This advanced seminar investigates the role of emotion in morality and religion. Students begin with a study of the neuroscience of emotion and proceed to examine the moral stance toward emotions urged by thinkers such as the Stoics, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Jonathan Edwards, or David Hume. A Buddhist approach to anger is contrasted to western thinkers. Are emotions essential to the good life or to religious expression? Are negative emotions to be extinguished, regulated, or discharged? Students examine how these positions inform contemporary ethical debates, such as neo-stoic efforts to surmount fear in the debate about voluntary euthanasia, neo-Thomism in the pursuit of rational sex, and neo-Humean defenses of hostility and blame. Two inquires are sustained throughout the seminar: the role of emotions in religious experience and the relation of physical release of emotion to well-being. These themes raise questions such as should religious ritual aim at emotional catharsis? The seminar concludes by exploring how emotions are manipulated by unjust societies. Students examine how shame, blame, greed, disgust and lust are used to sustain exploitative institutions and become linked to oppression of the Other.
Prerequisites: Priority given to upper-level (senior) Religion majors. Open to other students with permission of instructor.