Just finished my application for a special course next semester as part of the “President’s Dream” Colloquium which is available to the public as a lecture series, but can also be turned into a grad course. This is a new project of the university that promises top-calibre lectures every two weeks on a given theme. Winter 2013 theme? “Justice Beyond National Boundaries“. But if I don’t get into that, I’m looking at a philosophical history of science course instead – so either way I am on my way to getting myself enrolled in my next course, even as I struggle with my current one.
While I really enjoy the professor in my program this semester, I am having a lot of trouble hanging the readings together into any semblance of order. While they all touch on “Self and Society” (the title of the course), I am having a difficult time seeing the connection of one work to the next. And the classroom discussions are somewhat stilted – I think partly as a result of this.
I think rather than use a bunch of the course texts for my final project, I will end up using only two and pick some others from my own reading outside of class. In particular I would like to examine some questions around human nature including:
- Is human nature flexible or fixed?
- What does a fixed human nature imply about our ability to change our social/political/environmental future?
- Is the conception of a fixed human nature pessimistic?
- Whose political and social interests are served by the various perspectives on human nature?
Which are some fairly large questions for only fifteen to twenty pages – I know. What I’m hoping to be able to do is use the writing of Rousseau (First and Second Discourse), David Sprintzen (Critique of Western Philosophy), EO Wilson (The Social Conquest of Earth) and Francis Fukuyama (Our Posthuman Future) as perspectives into the ideological bias behind various human nature propositions and how those are used to fuel our social narratives. (In the simplest terms: whether we believe that humans are predominantly selfish or co-operative by nature is going to shape our basic governing principles, and I would questions the sources who historically and currently have influenced this particular story arc).
Next week at the ranch I plan to do some reading, thinking and (hopefully) writing towards my final project while Brian goes out hunting. I need the break in order to be able to focus a bit, since class sessions just aren’t getting me anywhere intellectually at the moment.