Fall 2019 Honors Seminars
** To be updated and posted soon. **
Interdisciplinary AREA Seminars
Existential Literature (or, Zen and the Art of Existentialism)
HONR 300A: Humanities
“The freedom of the spirit, o tense emptiness, depends on ruling out any point of support.” --Edmond Jabès
Imagine what the world would look like if all points of support were taken away from you, if you had nothing absolute to fall back on, nothing stable to stand on. How would you respond? Would your reaction be fear or relief? Would this emptiness prod you to act or to feel as though action were futile?
Existentialism is concerned with these questions. It is a way of thinking, a mindset, a positioning, a shared belief that the world has no absolutes, that we create our own meaning. In this course, we are using the term “existentialism” broadly to include those who pre-dated the philosophical movement (historically, this movement is associated most closely with continental Europe during the war years—emerging just after WWI and reaching its heyday in the period preceding, during, and following WWII) and those who are influenced by this movement. We will also be drawing on Zen Buddhism and Taoism to provide a comparative perspective. All of the material that we will be encountering in this class centers on the concrete business of living in a fragile world, a world that no longer seems to have answers. In this class, we will be sorting out what binds these ways of thinking together, what sets them apart, and how they can be applied to this current moment.
Evolution and Human Nature
HONR 300B: Science
The Philosopher Daniel Dennett once called evolution “the single best idea anyone ever had.” If this claim has any merit, then surely evolutionary perspectives can shed light on important questions about human nature in general, and issues like cooperation, aggression, sex and gender, aesthetics, emotion, cognition, moral judgments, and environmental concerns in particular. We will look at current and historical attempts to develop scientific accounts of human nature, and examine their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations. The course offers an opportunity to explore how the “single best idea anyone ever had” can be applied to human nature and important contemporary concerns.
Legacy of the Northern Ireland Conflict
HONR 300C: Social Science
This course examines the historical, political, and social issues concerning Northern Ireland’s quest for peace. Beginning with the partition of Ireland in 1922, the northern six counties of Ireland, or the country of Northern Ireland, has been embroiled in conflict. During the period known as the “Troubles,” from 1969 through 1998, over 3600 people lost their lives because of sectarian violence. In 1994, the paramilitary organizations called for a ceasefire that eventually led to the 1998 Good Friday Belfast Agreement. Still, 21 years after the Agreement’s ratification, some would argue that the peace process has still not been fully realized. This course considers the long-lasting effects of violent conflict on communities and individuals and how those effects may or may not be transformed.