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Why are people so sure?

Many people maintain strongly held beliefs or opinions, even when there is a reasonable possibility that they are wrong with respect to their understanding of the current state of affairs or their prediction of future states. For example, many arguments about politics or policy involve highly complex factual assumptions and predictions. Is Obamacare good or bad? Should we go to war with Iran? Should we reduce the federal deficit sooner or later? Despite the difficulty of assessing the validity of current factual assumptions or forecasting the consequences of any particular decision, many people maintain great confidence in the correctness of their beliefs. Why?nOne explanation, of course, is that beliefs and opinions reflect not only factual judgments but deeply held values as well, and that those values trump facts. But here, again, why are people often so resistant to acknowledging and respecting the values that lead others to their opinions?nIn law school, students learn to make arguments, and, more particularly, to be able to argue even opposing sides of an issue. That facility should sensitize us to the fragility of our opinions, to the complicated mix of fact and value that inform them. Yet does it? Does law school (and legal culture more generally) leave us more respectful of the views of others? Or more entrenched in our own?nIn this discussion group, we will not try to resolve any of these questions, but we will read books that engage these issues in diverse ways. We plan to select four or five books. The following are some possibilities:nJonathan Haidt, The Righteous MindnKathryn Shultz, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error nDaniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow nJonah Lehrer, How We DecidenT. M. Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with GodnHarry Frankfurt, On BullshitnBegin in Autumn Quarter and run through Winter Quarter.nClass meeting dates: To be determined by instructor.nElements used in grading: Class attendance at all sessions and class participation.nDiscussions in Ethical and Professional Values Courses Ranking Form: To apply for this course, 2L, 3L and Advanced Degree students must complete and submit a Ranking Form available on the SLS Registrar's Office website (see Registration and Selection of Classes for Stanford Law Students and then see Consent of Instructor Forms). See Ranking Form for instructions and submission deadline.

2013-2014 Winter
01/06/2014 - 03/10/2014 Thu 7:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Instructors for this course

Ralph Richard Banks
Michael Klausner