Humanities 100

Humanities Forum: Human Nature
MW 3-4:30 in Logan 17
Wendy Steiner & Mark Liberman

The newly-created Penn Humanities Forum has as its first yearly research topic "Human Nature." This course is part of that effort, an experiment in interdisciplinary collaboration among anthropologists, psychologists, linguists, philosophers, religious studies experts, legal theorists, and specialists in literature, art and music. It will be our job to synthesize the views they bring to us and to observe the way different disciplines go about trying to understand what it is to be human.

Information about course requirements and texts is available here.

Week Lecture Date Title Lecturer Readings
0 0 9/8 Overview: structure and content of the course WS & ML  
1 1 9/13 Introduction: human nature in the humanities and the human sciences WS & ML Steiner, "Practice without Principle" (on line).
Wilson, Consilience, pp. 3-14 (course text).
Course pack section 1
  2 9/15 Human nature in art and literature WS Frankenstein (course text)
2 3 9/20 The family of man/men Barbara Pollack (Myerson exhibition)
The Family of Man (course text)
The Family of Men (course text)
  4 9/22 Evolutionary psychology: a "natural history" of human nature? ML

Course pack section 2:
Gazzaniga et al. Cognitive Neuroscience chapter 13


3 5 9/27 Other origin stories WS & ML

Genesis 1-3 ,
Darwin, Voyage of the Beagle, ch. 17
Kipling, "How the Whale Got His Throat", in Just So Stories.
(on line).
Course pack section 3:
Rosenberg, World Mythology [excerpts];
" Caedmon's Hymn";
Milton, Paradise Lost, books VII and VIII.

  6 9/29 The anthropology and paleontology of human origins Alan Mann Course pack section 4:
"Art: Evolution or Revolution", Science vol. 282.20 pp. 1451-1458
4 7 10/4 Language and human nature ML

Course pack section 5:
Pinker, "Why the child holded the baby rabbits"

  8 10/6 Human and animal communication ML Course pack section 6:
Cheney and Seyfarth,  How Monkeys See the World, ch. 8 "Attribution";
Deacon, The Symbolic Species, ch.. 12, "Symbolic Origins"
5 9 10/11 Style, art and culture among humans and other apes Philip Chase Course pack section 7:
Goodall, My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees, ch. 5 "David Greybeard and his world", and ch. 6 "Mothers and their young";
Goodall, The Chimpanzees of Gombe, chap. 2 "The mind of the Chimpanzee"
  10 10/13 Narrative Gerald Prince Course pack section 8:
Jonathan Culler, Literary Theory, chapter 6;
McEwan, Amsterdam [excerpt].
6   10/18 FALL BREAK    
  11 10/20 How the mind works (abstract) Steven Pinker Pinker, How the mind works (optional background reading)
7 12 10/25 Human nature, morality and politics Carolyn Weber Course pack section 9:
Rousseau Social Contract, book 1, book 2 chapters 6-7.
Freud Civilization and its Discontents [abridgment].
  13 10/27 Innate ideas Richard Samuels Course pack section 10:
Plato, Meno [excerpt];
Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book I, ch. III;
Samet, "Nativism", from Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
8 14 11/1 Human rights and crimes against humanity Harry Reicher Course pack section 11:
Steiner and Alston, International Human Rights in Context, ch. 3;
Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice [excerpts].
  15 11/3 The invention of the soul James O'Donnell   Book 10 of St. Augustine's Confessions (on line)
9 16 11/8 Dualism: Explanation and action Paul Guyer Course pack section 12:
Descartes, Meditations, 2 & 6;
Hume, Human Nature, part III;
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, chap. I;
Kant, Practical Philosophy, section III.
  17 11/10 Mind as machine ML Course pack section 13:
Pinker, How the Mind Works, ch. 2 "Thinking machines".
10 18 11/15 Spirituality WS & ML James The Varieties of Religious Experience [on line, lecture XX and lecture VIII];
Course pack section 14:
Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 [excerpts].
  19 11/17 Feminism and anti-essentialism WS

Pope, "Epistle 2. To a Lady";
Kipling, "The Female of the Species"
Lewontin, "Women vs. the Biologists" (on line)
Course pack section 15:
Etcoff, Survival of the Prettiest, ch. 1;
Buss, "Where is Fancy Bred? In the Genes or in the Head?";
Green, "Biologically Speaking, Isn't She Beautiful?";
Yalom, "Science and Politics Mapped on a Woman's Body";
Angier, "Women, Sex and Darwin";
Carter, "Notes from the Front Line".

11 20 11/22 Song Gary Tomlinson Course pack section 16:
Seeger, "Why Suya Sing" chap. 7;
Tomlinson, "Metaphysical Song" pp. 3-16;
Rousseau, "Essay on the Origin of Languages", chaps 10-14;
Nietzsche, "The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music", sections 5 and 16;
Frederick Douglass, "My Bondage and Freedom" [excerpt] (course pack section 16)
  21 11/24 The myth of Sisyphus WS Course pack section 17:
Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus [excerpt]:
Shakespeare, The Tempest [excerpt];
Beckett, Waiting for Godot [excerpt].
12 22 11/29 Modernism & depersonalization WS

Steiner, "Look Who's Modern Now" (on line)
Course pack section 18:
Darwin, The Descent of Man [excerpt];

Frazer, The Scope and Method of Mental Anthropology [excerpt];
Arp, On My Way [excerpt];
Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism [excerpts];
Buber, I and Thou [excerpt];
Blake [excerpts];
Nietzsche [excerpts];
Stevens, "Anecdote of the Jar", "The Snow Man":
Robbe-Grillet [excerpts].

  23 12/1 Consilience: Darwin takes all? WS & ML Wilson, Consilience (course text)
13 24 12/6 Counterpoint: pluralism in the humanities and the human sciences WS & ML Course pack section 19:
Symons, "On the use and misuse of Darwinism in the study of human behavior".
  25 12/8 Joy Martin Seligman
Judith Tannenbaum
      Take-home Final Exam
(due Dec. 20)