Foundation/Modern: “Society and Self in an Age of Technology”
Dr. Ian Clausen
In Aeschylus’ Greek tragedy Prometheus Bound, the head-god Zeus chains the titan Prometheus to a rock as a punishment for Prometheus giving fire to humanity. From early tales such as this to later theories in the modern era, humans have developed complex accounts for their technology while puzzling over its nature and implications in human life. Nor have these questions gone away in the twenty-first century, but have gained a new urgency in light of recent technical advancements: think mobile devices, online avatars and the rise of robotic technologies, whose influence leaves some worried about the costs and implications (moral, social, economic, spiritual), but has others eagerly awaiting the bright dawn of a “new humanity.” In this course we pursue a conversation on these topics by exploring foundational texts on the nature and role of technology. These texts include selections from both ancient and modern times that raise important questions about technology in our lives, and which invite us to re-examine the widely held assumption that technology is just a tool to be used at our discretion. By combining these texts with current debates on technology in areas such as social media, biotechnology and robotics, we uncover the profound ways in which technology shapes societies while also offering powerful insights into the nature of being human.
Ancient texts include Prometheus Bound, Book of Genesis, selections from ancient and medieval texts, and early Christian sources. Modern texts (including film and online material) include David Noble’s The Religion of Technology, Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together, essays by Martin Heidegger, George Grant and Albert Borgmann (and their critics), and selections from current debates in biotechnology and environmentalism.
Humanity, Nature, and Justice (Peace and Justice Studies)
Dr. Chara Armon
What does it mean for humans to live together on the Earth in just and good ways? How can the liberal arts guide our responses to the challenges humanity and nature currently are facing, including climate change and related occurrences of warfare, species extinction, ecosystem disruption, hunger, and epidemic disease?
This course studies concepts of co-existence, inter-dependence, and reciprocity between humanity and the natural world and queries whether these concepts may be vital for the well-being of humans and the Earth. We’ll trace aspects of the past and present human conversation concerning mutually beneficial co-existence between humans and Earth’s life systems, considering our topic via religious, scientific, and philosophical lenses. Course readings include the work of religious thinkers such as recent Popes and Thich Nhat Hanh; scientists who address social and justice issues, such as Wangari Maathai, Mark Bekoff, and Robin Wall Kimmerer; and philosophers such as Kathleen Dean Moore. We will discover how the liberal arts tradition reveals why frameworks of peace, justice, and moral choice may be central to understanding and practicing wise modes of living on the Earth.