PHIL 174C - On What Is Intolerable

Moral and political philosophy often focuses on ideals we should aspire to and principles we should follow. Yet individuals and societies almost invariably fall short of these ideals and principles. Unless you are a fundamentalist or a relentless perfectionist, you tolerate these failures. That is, you tolerate them to a point. This point will be the topic of our course: how badly may we fail? How far short of the ideal is too far? We will be concerned with that which is not merely bad, unjustified, wrong, or unjust, but which is intolerably so. Examples include: intolerable injustice, rotten compromises, unconscionable contracts, dirty hands, unjust wars, personal failures, grief, desperation, betrayal, and humiliation. Just as important, we will ask: how should we respond to the intolerable? Should intolerably unjust political institutions be met with disobedience, or perhaps rebellion? When we emerge from grief to continue with our lives, do we thereby accept our loss as tolerable? Can we ever forgive without forgetting the severity of the wrong done to us and the harm we suffered? We will draw on thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Du Bois, and Baldwin, as well as contemporary moral and political philosophers, such as John Rawls, Thomas Nagel, Bernard Williams, Alexander Nehamas, Jonathan Lear, and others.
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