“The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind” - John Stuart Mill
One purpose of a liberal education is to free or liberate students from narrow perspectives, limited thinking, partisanship, and categorical rhetoric in order to obtain knowledge. Affirmations of absolutes should give way to identification and clarification of ambiguities of complex topics. This can best be achieved in an environment where we are confronted with our preconceived notions of the world and are encouraged to engage in the dialectic: the rational exchange of conflicting ideas in a common pursuit of truth. This demanding work can be challenging in a setting where diverse viewpoints are absent. Lecture, and seminar topics will address the questions of how, when, and why the human mind can be resistant to realities that run counter to strongly held convictions. We will explore how the values that bind us into cohesive groups of like minded people can also blind us to our weaknesses. This interdisciplinary course will draw upon such diverse fields as moral psychology, social science, statistics, and philosophy. We will extensively consult with leading national experts on these topics while using Evergreen as a case study on how colleges and universities might address contentious issues of political diversity, free speech, freedom of thought, and censorship. Students and faculty will begin the quarter by identifying their own personal intuitions on relevant contentious issues. We will then independently examine a controversial question which we feel most certain and passionate about, but from the opposite perspective than we currently possess. In addition, students will individually engage with communities who have identities, values and opinions dissimilar to their own, while reflecting upon these experiences through writing. Through weekly readings, critical thinking skills will be refined through careful quantitative and qualitative examination of evidence while analyzing underlying assumptions and biases. Students will learn to distinguish between conceptual, empirical, and value claims while becoming adept at identifying logical fallacies. As a class we will cultivate virtues of intellectual humility with the primary aim of pursuing knowledge and truth ahead of social and political action. All perspectives on issues are not only welcome, but strongly encouraged. However, students who require “ideological safe spaces” where particular viewpoints are considered offensive may want to seek a different program.
Course Reference Numbers
Students who have appropriate preparatory science background may have the opportunity to earn up to eight upper division science credits for critically evaluating an empirical claim through reading and analysis of scientific literature as part of an independent project component.
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