Humanities and Atrocities

Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics 25 (1):219-234 (2005)
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Abstract

FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS I HAVE BEEN TRYING TO UNDERSTAND THE causes and mechanisms involved in human rights atrocities, as well as strategies for preventing or interdicting their occurrence. Although I have focused my attention on social scientific and psychological investigations in an effort to develop an integrated schema or framework that could be applied to particular cases, I launched a faculty seminar at Florida State University and taught correlated courses on crimes against humanity that specifically used humanistic materials in examining such criminal activity. The underlying rationale for this effort stemmed from the charge to the FSU human rights center to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizing the international, comparative, and interdisciplinary aspects of human rights education and drawing on faculty resources throughout the university's schools and departments. In this essay I report on the theme that emerged in the FSU initiative that human rights education could be especially enhanced by engagement with humanistic materials ranging across history, literature, philosophy, and the arts. These materials can raise profound questions, appeal to the imagination and moral sensibilities, and engender critical and creative thinking.

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