Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content

The History of Kindness

Semester and Year FA 2015
Course Number IDSEM-UG1640
Section 001
Instructor Andrew Romig
Days MW
Time 12:30 PM - 1:45 PM
12:00 AM - 12:00 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, PREMOD, EARLY



How have human beings conceived and represented benevolent behavior toward others differently across time and place? In this course, we will explore the history of the concepts, ideals, and behaviors that we associate with the modern English word, "kindness" -- a story that begins in the classical world and unfolds slowly through two millennia into the present day. We will connect ancient debates about human nature, the practice of justice, and moral responsibility, to recent studies concerning the evolutionary biology of altruism (is there a "kindness gene"?), sociological studies of gender difference (is hostility a male trait?), and anthropological studies of how culture regulates conduct. We will study the rise of state-sponsored morality and the ways in which ideals of social welfare have changed over time. Key texts will include Plato's Republic, The Gospel of Matthew, Augustine's City of God, Dhuoda's handbook for her son, Chaucer's Tale of Melibee, Voltaire's Treatise on Tolerance, and Ghandi's The Story of My Experiments with Truth. As part of the course, students will also conduct individual studies of how "kindness" is defined, enacted, and organized throughout the New York metropolitan area today, with the opportunity to combine research with internship work.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)