First-year students may choose to take one of three Learning and Living seminars offered this Fall semester and described below. More details about each seminar can be found on WesMaps, Wesleyan's on-line course catalog.
Personal Identity and Choice
Professor Elise Springer
We will explore philosophical reflections on the problem of personal identity and its relationship to matters of choice and freedom. How do certain experiences and thoughts and physical materials compose oneself? Am I the same person over time even through complete transformations of experience, thought, and material? Can I choose which elements of my existence to count as essential? Some argue the concept of a unified and enduring self partakes of illusion; at the other extreme, some argue for the permanent integrity of individual souls. Regarding choice and freedom, we find a related debate, ranging from those who deny freewill altogether to those who define humanity's essence in terms of choice and agency. Might we coherently say that some human selves can have more integrity and others, less? What gives a measure of meaningful coherence to a person's life? Similarly, can we distinguish some choices as more free than others? What makes for meaningful choice? Besides serving as an introduction to philosophical reasoning, the course will draw interdisciplinary connections on themes such as social identities, religious experience, political freedom, and legal responsibility.
Mixed in America: Race, Religion and Memoir
Professor Elizabeth McAlister
This course examines the history of mixed-race and interfaith identities in America. Using the genre of the memoir as a focusing lens, we will look at the various ways that Americans of mixed heritage have found a place, crafted an identity, and made meaning out of being considered "mixed." How has being multiracial or bi-religious changed in the course of history in the United States? What has occasioned these changes, and what patterns can we observe? We will explore questions of racial construction; religious boundary-making; rites of passage; gender, sexuality, and marriage; and some literary and media representations of mixed-heritage people.
Classic Studies in Animal Behavior
Professor Joyce Powzyk
This course will focus on the major concepts in the field of animal behavior. We will discuss the selection pressures that shape animal behavior and whether the study of primate social and mating systems can provide insight into human behavior. Other questions include, Why do certain animal species exhibit altruistic behavior and others do not? What are the limiting resources for male and female animals, and why do they behave so differently? This is but a sampling of the subjects to be covered in a course that is specifically designed for students to gain a clearer understanding of the mechanisms that drive the natural world around them. We will commence with the early pioneers in ethology who were the first to describe the behavioral repertoire of a single species and progress onto the more current, comparative approach, in which two animals are compared for a more fine-tuned analysis. Biological jargon will be defined as original research is discussed.