|Semester and Year||SP 2013|
|Time||2:00 PM - 3:15 PM|
Open to Gallatin first-year students only.
The concept of mens rea or criminal intent is a relatively new legal innovation, dating from the Middle Ages. Why did jurists and philosophers begin to recognize the mind, and specifically intent, as an important site of transgression? And how did this revolution in theories of morality shift the focus away from action in order to promote theories of innocence or guilt based on intent? By reading Augustine and Abelard as well as ancient legal codes, we study the origins of the creation of a moral self that was based on the mind, as opposed to observable actions. The poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer offers an important example of how writers of the period used the idea of individual intent to develop literary character and to represent human subjectivity. Medieval plays that represent the thought crimes of Satan also provide a platform for thinking about intention and religious or intellectual dissent. We also explore how studying the roots of these concepts can help us understand the modern world. We examine, for example, the related problems of just intent in just war theory from its medieval origins to its presence in current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. We read recent literary works by authors such as Junot Díaz and Alice Munro as a way to study intention as both a problematic and a defining element of culpability and the moral self. Finally, modern theories of intention and morality from philosophers and neuroscientists offer additional theoretical lenses for analyzing the semester’s readings. These topics form the basis for several short writing assignments and a major research paper.
First-Year Program: Research Seminars (FIRST-UG)