Editor's note: This is part of an occasional series in
which reporters drop in on interesting classes throughout
the university's eight academic divisions.
The course: Free Will and Responsibility. 3
credits. Offered by the
Philosophy in the Krieger School of Arts and
The instructor: Sean Greenberg, an assistant
professor who specializes in early modern philosophy and
has a strong interest in moral psychology. He is currently
researching early modern conceptions of emotions and the
will. His teaching assistant is Marty Moran, a fifth-year
Meeting time: 1 to 4 p.m. on Thursdays, Fall
Syllabus: Are we truly in control of our actions?
Are our decisions really up to us? Students examine views
about what is involved in saying yes to these questions and
about the implications of saying no. They also consider
whether we can be responsible for emotions, dreams and
Course work: In addition to participating actively
in class discussions, students must write two pages each
week on some issue arising in the papers considered during
that week's class meetings. The assignment, worth 10
percent of the semester grade, can be fulfilled by
summarizing a line of argument, analyzing a difficult
passage or criticizing an argument, and it must be handed
in the day before the class during which the material will
be discussed. Students must also write a five-to-seven-page
paper, which is open to a rewrite and worth 40 percent of
the course grade, and a 10-to-12-page final paper that
counts for the remaining 50 percent of the grade.
Required reading: Assignments are drawn almost
exclusively from contemporary journal articles on reserve
at the MSE Library. Texts include Elbow Room: The
Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting by Daniel Dennett
and Free Will, a collection of articles edited by
Overheard in class: "Somebody bowls you over while
walking across the quad. You get upset. Why? Because our
instinctual response is to get mad. You expect people to
watch where they are going because bumping into someone
like that is a violation of normal interpersonal behaviors.
But what might excuse them? If the person says he's sorry,
that he tripped over a bump, then that's not something he
could be responsible for."
— Sean Greenberg
Students say: "Having taken a previous class with
him, I felt that Professor Greenberg's class would be well
worth taking. I was attracted to the class because it
focuses on contemporary debates of free will instead of
taking a more historical approach to the topic. He is an
energetic and dynamic lecturer who engages his students in
thought-provoking discussions about the material. Not only
does he want his students to get a handle on the material,
Professor Greenberg is also committed to helping his
students become better writers and thinkers; he must spend
hours commenting on our weekly response papers. He's
dedicated to improving undergraduate education at Hopkins,
and this alone is reason enough to take his classes."
— Haley Morrisson, 21, a senior philosophy major
from Princeton, Mass.