Description: We will study the intersection between science and philosophy in defining and understanding free will, with the aim of learning the latest science on the nature and existence of free will and how to critically approach philosophical uses of it. Students will not only learn about the relevant elements of brain science, but also how to identify common philosophical fallacies in reasoning about free will, and the real-world application of the analysis of free will in diverse fields, from law to medical ethics. Course topics: The varieties of free will and the differences among them; identifying causes and the role of personal identity in making decisions (and what the latest brain science has to say about both); the nature and purpose of assigning responsibility to personal agents (in law, ethics, and daily life); the difference between determinism and fatalism, and the importance of addressing both personal and genetic-environmental causes of decisions when thinking about social, political, legal, and moral systems.
start/end dates – June 1 / June 30, 2014
Schedule: Specific reading and discussion goals are set for every week, completing four units in four weeks, but within that framework you can participate in every element on your own time. There are no live events to be missed. One book by Sam Harris is required reading (see below). Everything else about the course is provided inside the classroom website. Course lectures, academic papers, links to websites, and forums for discussions with the instructor and students are included in the Moodle website classroom. Visit the class anytime to contribute your posts and receive Dr. Carrier’s replies in discussion forums. GENERAL INFORMATION: Online classrooms and their discussion threads are accessible 24/7, so you can participate at any hour of the day when there’s some time in your busy schedule. Instructors will not be on live video and you won’t be either – there is nothing happening on camera and no particular time of day you have to be present. If an instructor posts a pre-recorded video, you can view it at your convenience. There’s nothing ‘live’ to be missed, and course instructor respond individually and promptly to all questions and comments. Instructors lead everyone through lectures and readings, but no attendance is taken and there are no assignments to complete – instructors are always available when you are ready to engage them about what is on your mind.
Required Course Text: Sam Harris, Free Will (2012). Students must purchase their own copy (print or electronic) before course begins. Additional readings will be provided electronically at no cost to students.
Ask Richard about his course by posting on his facebook wall at www.facebook.com/richard.carrier.phd
Richard Carrier, PhD, is the renowned author of Sense and Goodness without God and Proving History, as well as numerous articles online and in print. He received his PhD in ancient history from Columbia University in 2008, and now specializes in the modern philosophy of naturalism, the origins of Christianity, and the intellectual history of Greece and Rome. For more about him and his work visit www.richardcarrier.info.