What is it about Earth that enables life to thrive? This question was reinvigorated with the 2016 ground-breaking discovery of a habitable planet around the nearest star, Proxima Centauri. A decade of exploration confirmed that such planets are common in our galaxy, and the commonality of habitable planets has raised anew some age-old questions: Where do we come from? What is it to be human? Where are we going? Are we alone in the universe?... Read more about Life as a Planetary Phenomenon (Gen Ed 1070)
This course explores classical and contemporary theories of justice and applies them to the ethical issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example: Should we be willing to accept a certain number of deaths to re-open economic activity? Should the state use surveillance tracking of citizens to enforce social distancing? Is it wrong to pay people to submit to certain risks, such as testing new vaccines? What, if anything, does the experience of the pandemic suggest about how our economy and society should be organized?
What one thing is changing everything in your lifetime—and for generations to come? It’s changing what you eat; it’s changing buildings you live in; and it’s changing politics, the arts, and finance. The change is accelerating. This course reveals fundamental alterations that climate disruption is bringing to multiple human activities and natural phenomena.... Read more about Climate Crossroads (Gen Ed 1167)
Who do we mean when we say “we?” How does a society deal with religious, ethical, and cultural diversity? What challenges do we face as people of different communities encounter one another in cities and public institutions, schools and businesses, neighborhoods and families? These are urgent questions in many nations today, but in this course we focus on the United States.... Read more about Pluralism: Case Studies in American Diversity (Gen Ed 1166)
Recent political upheavals in several of the world’s established democracies have sparked discussions about dissent and disobedience not seen since the 1960s. When, if ever, are citizens in a democracy justified in breaking the law to protest or resist what they believe to be bad, unjust, or illegitimate laws or policies?... Read more about Dissent and Disobedience in Democracies (Gen Ed 1035)
“It’s a sad tale, it’s a tragedy / It’s a sad song…. We’re gonna sing it anyway.” So sings Hermes at the start of Hadestown, the hit broadway show that deals with capitalism, demagoguery, borders, and climate change. Based on the ancient artform of tragedy, this musical provokes its audiences to reflect on very modern concerns; it also, as the show’s creator Anaïs Mitchell says, “lets us cry.”... Read more about Tragedy Today (Gen Ed 1168)
Many of us have good reasons for doing this or that, choosing this path over another, etc. But is there a point, is there significance to your life as a whole? That is the question about the “meaning of life.” Though the question is notoriously hard to make precise, it has animated much literature and art, and also much philosophy.... Read more about The Meaning of Life (Gen Ed 1163)
Stress is a universal human experience. What is stress and why do we experience it? How does stress influence our emotions and the way we think and behave? What are common causes of stress in our modern world? What are the consequences of stress for our health and well-being? Why are some people more vulnerable to developing stress-related illnesses than others? And perhaps most importantly – what are the most effective strategies for coping with stress?