Mosaic II (Spring 2009)


The Mosaic humanities seminars are topically organized explorations of the human situation. In the first Mosaic course (or in IH 1), you were introduced to influential works of poetry, drama, philosophy, literature, and religion. The second Mosaic seminar covers four additional topics: Science, Power, Money, and the City. The goal of the course is to help students better understand who we are, how we got here, and where we might aspire to go. Our focus will be more philosophical than historical. We will begin with an exploration of the ethics of medical testing and then move on to a brief look at the fundamental theory of modern biology—evolutionary theory. Next, we will study the philosophically rich epic the Illiad. Then we will turn to political philosophy, staring with John Locke’s influential Second Treatise of Government. We will ask questions such as: Can we justify private property? What is the basis of political authority? When is it justified to overthrow a government? After Locke we will look at More’s Utopia and several chapters from Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. Nozick challenges the basis of forms of political power that one might assume are perfectly justified. Just what is it, if anything, that gives the state the right to tax citizens and enforce laws? After Nozick, we will read a few chapters of Jacobs' important study of what makes a good city. Finally, returning to evolutionary theory, we will read de Waal’s study of the evolution of morality—what it is that, among other things, allows us to live together relatively peacefully in close proximity to others. Here we will ask whether an evolutionary explanation of the source of moral motivation has implication for theories of moral knowledge. We will also raise general questions about the epistemic value of evolutionary psychological explanations.



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final exam