Lesson 1) The Darkest of Arts

This is your last year in Defense Against the Dark Arts. Looking out at all of you, some of you have made leaps and bounds in your magical prowess. Others of you are lucky to have made it this far. If you fall into the latter category, you have this last year to whip yourselves into shape, and this year it will be exceptionally difficult. Thus far, we’ve dealt with dangers that have a wide range of difficulty, but none of them go as deep as the forces we will be covering this year. These creatures and forces violate our humanity to its very core. And it is through that lens that we will shape our approach this terms: what it means to violate our humanity. I will not cover my expectations nor my policies. You’re seventh years, you should know them by now. With that said, here’s our general outline for the year.

Lesson

Title

Content

1

Introduction to the Darkest Arts

  • Introduction to Human Rights
  • Introduction to Natural Laws

2

Dark Spells, Part One

  • Longstanding Curses

3

Dark Spells, Part Two

  • The Unforgivable Curses

4

Dark Creatures, Part One

  • Basilisks
  • Manticores
  • Chimeras

5

Dark Creatures, Part Two

  • Dragons
  • Lethifolds

6

Dark Artefacts

  • Hand of Glory
  • Blood Quill
  • Horcruxes

7

Dark Potions

  • Poisons
  • (Other types of potions)

8

Dark Practices, Part One

  • Possession
  • Necromancy/Inferi

9

Dark Practices, Part Two

  • Rituals


As you may have noticed, some of these topics are evil to the extent of corrupting the soul; most of these you will only ever have heard of without ever seeing them. For your sake, I hope you will never encounter anything we talk about this year. However, I think it is important that you are aware of them and know how to counter them. The Ministry and I are not in complete agreement, but I have politely told them where they can place their opinions. You need to be prepared for the worst of the worst if you expect to survive in the field.

This lesson, as you can see, will be an introduction to both human rights and natural laws, both of which will play an important role this term. These two ideas will be our central focus around which we discuss this term’s topics. Our lessons will give overviews of what each topic is, and then delve into how it violates a human right or a natural law as much as is possible.

Human Rights
One of the challenges we face when discussing human rights is that the term has become widely used to address many potentially unrelated topics. There has also been a historical lack of clarity about what constitutes an implementation of human rights; some cases have had both sides lay claims to their actions being within the scope of human rights. Then there are those who claim that their human rights have been violated for any reason. This leads to legal battles that can take years. For the sake of this class, I will do my best to provide a clear understanding of what constitutes a human right and, more importantly, how we will be thinking about them this year.

The first, and most important, point to understand is that the term “human rights” does not equate with every possible right that a human being might have. If that were to be the case, the list of human rights would become extensive to the point of being meaningless. The rights that we will be covering throughout this course are considered to be a special type of right that should, and does (by law), belong to every individual on Earth and should not be confused with other rights. For example, the United States Constitution provides the citizens of that country with the right to bear arms. This is not considered a basic human right, as the right to carry weaponry has no impact on a person’s ability to live their life; many people live perfectly happy lives without ever once touching a firearm.

For the purpose of this class, we will exclusively be referring to the current piece of legislation that dictates the rights of every human on the planet: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This piece of legislation, approved by the United Nations in 1948, sets the current guidelines that dictate what is considered to be a human right. These rights even apply to magical people, as there was magical representation in the discussion, not only Muggles. I expect you all to be at least familiar with the rights outlined in the Declaration. While you do not need to have it memorized, I will be referencing it throughout the course and will expect you to generally understand the references.

I understand that this description may not provide as much clarity as you may have hoped for. Hopefully as we progress through the term and get into more specifics about the individual rights outlined in the Universal Declaration, they will start to become more clear. That said, do not be discouraged if this continues to be a difficult topic. They are meant to be difficult, and it takes a lot of thought, and many years, to thoroughly understand them. Please do not hesitate to reach out for further discussion if you find the human rights topic to be a continued point of contention for you this term.

Natural Law
While we see that the term “human rights” is vague and can have many unclear implications, the term “natural law” comes with many very specific types of implications. There are several different types of natural laws, such as divine natural law, civil natural law, natural law theories of ethics, and so forth. I will provide several readings for you so that you may choose to explore the complexities of the various tenets of natural law. As with human rights, I will only be providing you with the overview through which we will be analyzing the Darkest of Arts that we will be exploring this term. This proves to be much more of a philosophical exercise, as there are many questions to be considered.

The overarching idea, when the first natural law was presented, is that good should be done and evil should be avoided. This gets quickly muddled when people begin to question what is “evil” or “bad”? There have been a great many philosophers who have attempted to answer this question. As this is not the main purpose of our content, I will not be dedicating space to explaining this moral conundrum, but will refer you, as a starting place, to the works of Plato and Aristotle in order to start developing a sense of what it means to be morally good. However, this basic tenet does not at all address everything we need. Fortunately, many people have further developed what the natural laws are.

Several theorists added that, if we presume that there is “good” and “evil,” then there must be basic righteousness that must be associated with good and evil, so as to accurately reflect how one might determine what is good and evil. These goods are established as the basic assets a human should have, and any attempt to remove these from a person is to be considered an act of evil. One of the first theorists who proposed a list of basic goods is a Muggle philosopher named Finnis in the 1980s, who said that ‘items’ such as “life, knowledge, aesthetic appreciation, play, friendship, practical reasonableness, and religion” (“The Natural Law Tradition in Ethics”) are included in what are considered “basic goods.” Do not confuse these natural laws and goods with human rights; while they share many similar properties, they are not the same idea. 

Human Rights, Natural Laws, and the Dark Arts
By now I am sure that you all are wondering exactly how these ideas relate to the Dark Arts. If you recall back to your first year in this course, in your very first lesson, I defined the Dark Arts as “a blanket term that covers anything that has the intent to harm, injure, or even kill another person.” At that time, we did not further explore the implications that came with that intent to harm, injure, or kill. Now, as Seventh Year students, I am expecting you to fully consider the moral and ethical implications of the content we are studying. Due to the nature of many of these topics, it happens that many are violations of human rights, as well as violations of certain theories of natural law.

Most importantly, I want you to understand the ethics behind all forms of the Dark Arts, from jinxes to curses, and everything in between. The lenses of human right and natural law theory will provide you with an even deeper understanding of what it is you are doing every time you cast a spell classified as a jinx, hex, or curse, or otherwise using magic considered to be Dark. All of the magic in this category takes away from these rights in some way; the extent to which these natural laws and human rights are violated is part of the criteria to determined how Dark magic is classified.

In this lesson, it is my goal to provide you with the foundations of each of these concepts. We will delve further into them as necessary when we begin covering the topics that violate these concepts. For now, it is my hope that the information presented here has already started drawing some connections to previous lessons. If not, you had better start considering them, as it will be part of your assignment for the lesson.

Conclusion
I know there have been a lot of vagueness and a lack of clarity in today’s lesson. I hope that, as we progress, some of these concepts will become clearer, or at least less fuzzy, to each of you. If at any point you have trouble following the lectures, you are more than welcome to contact me to ask for further clarification. I am happy to discuss these topics with you at further length, so long as it is within our framework for this term.

Until next lesson.

Mandatory Reading
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Additional Resources
Clapham, Andrew. Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press, 2007.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Natural Laws
The Natural Law Tradition in Ethics

In this final course for Defense Against the Dark Arts, we will be exploring the worst aspects of the Dark Arts. Using the lens of human rights, we will be looking at the most evil Dark Arts, exploring why they violate basic human rights, and how to defend ourselves against them if it is at all possible. This will be the most rigorous term in Defense Against the Dark Arts, so do not enter the classroom lightly or with a faint heart.
Course Prerequisites:
  • DADA-601

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