Social Sciences

100,000 Years of War (Winter)

Ian Morris (Classics)

If you had been born 10,000 years ago, the chance that someone would kill you was more than 1 in 10, but if you were born in the twentieth century AD it was more like 1 in 100, despite that century’s world wars, genocides, and nuclear weapons. In the 2010s, it is just 1 in 150. This course tries to explain this astonishing shift away from violence. We will look at the history of war from the Stone Age to the robot age, including the conflicts of the 2010s; and we will draw on everything from anthropology and archaeology to biology and psychology, as we try to answer one of the biggest questions of all: will there ever be a world without war?  Students learn how to approach a big, complex, and often very politicized question in an analytical manner. 

CANDIDATES should be able to help students to think comparatively and on different geographical and temporal scales, to understand history as an evolutionary process.  For instance, students should learn to see how the experience of living through a particular war can be very different from the long-term effects of war across thousands of years, and to distinguish between studying the motives behind violence and the effects of the use of violence. 

SELECTED COURSE MATERIAL: Douglas Fry, ed., War, Peace, and Human Nature (Oxford 2013); William Golding, Lord of the Flies (London 1954); Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (1651, selections); Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract (1762, selections); Margaret Mead, “Warfare is Only an Invention” (1940); John Keegan, A History of Warfare (New York 1993); Ian Morris, War! What is it Good For? (New York 2014); Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011, selections)

The Cause is Uncertain (Spring)

Mark R. Cullen (School of Medicine), David H. Rehkopf (School of Medicine)

While virtually every death certificate lists a cause of death, what actually caused that death to occur is an unexpectedly more complex question.  This course will focus specifically on causality claims about health and interrogate the methods used to support such claims. At the same time, by focusing on causality claims about health issues—from cholera to breast cancer and AIDS--the course asks how we might come to useful causal knowledge in the absence of being able to perform those manipulations that have been the hallmark of experimental science. 

SELECTED COURSE MATERIAL: Snow, John. On the mode of communication of cholera, John Churchill, 1855; Hitchcock, Christopher, 1993, “A Generalized Probabilistic Theory of Causal Relevance,” Synthese, 97: 335–64; Lewis, David. "Causation." The journal of philosophy 70.17 (1974); Popper, Karl. The Logic of Scientific Discovery; Glass, Thomas A., et al. "Causal inference in public health." Annual review of public health 34 (2013); Greenland, Sander. "An introduction to instrumental variables for epidemiologists." International journal of epidemiology 29.4 (2000) 

CANDIDATES should be able to develop student skills in reading medical literature and philosophy and learning how to explore connections between these two disciplinary areas. 

Candidates should have some background in quantitative skills in the social, physical, or life sciences.  Candidates will also guide students to develop ways to address health policy questions which remain unanswered because of conceptual or empiric or practical limitations. 

Education as Freedom (Autumn)

Lanier Anderson (Philosophy), Dan Edelstein (French & Italian/History),  Kathryn Gin Lum (Religious Studies)

What is college for? In most countries, its goal is professional: college trains students for a career. In the United States, by contrast, college is designed to give students a “liberal education.” From the Latin word for “freedom” (libertas), a liberal education prepares citizens for life in a free society, while also freeing their minds from social conventions. In this course, students explore different accounts of liberal education from classical antiquity up through the present, comparing canonical arguments with contemporary practices. The course considers the importance of liberal education for all areas of study, from STEM to the arts. 

CANDIDATES should be able to help students examine their own educational choices, write reflective essays, and practice arguing for their views on liberal education while respecting those of others. 

SELECTED COURSE MATERIAL: Ta Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me; Michelle Kuo, Reading with Patrick; Lucretius, On the Nature of Things; Montaigne, “On the Education of Children"; Tara Westover, Educated; Martha Nussbaum, Not for Profit

Emotion (Spring)

Chris Bobonich (Philosophy) and James Gross (Psychology)

In this course, we address basic issues about emotions and their place in human life from the perspectives of philosophy and psychology. We ask four fundamental questions: What is emotion? What is the appropriate place for emotions in our lives? How should we manage our emotions? Do emotions threaten the integrity of the agent?  For instance, in asking how we manage our emotions, students will consider the Stoic view that emotions must be extirpated alongside psychological perspectives on the theoretical and empirical frameworks on emotion regulation. 

CANDIDATES should be able to help students in close reading and critical analysis of philosophical texts and arguments, as well as writings on psychology, as well as write papers that speak to each.  They should be able to develop students’ understanding of key philosophical and psychology concepts, as well as the methods distinct to each discipline. 

SELECTED SOURCE MATERIAL: Plato, Republic; Lisa Barrett, “Emotions are real”; Aristotle, Nicomachean ethics; Selections from Xunxi; Selections from Stoic texts; Cicero, Tusculan Disputations; James Gross “Emotion regulation: Current status and future prospects”; Immanuel Kant, Groundwork for the Metaphysic of Morals;  Mark O’Leary, The Curse of Self; J. Knobe, “What Has Experimental Philospohy Discovered about Demographic Effects?”; J. Heinrich, S. Heine, and A. Norenzayam, “Most People are not WEIRD”

Heath Care, Ethics, and Justice (Winter)

David Magnus (School of Medicine)

Is there a right to a basic level of health care?   Are there limits to how much should be spent on health care? How should resources, like human organs, be allocated?  What obligations does the U.S. have regarding health care in resource poor environments, such as underdeveloped nations?

This course will provide students with the tools to address these questions through the theoretical framework of justice and ethics. We will address the question of allocation at the level of health policy and health economics before applying the concepts to the institutional and bedside level.  Using real world examples, students will be asked to actively engage in debating controversial topics such as organ transplants and how to assign scarce ICU beds. Using both empirical data and the framework of ethics, they will consider how a health care committee, or a hospital, or an individual doctor might make decisions.  

CANDIDATES should be able to engage students in debate and help them identify and apply ideas from ethical theory to contemporary problems.  

SELECTED COURSE MATERIAL: John Rawls, selections from Theory of Justice; Jennifer Prah Rugger, selections from Health and Social Justice

Preventing Human Extinction (Spring)

Paul Edwards (Freeman Spogli Institute) and Stephen Luby (Medicine)

99.9% of all species that have ever inhabited the earth are now extinct, yet the subject poses deeply disturbing implications for the only species that can anticipate its own demise. This course will explore several plausible scenarios by which human extinction could occur within the next 100 years. We will study the psychological, social, and epistemological barriers that frequently derail efforts to avert these catastrophes. Students will explore approaches to assessing risk, strategies, to reduce risk, and better ways to think and act as we move toward an uncertain future.

CANDIDATES should be able to guide student through reading and synthesizing academic and popular sources (including science articles, apocalyptic fiction, films, etc.) on human agency in the evolution of human extinction. Candidates should also be able to help students think through possible solutions and preventative measures to mitigate the risks of climate change and environmentally mediated disease.

SELECTED COURSE MATERIAL: Immanuel Nick Bostrom and Milan Cirkovic, Global Catastrophic Risks; Katharine Hayhoe, “The Roots of Science Denial”; Daniel Kahneman, Thinking Fast and Slow; Roy Scranton, Learning to Die in the Anthropocene; Dr. Strangelove (film, dir. Stanley Kubrick)

Rules of War (Winter)

Scott D. Sagan (Political Science), Allen S. Weiner (School of Law)

We will examine seminal readings on just war theory, investigate the legal rules that govern the resort to and conduct of war, and study whether these rules affect the conduct of states and individuals.  Students will engage actively with these questions by participating in an interactive role-playing simulation, in which they will be assigned roles as government officials, advisors, or other actors. The class will confront various ethical, legal, and strategic problems as they make decisions about military intervention and policies regarding the threat and use of force in an international crisis.  

CANDIDATES should be able to help students identify and understand the nature of ethical frameworks as well as the multiple disciplinary approaches to the study of war.  They should be able to guide students in discerning outcomes suggested by ethical norms, on the one hand, and legal rules, on the other. Candidates should be able to guide students through complex policy decisions related to real world politics—in both a historical and international context.  

SELECTED COURSE MATERIAL: Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations; Barack Obama, “A Just and Lasting Peace,” Nobel Peace Prize Lecture; McGeorge Bundy, “The Decision to Drop the Bombs on Japan”; The UN Charter; The 1949 Geneva Conventions 

Spirit of Democracy (Autumn)

Larry Diamond (Hoover Institution and FSI), James Fishkin (Communication)

This course provides an overview of the challenges and aspirations facing ideals of democracy. It deals both with competing visions of what democracy might be, and their actual realization not only in the US but around the world. It will begin with the debate over the American founding and move eventually to the “third wave” of democratization around the world in the late 20th century as well as its more recent retrenchment.  The problems of democratic reform are continuing and recurrent around the world. Democratic institutions are subject to a living dialogue and we intend to engage the students in these debates—at the level of democratic theory and at the level of specific institutional designs. 

CANDIDATES should be able to guide students in close reading of texts (classic and contemporary), evaluative reasoning about the ideals offered by different theories of democracy, and social scientific analysis of the empirical claims about institutional designs and how well they work in given national contexts. This would require candidates to help students understand US democracy in a global context.  Some experience with the deliberative polling method is helpful but not required.  

SELECTED COURSE MATERIAL: Larry Diamond, The Spirit of Democracy; Robert Dahl, Polyarchy; James Fishkin, When the People Speak: Deliberative Democracy and Public Consultation; Francis Fukuyama, Political order and Political Decay