“What were they thinking?” It’s what we often ask ourselves when people do something obviously wrong and obviously self-defeating. Examples abound in public life from politicians to financial officers to disgraced leaders of major nonprofits to failed religious leaders. Why do people who ought to know better do the wrong thing and, in many cases, fail to recognize fully what and that they did wrong? Why do people make bad decisions? Can we learn to avoid their mistakes? The answers to these questions are the focus of the course. One theological answer is self-deception that epitomizes the problem of sin. We will look at a variety of specific ways we stumble into self-deception including rationalization, indifference, arrogance, misplaced loyalty and unchallenged organizational/cultural assumptions. A combination of readings from a variety of disciplines (e.g., ethics, theology, cognitive science, organizational leadership, etc.) along with numerous examples (including those of the class participants) will inform lively class discussion as we work together to sharpen our recognition of blinders and consider how to help others and ourselves to avoid them.
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