EGMT 1530: Making Enemies

Legend has it that as the French atheist Voltaire lay on his deathbed, a priest urged him to denounce Satan. “Now, now, my good man,” Voltaire responded, “this is no time for making enemies.” But who would have been doing the “making”—Voltaire or Satan? This course explores how and why we create, define, and demonize our enemies on multiple scales: the personal, the political, the national—even the internal. How do we decide who or what deserves our distrust and disdain? What motivates or compels us to make this decision in the first place? Are we hardwired to have biases? What purpose do enemies serve? Do they help us forge identities or friendships? Can having enemies be beneficial to living a meaningful life, or does it just feel good? And what should we do with our enemies once we’ve made them? Love them? Persuade them? Ignore them? We’ll explore these questions through multiple disciplinary perspectives, tackling representations of “the enemy” in literature, fine art, and the media; social psychology research on prejudice, enmity, and popularity; the neuroscience of negative and positive emotions; and secular and religious attitudes toward empathy, communication, and love.