Visions of Freedom: Genetics, God, and Grandeur -- Explanations of Political Belief and Behavior

HOUSECS 59.18

Fall 2018

Mondays, 6:00 - 7:15 pm, Edens 1A, 100

We can group many of the questions political science deals with into two categories -- questions that ask what will happen and questions that ask why something will happen. As heavily quantitative methods and machine learning’s black boxes carve out a greater and greater space in the discipline of political science, more and more of our questions will ask what; statistical analysis is very good at predicting the future, though it can’t explain how we will get there. This course will try to offer some balance insofar as it emphasizes the latter line of inquiry and asks why we hold the beliefs we do. There are dozens of potentially meritorious answers to this question, but we will focus on three possibilities: evolutionary psychology; religious institutions; and existential freedom. “Are the rules that guide our ethics and actions written in our blood?” “Are they impressed upon us by the moral communities in which we are placed?” “Can we choose them for ourselves?” and “To what extent do these theories complement each other?” -- these lines of inquiry will guide us. After two months of exploration into answers about “why?” we will revisit the more commonly walked paths of politics. For the final month of classes students will opt into either a book club (reading the classic of American political fiction All the King’s Men) or a four week policy review (taking a deep dive into family and child custody issues), where they will have the opportunity to apply the theories of motivation for political action we discuss in the first two months to understand the issue at hand.

Instructor(s): 
  • David Frisch, df100@duke.edu
  • Jackson Dellinger, jackson.dellinger@duke.edu
Sponsor/Department: 
  • Nora Hanagan, Political Science
Class Limit: 
32