2017 fall semester classes ~ Valerie

waaaaaaay overdue and I’m only writing this because I just finalized my schedule for the current spring semester and wanted to make an updated post about those classes… but alas, i don’t want to completely skip fall semester so here is a halfhearted post. i loved these classes, don’t get me wrong, but at this point they’re very been-there-done-that so it’s time to get this post over and done with ~

^that was written in the beginning of February 2018. Now it is almost July and I want this out of the list of 23 drafts that we have accumulated lol here we go

Intro to Political Philosophy

I really liked this class and just felt like it was an important class to take. It was a broad overview of political philosophy as seen through thinkers of the Western political tradition. Some of the authors we read included Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Tocqueville, Marx, Arendt—authors that I’d always heard about and whose arguments were so embedded in modern debates of political philosophy that I felt like reading and analyzing their texts made me a more well-versed person. It also challenged my conception of who should rule—the best few or the numerous many? It’s easy in our day and age where Western liberal democracy is the dominant ideology to be all pro-democracy and scoff at advocates of aristocracy, but this class forced me to think about its limitations and now I don’t even know where I stand on the debate.

International Challenges of the 21st Century

This was the last time the class would ever be offered, and it was kind of a gut, and it was about international relations which I’m really interested in, so I took it. It was a super chill class that offered a broad analysis of the key contemporary challenges in international relations and world politics. The first half of the course included trans-national topics such as population and migration, energy and the environment, globalization and finance, the changing nature of security challenges, terrorism, cyber-attacks, and nuclear proliferation. The second half focused on specific challenges in the main regions of the globe: The Muslim World, The Middle East, China, India, the rest of Asia, Africa, Russia and Europe. I loved all the readings and lectures and also just felt like a more well-versed person after taking it.

Philosophy for Psychologists

My favorite class of the semester, and probably one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taken!!!!!!! It sat at the intersection of philosophy and psychology—we first looked at philosophical frameworks applied to a particular issue, then turned to contemporary work in psychology that drew on those frameworks. The philosophical issues included morality (do we have a moral obligation to help others? what factors affect these obligations?), mind and body (are mind and body distinct? are there such things as mental/psychological states, or is everything physical/bc of the brain?), free will (are determinism and free will compatible? if free will doesn’t exist, what happens to moral accountability?), the self (what is the nature of a person? what is necessary in the continued existence of a person over time?), and causation (how do we prove causation exists given that causation is unobservable?).

We used psychological studies to answer these questions. For example, when we were studying moral obligation, we looked at the classic trolley dilemma—should you pull a lever to divert a train on a track about to kill five people to kill just one person instead? Most people’s intuition is yes. In a similar case, should you push a fat man over the footbridge and onto the track, killing him to save five? (intuition is no.) There are two branches within moral philosophy, deontology vs. consequentialism. Deontologists believe that moral action is grounded in rights and duties—an action is right or wrong with respect to conformity to human rights, irrespective of their consequences. Deontologists will make up all these reasons for why it is okay to pull the lever, but why it isn’t morally permissible to push the fat man—for example, the action argument, which states that the physical act of pushing is bad, or the means vs. side-effect argument, which states that you should not push the man off the bridge because you are using his death as a means, while in the standard trolley problem, his death is a side effect. Meanwhile in consequentialism, moral action is grounded in consequences alone (killing one person is better than killing five, no matter how you bring upon those consequences). In order to determine why some people are deontologists and some are consequentialists, we looked at neuroimaging studies, which showed that contemplation of personal moral dilemmas like the footbridge case produced increased neural activity in brain regions associated with emotional response and social cognition (amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex), while the contemplation of impersonal moral dilemmas like the trolley case produced greater activity in brain areas associated with “higher cognition” (eg. dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). Essentially, deontologists say that pushing the fat man is wrong but pulling the lever is okay because of their so-called moral rules, but imo this suggests that deontology is BS and is just post-hoc rationalization of strong moral intuitions, and I think we should all be consequentialists. Sorry for this really long description; I know that nobody is ~actually~ interested in this class that I took lol but it was (clearly) so interesting to me!!!! As cheesy as it sounds, it made me question so much about the aspects of life that I take for granted, and made me fall in love with philosophy.

Animal Models of Clinical Disorders

I’m gonna keep this short because it pales in comparison with the class I just raved about. We focused on how research with animal models can advance our understanding of psychiatric disorders such as drug addiction, depression, anxiety, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, and generate more effective treatments for patients. Lots of neuroscience and brain stuff and it was pretty challenging but still interesting!

Bonus: Great Hoaxes and Fantasies in Archeology

I also took a class called Great Hoaxes and Fantasies in Archeology but ended up dropping it because it wasn’t what I’d expected and archeology isn’t as cool as it sounds (at least to me). But the professor was the most high-energy person I’d ever had—he would leap around the classroom and yell and get so excited you’d see visible sweat patches on his shirt. Just thought it deserved a mention.

3 semesters down, 5 to go!!!!!! (i say with pretend excitement but in all honesty i want to be a student forever & never want to graduate)

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