Course Description Archive 06 - 07

First-Year Seminar Descriptions, 2006-2007

FIRST-YEAR PRECEPTORIAL (In Alphabetical Order)

 

1. Beauty:  In the Eye of the Beholder and Beyond – Mar - W

 

What is beauty?  Is it an important, even essential, value in human lives?  Or is it only a peripheral value in today’s world, superficial, perhaps even destructive?   Do ideals of beauty lead us to truth, goodness, and justice?  Or do they lead to the opposite?  The idea of beauty has been discussed by philosophers, artists, scientists, and ordinary people throughout the ages.  In recent years, after a period when beauty was attacked as elitist and irrelevant as an academic topic, the idea and ideal have been revived.  In this Precept class we will examine the idea of beauty, an idea we may each understand in our own way, by looking at some of the changes the idea has gone through historically and at some variations in its meaning through the lenses of different disciplines.  Through studying both fiction and non-fiction texts that comment on the idea of beauty, our goal will be to end the course with a broader, deeper, more complex understanding of what beauty can mean.  Readings may include Ovid, Hawthorne, Balzac, Wilde, Morrison, Browning, Ann Patchett, and Elaine Scarry.  

 

2. Borderlands:  Literature and Culture of the U.S./Mexico Border – C. Romero - W


In this course we will explore the literature, politics, and culture of the US/Mexico border. We will examine what it means to be an “American” and how the policing and cultural mixing of our national borders complicates our individual and national identities.  We will discuss citizenship and assimilation, border-crossing, drug trafficking, politics and immigration post-9/11, NAFTA, bilingual education, and the clash of cultural, religious, and racial differences at the border.  We will read texts from a variety of cultural and political perspectives, including Gloria Anzaldua, Samuel Huntington, Leslie Silko, Richard Rodriquez, and others.  We will also examine films such as Traffic, Lone Star and El Norte.

 

3. Conflict and Conformity- J. Sargent – F&W

       

Freud identified three sources of human misery:    misery resulting from natural disaster, from the frailty of the human body, and from the failure of humans to regulate their affairs with other humans in a satisfactory manner.   We will read several books that  provide strikingly different perspectives on the last two problems by weighing the relative merits of conflict and conformity.  An old classic and a new one, George Orwell's Animal Farm and Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickled and Dimed,  look at the possibility and difficulty of  eradicating ingrained social and economic barriers.  Ray Bradbury'sFahrenheit 451 and Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death each consider what happens to societies that focus on minimizing conflict and cater to group pleasure and entertainment.  In Brave New World,  Aldous Huxley imagines a world in which science has eradicated as many sources of human pain, conflict, and unhappiness as it can, and he seems to ask if we are ready for such a pleasure-filled utopia.  Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake creates a society not unlike our own in which genetic engineering holds sway and watches it collide with the exigencies of human nature.  We will consider whether conflict,  suffering, and economic inequality are inevitable; whether it is possible to create an egalitarian society; the nature of happiness;  whether conformity leads to happiness; whether uniformity is the price of happiness; the role of technology in promoting happiness; whether human nature is an obstacle to happiness.

 

4. Freedom on Trial - Baum -F

 

This course will examine several famous trials - three historical, two fictional - where issues of personal conscience or individual integrity clashed with the requirements of society or the State. Course readings include the Apology by Plato, Galileo's On Two World Systems and the Inquisition's response, two texts on the Scopes Trial - A Summer for the Gods and Inherit the Wind -  Kafka's, The Trial, and Dostoevsky's "The Grand Inquisitor." The course focuses on the various styles of argumentation and rules of evidence governing these diverse trials, as well as consider the principles of personal freedom and social responsibility that arise.

 

5. From Wilderness to Community _ Patrik - W

 

In the deserts, forests and mountains of the earth, people have lived close to nature, far from the pressures of civilization. Expressing their experiences in religious writings, poetry, art and philosophy, some thinkers have found wilderness to be challenging, yet also the source of insights unattainable in urban life. How can such insights be used to shape communities that respect nature while they build cultural forms such as hospitals, schools and art? Can the wisdom won in the wilderness be translated into shared, humanistic knowledge? This course includes the following readings: Desert Wisdom: Sacred Middle Eastern Writings by Neil Douglas, The Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder, The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, The Search for Common Ground by Howard Thurman, Civilization and its Discontents by Sigmund Freud, and Culture and Commitment by Margaret Mead.   

 

6. Gender, Race, and Sexuality _ Doyle - F


Are men  "naturally" more violent than women?  Is there any scientific basis for the idea of racial superiority?  What happens to a child  raised by gay parents? These questions and  others like them occur when we try to draw the line between human behavior that  is "natural" and that which is culturally acquired.   In this class, we will  track the ways in which ideas about what is "natural" have been used over the  centuries to justify Western cultural beliefs and practices.  As we explore the history of ideas about gender, race, and sexuality, we will be particularly  interested in the influence of philosophical and scientific ideas about  what is "natural" on the legal and social practices that regulate our behavior.   

 

7. Goodness, Happiness and Truth- Benack - F

 

We will spend the term looking at several different ways of thinking about three central ideals toward which (I propose) human beings strive: goodness, happiness, and truth.  Presumably, we all want to be good, happy, and believe what is true --- and avoid being bad, unhappy, and believing in falsities.  Different people, and different cultures, however, give quite different understandings of the nature of goodness, happiness and truth, and different advice on how to achieve them.  Does being good make you happy, or is it easier to reach happiness by throwing off moral restrictions?  Is there any objective moral truth, and, if not, why be moral? Are these ideals real or, as some claim, are they illusions, which serve only to enslave us. We will examine how some key philosophers, political theorists, and psychologists have answered these questions (e.g., Freud, Plato, postmodernists, Buddhism, evolutionary psychology). For each ideal, we will examine what might be built into our biology (human nature) and also the influence of social organization (culture) on our conceptions of goodness, happiness and truth.

 

8 . Globalization and Culture- Pizzino -F

 

Globalization -- the spread and intensification of worldwide social, political and economic relationships -- has generated unprecedented interdependence among citizens, governments and economies throughout our world. The disparate impact of globalization’s forces on whole cultures as well as individual citizens is the focus of this course.   As Benjamin Barber writes in Jihad vs. McWorld, one of the books we will read in the course, a critical examination of how cultures and citizens outside capitalist markets view globalization as an intrusion into their way of life is crucial in understanding the violent resistance in some parts of the world we see today.  Just as important is a critical look at how globalization has impacted the goals and priorities of western cultures as well as individual citizens within them in profoundly social and psychological ways.

 

9. History and Philosophy of Psychiatric Disease- Singy - F

 

You often feel sad – do you suffer from depression?  You are obsessed with not eating too much – are you anorexic?  You cannot concentrate – do you suffer from ADD?  Starting in the nineteenth century, these questions and others have become increasingly more relevant in the Western world.  Whether it is from the mouth of Dr. Phil or from the pages of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), we are told that the answers to most of our existential questions lie in our psyche.  This course will explore historically and philosophically how we have come to think about ourselves in psychiatric terms.  After a brief general introduction on the history of psychiatry, we will focus on a select number of psychiatric diseases and trace how the history of each involved a combination of conceptual, cultural and social factors.  The course will debate the proposition that these diseases are historically constructed.  

 

10.  Ideas and Culture of the 18th and 19th Centuries- MacDonald-F

This course will survey and discuss some of the major intellectual and cultural movements  of the 18th and 19th centuries.  We will read from and about 18th century Enlightenment philosophy, music, science and culture; move into early 19th-century Romanticism, with a focus on the artist as hero and loner; consider the rise of 19th-century social thought and changing ideas about religion; and we will consider the rise of science in matters of social and religious writing.  Authors will include Locke, Diderot, Franklin, Byron, Shelly, Blake, Feuerbach, Marx, Darwin, Freud, and Veblen.

 

11. Initiations: Discoveries of the Self, Society and the Sacred- Selley – F&W

         PRIVATE

How do we come to know who we are and what we believe?  How do our families affect our boundaries--what we will and will not do? What does "family" mean? What are the events, both subtle and ritualized, that initiate us into the many societies into which we are born or with which we eventually have significant contact? What does "reality" mean, and how do we construct and determine our own realities based on perceptions of self, society and the sacred (and/or the profane)?

We will explore the development of selfhood and of familial and social relationships in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, sacred texts, and film. Approximately three weeks of the course will be devoted to exploring relationships between the human and the spiritual/ divine, as seen in the Bible, sacred Native-American texts, and other works. The film The Matrix and will be considered in relation to Buddhism and Christianity. The Japanese anime Spirited Away will be discussed in the context of the Shinto religion.  Possible texts include: Handouts of poetry; Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"; Kafka, "The Metamorphosis"; Morrison, The Bluest Eye (or another of her novels); Sophocles, Oedipus the King(trans. Robert Fagles, Penguin Classics); Barrett, Servants of the Map; Vea, Gods Go Begging; Alter, ed., Genesis (Norton); The Gospel According to Saint Matthew (King James Version); and Pima (Native American) Stories of the Creation.

 

 12. Literature and Environment-Lynes-F&W

 

This course will focus on the intersections of human cultures and environment, with an emphasis on the social and cultural dynamics of the environment and environmental action.  Some questions we will consider in the course:  What are the ethical questions that we pose and wrestle with as we interact with and within our environment? What is the place of literature in community, literacy, and environmental activism?  To what extent does place matter in our conceptions of what nature is? What are the connections between race, class, and environmental degradation and environmental activism? How does gender enter into the nexus of social interactions that shape our environment?  We will consider both the concept of “nature” as we consider the concept of human culture.  This course is collaborative in nature, and as such students should bring their interests, curiosities, and discoveries to add to the mix. A partial list of readings include those by Terry Tempest Williams, Barbara Kingsolver, Evelyn White, bell hooks, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Luther Standing Bear, Running-Grass, Simon Ortiz, Ana Castillo, Amitav Ghosh, Wangari Maathai. 

13. Living Theory: Of Self and Other-Mosquera-F

 

In this course we will utilize cultural theory, literature, and film as pretexts to inquire about notions of selfhood and citizenship. We will engage long-established and alternative ideas related to cultures, gender, race/ethnic and sexual formation in stories of cultural identity. By exploring the formation of such images and beliefs and by confronting their historical incidence, we seek to assemble a critical language useful in grasping the informal and formal actions that shape our knowledge. We will focus mostly on a book titled “The Theory

Toolbox: Critical Concepts for the Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences.”

We will also read memoirs, ethnographic and/or fictional accounts, read newspaper clips, and view films (documentaries and dramas) that challenge our personal views of identity and social meaning.

 

14. Music, Place, Metaphor- J.Smith-F

 

In this section of FYP we will examine the use of music as a metaphor for examining the particularities of several cultures.  Books will include Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues, Frederico Garcia Lorca's poems, Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines, Ann Patchett"s Bel Canto,  Semezdin Mehmedinovic's Sarajevo Blues, Ciaran Carson's Last Night's Fun, Gaines' Evening in the Palace of Reason, and Roddy Doyle's The Commitments.  We'll look at the ways in which music may be used to emphasize cultural identities and differences, to make sense of different kinds of personal expression, and to deal with moments of personal and cultural crisis, as well as its influence on the forms authors choose to tell their stories.

 

15. Narrative Gaps-Stevenson-W

 

“Tell a little and he is Hamlet; tell all and he is nothing.”

                                                  W.B. Yeats

 This course studies ‘stories’ where we do not at first sight see them and where we need to imagine them in order to understand significant parts of a given text.  We will look at narrative practice from a variety of viewpoints, discovering how it works perhaps most strongly where important parts of a story are missing.  Student essays will develop interpretive stores as bases of their analytical essays about the following texts: Baghavad Gita; Genesis; Hamlet; 8 Modern Essayists; Beloved;  Wonderful Words…  and Selected Poems by Charles Simic.

 

16. Personal Mythologies – Constructing the Self –Pease-F

 

This preceptorial will center on the exciting though arduous process of human spiritual growth, coming of age, and building an identity.  In the new, globalizing, rapidly changing world, constructing the self is an adventure of inheriting, accumulating, collecting, trying on and keeping or discarding various influences, ideas, and attitudes. Through literary works, music, and films from different countries, we will explore the ways individual humans manage to build their own personal mythologies – narratives that make them who they are. The readings will include works by Andrei Makine, Salman Rushdie, Julio Ramon Ribeyro, Ursula K. Le Guin, Albert Camus, and Haruki Murakami.

 

17. Radical Thinkers (Version A)-Heinegg-W

 

This course surveys the work of some eloquent advocates of ideas that in one way

or another attack the foundations of traditional western culture. We begin with Friedrich Nietzsche, who assaults (among other things) Judeo-Christian theology and ethics, rejects every form of metaphysics, and  substitutes “perspectivism” for eternal truth. Sigmund Freud (another atheist) argues that the price of order and civilization is the purposeful mutilation of our instinctual desires. Peter Singer champions animal liberation, vegetarianism, and voluntary euthanasia, while charging that all excess wealth is criminal. The feminists in Miriam Schneir’s anthology (from Simone de Beauvoir to Susan Faludi) explore the myriad ways men oppress women and offer thorough-going alternatives; Reg Morrison traces all our environmental crises to destructive (and probably irreversible) overreaching by a demented “plague species” (humans).    Christopher Clausen insists that we are living in a “post-cultural” age and mocks the current American obsession with cultural diversity. Finally, Sherwin Nuland debunks the myth of “death with dignity” with a chillingly detailed account of what actually goes on in American hospitals and ICUs. Students will be asked, not to agree with the often jolting and unexpected stands of these “extremists,” but to explain and defend their own views in the light of our authors’ radical insights.

 

18. Radical Thinkers (Version B)-Kuhn-W

 

This course surveys the work of some eloquent advocates of ideas that in one way or another attack the foundations of traditional Western culture.  Our readings will include writers such as Rousseau, who argues that civilization has led not to progress but to the moral debasement of the human species; Friedrich Nietzsche, who assaults (among other things) Judeo-Christian theology and ethics, rejects every form of metaphysics, and substitutes “perspectivism” for eternal truth; Sigmund Freud, who argues that the price of order and civilization is the purposeful mutilation of our instinctual desire; and Karl Marx, who attacks capitalism and calls upon the poor to revolt and establish a communist society.  We will also look at feminist writers, such as Simone de Beauvoir and Susan Faludi, who consider the myriad ways men oppress women and offer thorough-going alternatives; queer theorists such as Judith Butler and Adrienne Rich, who explore heterosexuality as a social construction.  Other writers may include Peter Singer, who champions animal liberation, vegetarianism, and voluntary euthanasia, while charging that all excess wealth is criminal; Reg Morrison, who traces all our environmental crises to destructive (and probably irreversible) overreaching by a demented “plague species” (humans); Christopher Clausen, who insists that we are living in a “post-cultural” age and mocks the current American obsession with cultural diversity; and, Sherwin Nuland, who debunks the myth of “death with dignity” with a chillingly detailed account of what actually goes on in American hospitals and ICUs.  Students will be asked, not to agree with the often jolting and unexpected stands of these “extremists,” but to explain and defend their own views in the light of our authors’ radical insights.

19. Reconsidering Multiculturalism: The City and its Spaces- cancelled
 
In this course, we will use the idea of the city as a means to consider the idea of culture and its spaces. In particular, as we examine different cultural groups, their spaces, and practices, we will consider such issues as:  Are there national cultures? What happens to cultures when they move? Among the many topics considered will be: identity, cultural pluralism, history, space and place, race and ethnicity. Readings will include selections from the following:  Bourgois, In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio; Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities; Margolis,  Little Brazil: An Ethnography of Brazilian Immigrants in New York City; Mills, The Power Elite; Lopate, Writing New York: A Literary Anthology;  Stoller, Money Has No Smell: The Africanization of New York City and more.

20. Squeal Like a Pig, Boy": the Rural Poor and the Middle-Class Imagination-Jenkins-W

 

How the rural elements of American society went from Jefferson's "chosen people" in the early days of the republic and Evans and Agee's "famous men" in the Depression to Cletus the slack-jawed yokel of "The Simpsons" and countless homicidal maniacs in slasher films tells one of the many hidden histories of this country.  We will look at the way the rural poor have been represented and have represented themselves in novels (As I Lay Dying, Huck Finn, The Chaneysville Incident), films (Deliverance, Matewan, Grapes of Wrath), and music (Mississippi John Hurt, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Bill Monroe, Hazel Dickens), as well as in politics (from the Klan to the United Mine Workers), religion (from evangelicals to snake handlers), and art (from Grandma Moses to Grant Wood). Requirements include an open mind and a genuine dedication to improving one's writing skills. 

 

21. The Horror of Writing-Lewin-F

 

The Horror of Writing focuses on reading and writing about Gothic Romance and Horror fiction (I use Horror in the title because it’s catchy).  From the first gothic-horror (Walpole’s Otranto) to modern “classics” of the genre (such as Dracula), we will come to understand how and why these texts “made the cut.”  What makes these works so popular? To whom do they appeal and why?  If fear and its relation to power (and lack thereof) in women is part of the answer to these questions, we will consider why this is so and how we may continue to live in a culture that fosters and then seeks to neutralize its own fears. In order to address the questions above, we will consider critical material from psychology and sociology as well as literary and cultural criticism alongside our primary texts.  In addition to being a forum for discussion, this course is designed to help you improve your reading, writing, and analytical skills and understand what it means to write “a college-level essay.”  We will devote both class time and individual conference sessions to this goal.

 

22. The Other-Thomas-W

 

From birth, we are taught to conform, not to be different.  As a result, we distrust or are fearful of those who are different, who represent “the other.”  This course will examine, through texts by Gide, Balzac, Virginia Woolf, Gogol, and others, some traditional examples of people considered to be different—the artist, the homosexual, women in a male dominated society.  Since we are at Union, we are all the same.  But obviously we were not all raised according to the same norms.  What happens when we have to confront the different in our daily lives?  What happens when we realize that we are different or are forced to be “the other”?  Using texts by some social theorists such as Freud and Foucault, we will examine life at Union today both in terms of difference and conformity.  Ramée’s campus presents a norm to which we should conform.  Our terms abroad program forces us to be outsiders in another society.  How do we exist in this deliberate tension?

 

 23. The Other: A Stranger Among Us ?-Bidoshi-W

 

In this course we will discuss the concept of the "other" by examining several narratives centered upon the protagonist's search for identity.  Invariably authors introduce these quests through the rhetorical device of the stranger.  We will consider the image of the stranger in order to confront the estrangement inherent in family origins, gender and literary acceptance, and the author's unresolved feelings about him(her)self. Frequently the associations of a sense of place are bound together with memory, stasis and nostalgia.  What gives a place a unique flavor is the fact that it is constructed out of a specific arrangement of social and physical relations that intersect at a particular point.  The works selected center on the theme of alienation seen through the eyes of the stranger. We will discuss the function of this trope on three levels - the spatial, temporal and psychological. Of particular interest will be the disturbing 'falling away' from the family or group, and the movement from unity and acceptance to individuality and denial. Through a close reading of works including, but not limited to: Balzac's The Unknown Masterpiece, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Woolf's A Room of One's Own, Camus' The Stranger, Morrison's Song of Solomon and Petrushevskaia's The Time Night, we will seek to understand the way one is able to construct and manipulate his/her own sense of place.

 

24. The Political Novel-McFadden-F

 

Stendahl observed in The Charterhouse of Parma that “politics in a work of literature are like a pistol-shot in the middle of a concert, something loud and vulgar yet a thing to which it is not possible to refuse one’s attention.”  Yet one of the most effective ways to trace and analyze forms of political organization and their impact on individuals is through imaginative fiction.  In the 20th century in particular, novelists have constructed narratives around the great political themes of our time:  communism, fascism, socialism, and democracy.  In this Preceptorial we will read, discuss, and write about novels by Arthur Koestler, George Orwell, Robert Penn Warren, Alan Paton, Mary McCarthy, Graham Greene, Alan Drury, and Richard Condon.  Several excellent films have also been produced based on some of these novels, and we will view and discuss two or three of them.  Appropriate attention will be given to the historical background of the novels.

 

25. The Problematic of Pluralism: Looking at America Through the Lens of Religious Diversity –Boland-F

 

The historian Oscar Handlin wrote that the history of immigration to the United States is the history of the United States.  In the past 40 years, immigration has changed dramatically the religious landscape of the U.S.  For example, there are Islamic centers and mosques and Hindu and Buddhist temples and meditation centers in virtually every major American city.  Today the encounter between people of different religious traditions takes place in our own cities and neighborhoods, not to mention college campuses, including Union.  What do Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism become as they take root in America?  Just as importantly, what does America become as these religions take root here?  Figuring out what “We the people” and E pluribus unum mean are now more complex questions.  In this FYP we will learn about religious diversity in the contemporary American context; grapple with the current American “identity crisis,” i.e., what does it means to be “American,” from a religious perspective; and come to understand the meaning of “pluralism” through the particular lens of religious diversity.  There will be readings on Christianity, Judaism,  Islam, and other faiths and we will see the documentary films Arabs in America, Becoming the Buddha in LAPilgrimage to Pittsburgh, Rebuilding the Temple, A Tale of Two Mosques. In addition there will be field visits to local houses of worship.

 

 26. Time, Identity, and the Self in Society-Singy- W

This course examines works of literature that raise questions of philosophical interest. These include: Is time travel possible?  Does time have a direction?  What is personal identity?  Could the self persist after death?  How is character formed?  What do we value?  Using works ranging from Shakespeare to science fiction, from Aristotle to David Lewis, we will read a broad range of literary and philosophical texts that speak to the themes of the course.

 

27. Utopia-Jain-F

 

Utopia is considered a perfect place in which the problems of society have all been eradicated.  In this class, we will examine the challenges to, and rewards of, imagining utopia and its opposite, dystopia.  Readings will include famous as well as some eclectic writing on the subject, such as Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1514), George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), and the late 20th century environmentalist story Ecotopia (1990).   We will also watch films during the term, including The Matrix (1999) and the international collection Shorts #7:  Utopia (2000). By carefully analyzing the implications of such narratives, we will ask ourselves how imagining utopia aids us in examining our own cultures and communities.  Throughout the term, we will pay close attention to race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, and other types of diversity that are relevant to understanding our topic.

 

28. Water – How It Has Helped and Hindered Civilizations-Jewell-W

 Water is essential to the survival of humans, therefore it is inevitable that water has played a key role in when and where civilizations have developed. How civilizations procure and manage water can have considerable influence over their growth, their consolidation of power, and in some instances their eventual decline. We will explore the importance of water to civilizations such as the ancient Mesopotamians and other peoples of the Fertile Crescent area of the Middle East, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Muslim empire of the middle ages, the British Empire, right up to the modern civilizations in North America and Australia. Readings will come from the works of Archimedes, the Bible and Koran, Leonardo DaVinci, Robert Harris, Patrick O’Brien, Mark Twain, and others. 

 

29. Who Gets What and Why: How Nature, Religion, Brains, Virtue and Social Organization Matter-Lewis-W

 Inequality is a feature of all human societies, but its shape and form vary over time and place.  Why?  To some, inequality is a necessary condition to motivate individuals or the inevitable outcome of differences in talent or environment.  To others it is an injustice that limits potential.  It is justified and vilified by religion, philosophy, the natural and social sciences, and popular writers.  We will look at the circumstances, ideas, and actions that reinforce and undermine equality (or at least are claimed to do so).  We begin with Jared Diamond’s recent book, Guns, Germs, and Steel:  The Fates of Human Societies, which examines the development of different societies over long periods of time on all the continents.  We look at how our perspectives on inequality have been shaped by the sacred texts of four of the world’s great religions by considering excerpts from the Bhagavad-Gita, the Bible, and the Koran.  We consider more recent debates over intelligence with readings from two radically different books, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray, and The Mismeasure of Man, by Stephen Jay Gould. We study Deirdre McCloskey’s article “Bourgeois Virtues and the History of P and S” to consider whether a market system helps to raise living standards of average people only because of attention to the “bottom line.” We examine the perspectives of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (The Communist Manifesto) and novelists John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath) and Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart) on inequality and social organization.  We will use writing and discussion of our readings throughout the class to aid in developing critical thinking and intelligent argumentation.

30. Growth and the Good Life-Foster-F

 

In this course, we will use a variety of readings from philosophy and other disciplines as a basis for reflections on the nature of “the good life.”  We will then explore issues related to growth and the good life from both economic and environmental perspectives.  Some economists point to the dramatic improvements in standard of living made possible by improvements in technology and the operation of free markets as evidence that growth has brought us closer to the good life.  Others question whether improvements in material well being mean that we really are better off.  (Does having more “stuff” mean that we are happier?)  Environmentalists tend to focus on the problems of environmental degradation and natural resource depletion that result from rapid economic growth.  According to this perspective, growth brings us closer to disaster, not closer to the good life.  We will critically examine claims made by both economists and environmentalists, and try to assess what growth implies for the good life in decades to come.