Fall 2007

Introduction to Religious Ethics

Listed in: Religion, as RELI-52


Frederick V. Simmons (Section 01)


An inquiry into the nature, method, and purpose of religious ethics through examination of principal Western positions as developed in the Christian tradition. Investigation of the relationship of religion to ethics, the sources of moral authority, the goals that constitute the good life, and the implications of conclusions about each topic for the other two structures the course. Readings, discussion, and papers seek to facilitate appreciation of foundational works in religious ethics and foster skills of moral reasoning. Authors considered include Plato, Augustine, Thomas, Luther, Calvin, Kant, Kierkegaard, Sidgwick, Barth, and Yoder. Limited to 25 students. First semester. Visiting Lecturer Simmons.

Barth reading guideline 10-23

I failed to mention in class earlier this afternoon that more technical passages periodically appear in Karl Barth’s _Church Dogmatics_.   Barth and the publisher signal such passages with a smaller font.  Consider these passages optional—they often provide historical support for Barth’s assertions, and afford Barth a chance to comment on the writings of influential figures in the tradition—yet are not indispensable to comprehension of the conclusions Barth propounds.  To be sure, Barth needs the material he presents in such passages if his pronouncements are to be conclusions of arguments / interpretations, rather than merely assertion, but those arguments / interpretations are of secondary importance for our purposes.  We shall focus on the substance of Barth’s position next week rather than its soundness, and hence comprehension of the large font will be sufficient for our discussion.  Should you elect to write on Barth at the end of this unit, however, you will be concerned with both substance and soundness, and would then need to engage the small font as well as the large.  Nevertheless, since that choice is up to you, whether you ought to read the small font passages is too.