselves with the Greek sources that influenced Jewish and Christian ethics themselves. We then read selections from over a millennium of religious writings in Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, before considering modern critiques of such religious approaches to ethics in general.
Details TBA, but generally speaking: some quizzes based on predistributed study questions, a take-home midterm, and a final.
Your absence diminishes the quality of common discussions. One absence will be excused without affecting your preparation grade. However, if you have a good reason to be absent more than one time, please notify me of your situation by email at least 24 hours in advance.
Students with disabilities
Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to me (or to TA) as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301 and is open 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776.
USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others as well as to avoid using another’s work as one’s own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles. Scampus, the Student Guidebook, contains the Student Conduct Code in Section 11.00, while the recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A: http://www.usc.edu/dept/publications/SCAMPUS/gov/. Students will be referred to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for further review, should there be any suspicion of academic dishonesty. The Review process can be found at: http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/SJACS/.
Use of course materials
In SCampus 2000-2001 (page 91 under Academic Policies) there is a policy which reads: “Notes or recordings made by students based on a university class or lecture may only be made for purposes of individual or group study, or for other non-commercial purposes.... This restriction also applies to any information distributed, disseminated or in any way displayed for use in relationship to the class, whether obtained in class, via email or otherwise on the Internet, or via any other medium. Actions in violation of this policy constitute a violation of the Student Conduct Code, and may subject an individual or entity to university discipline and/or legal proceedings.”