REL 455

Disgust, Lust, Shame, and Blame: A Religious-Ethical Study of Emotion

This advanced seminar investigates the roles 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, and David Hume. Are emotions essential to a virtuous life or to religious expression? Should religious ritual aim at emotional catharsis? Are negative emotions to be extinguished, regulated, or discharged? Students examine how these positions inform contemporary ethical debates, such as the morality of anger, disgust as a basis for anti-gay legislation, lust within a pursuit of rational sex,shame within the criminal justice system, and neo-Humean defenses of blame. Two inquiries are sustained throughout the seminar: how emotions can be used to sustain exploitative institutions and become linked to oppression and the relation of physical release of emotion to well-being.

Prerequisites: Priority given to upper-level (senior) Religion majors. Open to other students with permission of instructor.