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May 5, 2017

The Question of Evil: A Humanistic Inquiry

Why do good people do terrible things to others? Why do bad things happen to good people?

Students in two humanities courses this spring are examining the idea of evil through close reading and discussion of literary and philosophical texts from Plato to Flannery O’Connor. But what can reading books about horrific events that took place far away, centuries ago or in fiction teach us about evil in our own lives?

“The humanities expose us — often with brutal honesty — to vocabularies and insights adequate to the complexity of human experience, especially for an age marked by stubborn violence and tempted by reductive simplicity,” said Eric Gregory, professor of religion and chair of the Humanities Council. “Reading and arguing about works of literature or philosophy, especially when historically or culturally distant, allow us to read ourselves and take creative responsibility for those deepest commitments which give shape to our lives.”

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