Good and Evil

2020-2021 Autumn
Arts and Humanities

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the philosophical and theological discussion of good and evil. Throughout the course, we will be connecting these philosophical problems to their real-life implications and consequences. First, we will consider popular representations and understandings of good and evil in philosophy and art. This will be followed by discussing the theological problem of evil – which arises from the question of how God can allow so much evil and suffering in the world – as well as attempts at defending the idea of an omnibenevolent and omnipotent God. Then we will turn to an analysis of The Book of Job, which, being a thorough theological investigation into the universal theme of unjust human suffering, is often regarded as one of the biblical answers to the problem of evil. After a close reading of the biblical text, we will look at different interpretations thereof, from that of 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Aabye Kierkegaard to contemporary films such as A Serious Man and Leviathan. We will discuss the moral implications of an atheistic, Godless world: can modern moral philosophies have the same normative grounding as divine laws? We will go “beyond good and evil” by consulting Friedrich Nietzsche, and face the banality of evil and the problems it poses to the idea of free will and ethical choice, explored by Hannah Arendt. Most of the course sessions will contain short literary works or films as optional readings/viewings. The students are invited, although, in the majority of cases, not strictly required, to use these readings/viewings in their weekly reflections and class discussions.

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