H A&S 397
Special courses drawn from interdisciplinary groups in the social sciences. Content varies.
"The world we have made as a result of the level of the thinking we have done thus far creates problems that we cannot solve at the same level (of consciousness) at which we have created them…We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humankind is to survive.” (Albert Einstein)
There is an emerging and shared awareness in many disciplines that a global shift is occurring in Western ideas about consciousness and the nature of physical reality. Some of this shift is due to recent scientific discoveries and technological innovations, some to a growing appreciation and acceptance of epistemological pluralism, and some to a growing repertoire of stories about extraordinary personal experiences. This course will explore this shift through questions such as: What is consciousness? How effectively can consciousness be explained within western scientific and philosophical perspectives? Is consciousness dependent on, independent of, or interdependent with the known physical universe? Do animals have consciousness? Do plants? What do personal experiences and different psychological states tell us about the plasticity and range of consciousness?
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Seminars led by professor, teaching assistants, and groups of students; class discussion, small group presentations.
Many of the ideas we’ll be exploring in this class are controversial and will likely challenge some of your deepest beliefs. To be successful, students must bring – and keep – an open mind, an attitude of respect, cooperation, and respect for each other, and a passion for inquiry. This class is a learning community for which each participant is responsible. You must be willing to challenge yourself to think in new ways and be open to perspectives that might be unfamiliar or uncomfortable. And you must help to create a safe environment in which everyone is encouraged to participate and learn.
Class assignments and grading
Four interconnected and critical practices will be used: reading, discussion, writing, and oral presentation:
• Reading: Written materials will introduce students to scholarship about consciousness and ideas about reality. Please give them your careful, thoughtful attention and take notes so that you can write intelligent, reasoned response papers and participate in lively, intellectually stimulating classroom conversations.
* Writing: 5 response papers (3 pages each, typed, double-spaced, 12 point font) [10 points each]. A response paper is an analytical assignment, meant to help you think deeply about the issues we’ve been studying and engage the readings in a dialogue, synthesis, and/or critical analysis around a specific theme or question of your choosing. It is not a paper about your feelings – although each paper will reflect your unique personality and intellectual position in regard to the issues. Use citations; be detailed and specific. Avoid generalizations and do not silence a text.
Make sure you comply with the length requirement. 3 pages is the minimum, although you may write more. Fewer pages detract from your grade, as do grammatical errors, poor sentence structure, and poor organization. Triple spacing or large font size will also result in a lower grade.
Use inclusive language: gendered pronouns and words to designate the universal human are not acceptable in any writing style (MLA, Chicago, APA, etc.). Use exclusive language only when you’re referring specifically to males or females.
Do not proselytize or use any material other than the reading assignment.
• Writing: Final Essay (10 pages, typed, double-spaced, 12 point font) [20 points]. This essay is more personal and creative than the response papers. I want to know what you think about the material and issues we have read, discussed, and pondered this quarter. And I want to know how you’ve grown. There are many ways to approach this task: you can keep a journal of your reactions throughout the class and write about them; you can write about your project, why you chose it, what you learned; you can argue (respectfully and knowledgeably) with any or all of the authors about specific issues or theories; you can consider consciousness from the perspective of your major or discipline or vocational plans. The important point is to think, reflect, ponder, and perceive.
• Discussion: [5 Points]: Your reading should prepare you to participate in a stimulating, productive exchange of ideas. Please come to class prepared to discuss specific questions, problems, and/or ideas that were raised by the readings, and to listen actively and respectfully to other students.
• Discussion Leadership [10 points]: Because this is an inquiry based course, a different team of students will be responsible for leading the discussion for the first hour of most class sessions. In preparing for discussion, students should isolate passages from the day’s reading that summarize the main points of the argument and prepare questions or exercises that will that generate class participation and a thought-provoking conversation.
• Small Group Project and Presentations [15 points]: This assignment asks you to work in groups of 4 students and observe something about consciousness in your world. Teach us something interesting!! Each group will present its findings in a half-hour session in class. The purpose of this assignment is to bring more breadth into our consideration of consciousness, and to give you the chance to work on your public speaking skills.
Grading: I will use the following criteria to grade your written and oral work: • Excellent (9-10 points): Your written and verbal responses to the readings are focused, analytical, and insightful. Your ideas are thoughtful and stimulating and you integrate detail from the readings into your written work and class participation. You engage and stimulate the ideas of others in class discussion, and you listen well and actively. • Very Good (7-8 points): Your written and verbal efforts are thoughtful and probing and you take the assignments seriously. You are open to the ideas of others and participate actively and attentively in class. Your writing is clear but more attention needs to be paid to grammar, internal structure, and/or textual details. • Good (5-6 points): Your responses show some integration of the material with some evidence of probing and intellectual exchange with the readings. You participate regularly and occasionally move the conversation forward. Your written work is adequate but needs more attention paid to grammar, internal structure, and/or details from the texts. • Fair (3-4 points): You show some engagement with the readings, but your interaction with them is superficial. Your major strategy is to recap or list the ideas, but occasionally you contribute an original or analytical idea. You listen passively rather than actively to other students, or you dominate the conversation and don’t listen well. Your written work needs improvement, either because it is shallow, poorly constructed, and/or silences the text. • Poor [1-2 points]: You show little real engagement with the readings and the class. . Your writing and participation lack detail and are shallow, trivial, or disrespectful of the texts or opinions of other students. • No credit [0 points]. You don’t participate in discussion; you fail to turn in a paper.
To determine your final grade for the class, add up the total number of points and divide by 25