PHIL-111 Ethics of Life/Death: Middle Ages
Fall for 2006-2007
Ethical questions concerning life and death are of great concern to us nowadays. Is it permissible to execute criminals, to commit suicide, to kill in war? And if it is, under what conditions? These issues were the subject of intense discussion in medieval thinkers, from St.~Augustine in the late 4th and early fifth centuries to thinkers such as St.~Thomas Aquinas and others in the 13th and 14th centuries and later. Whether we agree with their views or not, their theorizing on these issues has deeply affected the way in which we think about these matters -- the distinction between just and unjust wars, for example, stems from them. This course will study medieval discussions of these issues. In particular, we will consider medieval views on the killing of animals versus humans, killing in self-defense, killing in war, the killing of criminals, suicide, abortion and contraception. The most philosophically rich discussions of these issues in the middle ages take place in the writings of theologians. The readings for this course are therefore drawn from medieval theologians and as such will make frequent reference to Christian teaching and scripture, although we will approach the material as philosophers, not theologians, focusing on the arguments presented for their views and philosophical issues they raise. At the end of each section of the course we will briefly survey some contemporary philosophical developments.
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