Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Question of Conscientious Citizenship (Gen Ed 1142)





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Brandon Terry

What does it mean to be a conscientious citizen? What are our responsibilities as civic-minded, morally-engaged members of overlapping communities? This course seeks to answer such questions by exploring the ethical, religious, and political thought of arguably the greatest public intellectual and activist that the United States ever produced, Martin Luther King, Jr. In interrogating King’s body of public philosophy, as well as its leading critics and interpreters, we will pursue a body of questions that remain essential to thinking through the problems of citizenship in the current age. Students will debate: How should we think about the tensions between conscience and community? How ought we think about the alignment of moral ends with practical and political means (e.g., violence, law, civil disobedience, coercion, revolution, rebellion, etc.)? Is there room for public profession of faith in political discourse or is it a conversation stopper? Lastly, given the persistence of evil and injustice, can suffering in service of justice be redemptive or does such hope simply reify the structures of injustice?

See also: Ethics & Civics