Humanity and Hell

In contrast to “The Experience of Hell” which focused on description, this section addresses the topic of explanation. To this end, we explore the social scientific concept of causation. For example: How do we account for the fact that “Hell happens…”? How do issues of cause and effect become muddled as a result of different understandings of Hell? Why does it matter which version we choose?

Image IV. Tyrants, Murderers, and Madmen: “The devil’s deeds . . .”

12. Thursday, September 30

  • Robert Todd Carroll, “Satan,” in the The Skeptic’s Dictionary: READ
  • Milovan Djilas, Conversations with Stalin, pp. 56-84.
  • Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem, pp. 36-55.

Image V. Stalinist Terror: “a self-imposed hell. . .”

13. Tuesday, October 5

Begin to discuss George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, read at least the first half of the book.

14. Thursday, October 7

  • Conclude discussion of George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia. Entire book.

15. Tuesday, October 12

We will have a film on this date, both during class and in the evening. We will select some time period between 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. to finish the film. Please make sure that you keep this slot upon on your calendar.

  • Richard Bugajski, “The Interrogation” (film)
  • Prepare for film by reading HERE.

You may find this depiction of Stalinist terror agonizing. In my opinion, this is no way to sugar-coat the horrors of Stalinism. Remind me to warn you beforehand about one especially disturbing scene.

16.  Thursday, October 14: NO CLASS.  I will be in an as-yet-to-be-named country.


Saturday, October 16 – Sunday October 24

17. Tuesday, October 26

  • Begin discussion of Aldous Huxley, Brave New World. Read the first half of the book
  • Benedict Carey, “Brain Researchers Open Door to Editing Memory,” New York Times, April 6, 2009: HERE
  • Jonathan Colvin, “Me, my clone, and I”: READ
  • “Mary had a little lamb”: RECITE


Image VI. Technology is Us: “A hell of your own making . . .”

18. Thursday, October 29

  • Finish discussion of Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

19. Tuesday, November 2

  • Peter Singer, “Taking Life: Humans,” from Practical Ethics (hand-out)
  • Browse through this site about Peter Singer
  • Harriet Johnson, “Unspeakable Conversations”: READ
  • Keith Fornier, “The Dignity of the Person”: READ

20. Thursday, November 4

Second Great Debate:  Topic TBA

NOTE:  Please leave your technology at home. This includes electronic devices of any kind, such as laptops, i-Pads, cell phones, Kindels, video cameras, or other personal digital devices.