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The History of Kindness

Semester and Year SU 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1640
Section 001
Instructor Andrew Romig
Time 10:00 AM - 1:30 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, PREMOD


Session I Intensive: May 28 - June 14.


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 Mediterranean world and unfolds slowly over 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 Aeschylus's Oresteia, The Gospel of Matthew, Augustine's Against Faustus, Dhuoda's handbook for her son, Bonaventure's Life of St. Francis, and Voltaire's Treatise on Tolerance. As part of the course, students will also conduct individual studies of how philanthropic organizations define, enact, and organize our notions of "kindness" today.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)