Food for Thought
The theme of this course is food. As it is the substance that feeds us, one might think that there is nothing complex, academic, or critically interesting about food. However, there is no religion, culture, or government that does not negotiate a relationship with food. Therefore, the rhetoric of food can as well be a very suitable starting point to engage critically with deeper subjects such as politics, gender, class, science and technology, and imagination. Some questions we will examine are: What determines what we eat? What political issues are associated with food production and consumption? What does it mean to eat ethically? What is the future of food? While the readings in our coursepack represent a variety of perspectives, they do not promote a final answer to the questions above. Instead, the course welcomes and encourages different and even opposing views which will help you develop your own unique position on issues and ideas we talk about in class.
Persuasion vs Manipulation
We will look at principles of persuasion through texts, slogans, visual materials in the media, advertising, and politics to create a critical consciousness and learn ways to get people to say yes, while at the same time resisting impression management in the age of information and disinformation.
This course will take a broad look at the idea that humans and human society is being engineered through the use of technologies for the purposes of control. It can be argued that civilization itself entails the engineering of behavior, traits, beliefs, and thought, but in the modern age, as our technologies develop exponentially, the threat that these are or can be purposed to impose control, alter behaviours, and ultimately leave us servile to power is increasingly probable and not a little sinister. What does this mean for individual freedoms? What does it mean for society? What does it mean for the human organism? This course will approach these questions based on five interconnected “threats”: Mind Control, Surveillance, “Virtual” environments, Weaponization, and Trans- and Post-humanism. It will consider the recent history of attempts at societal control through “technotronic” means and consider the potential of new and developing technologies from various perspectives: psychological, sociological, ethical, political, criminal, and spiritual. Students will be encouraged to consider the notion that as young people, they can be said to represent a “late-human” generation for whom the idea of becoming human-machine hybrids or, indeed, truly post-human, is no longer the stuff of science-fiction, but something very much in process.
Just because we can, should we?: Science Values and Ethics
We [scientists] produce the tools. We stop there. It is for you, the rest of the world, the politicians, to say how the tools are used. The tools may be used for purposes which most of us would regard as bad. If so, we are sorry. But as scientists, that is no concern of ours. This is the doctrine of the ethical neutrality of science. I can’t accept it for an instant.
(C. P. Snow)
A scientist might be so engrossed in her work and the thrill of making new discoveries that she may not consider the far-reaching consequences of her work. Indeed, she might believe that what others use her discoveries for is no responsibility of hers. For example, in the mid-twentieth century, many physicists, motivated by a curiosity about the workings of nature, worked hard on understanding the nature of atomic nuclei. Later, that knowledge was applied in the invention of the atomic bomb, a weapon of mass destruction responsible for the deaths of thousands. Should scientists be expected to consider values and ethics when doing their research, or as C.P. Snow reports above, is this the job of politicians and others in society?
During this course, we will examine a number of issues that have arisen in the modern world as a direct consequence of technological developments. To what extent should technology be employed by parents and governments to monitor the behavior of children and citizens? Should we genetically modify our children? Is science to blame for global warming? Would the world be a better place if things like gunpowder and atomic bombs were never invented? These issues will be examined in the framework of the basic question of whether there ought to be any limits of scientific enquiry. Are there areas of research we should avoid because of the potential consequences? Who is responsible for answering this question? Is it scientists or as C. P. Snow reports above, “the politicians”?
Although the course may be particularly suited to students doing a science major, the texts and discussions will not require any advanced scientific knowledge. The main focus will be on ethical issues related to scientific topics, and there will be no need to have a technical, detailed understanding of any scientific discoveries.
Animal Liberation & Human Resistance
This course will focus on human resistance to Animal Liberation. Though most of us agree that causing unnecessary pain and wanton acts of cruelty are immoral, many people resist the ideaof Animal Liberation. Why are we so resistant? Arguments against liberation vary but often come down to a belief that humans are superior in ways that give us the right to treat animalsas things: things for ‘food’, ‘material’ for clothing, and as things we own. Even if we are superior to animals, would this give us the right to use animals as we wish and for our pleasure? Would superiority give us the right to deny animals the moral right to live and prosper according to their nature? These and questions like them will form the basis for our investigations.
This course will focus on changes in technology, communication, identity, discipline/punishment, professional gender roles, and social interpretations pertaining to alienation. The relationship we have to ourselves and to our families, friends, and other social structures influence us greatly and the way we are perceived. How has technology affected the quality of our relationships? What kind of changes have we seen in the workplace with regards to gender? Are there more effective ways of disciplining children today than in previous generations? These and other questions will be explored throughout the semester on the theme of metamorphosis.
Burcu Kayışcı Akkoyun
In Other Worl(d)s: Utopia and Dystopia
The theme of this course is utopian and dystopian imagination. Throughout the semester, students will be invited to consider the implications of imagining other worlds by examining various written texts and visual materials. Why have “good places” and “bad places” occupied philosophers, writers, sociologists, and political thinkers since ancient times? Is there any value in considering and formulating alternatives, or is it a naïve, if not futile, effort? How can utopianism and dystopianism operate as critical tools within various contexts such as politics, language, technology, and environmentalism? The main objective of the course is not to arrive at definitive answers but to open up discussion that welcomes different and sometimes opposing viewpoints. Students will be able to improve their academic writing skills as they learn to engage critically with the given sources on the course theme and express their own views clearly in different types of essays.
Food. It is a substance that feeds, nourishes, and delights us. As something so ubiquitous, one might be tempted to think that there is nothing complex, academic, or critically interesting about food. However, there is no religion, culture, or government that does not negotiate a relationship with food. Therefore, the rhetoric of food can be a very suitable starting point to engage critically with deeper subjects such as politics, gender, class, science and technology, and imagination. While the readings represent a variety of perspectives, they do not promote a final answer to the questions. Instead, students are encouraged to read, analyze, and develop their own unique position on the issues. Some of the questions we will examine and try to answer include the following: What determines what we eat? What political issues are associated with food production and consumption? What does it mean to eat ethically? What is the future of food?
This course will introduce students to contemporary scientific research on the enhancement of happiness and well-being. It will primarily focus on the use of psychological and sociological approaches to happiness. Academic research investigating the association of age, gender, and genetics to happiness suggest that they are strongly correlated. Other researchers argue that friendship is a reliable correlate of happiness throughout life. Students will discuss how scientific research may provide us with strategies to lead a happier life.