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It is customary within English-speaking countries, and especially within American universities, to separate “the humanities” from “the social sciences,” although both sets of disciplines are usually housed within a college of Liberal Arts and Sciences (as at Villanova). An oversimplifying set of dichotomies seem to reinforce the differences between the two: Humanities/Social Sciences = subjective/objective; opinion/knowledge; understanding/explanation; values/facts, etc. However, within a European context, and especially within the German university system, the humanities and the social science historically are gathered together as the Geisteswissenschaft, the Human sciences (= sciences of “spirit”), and are set off against the Naturwissenschaft, the Natural sciences. Although we will explore the differences between the humanities and the social sciences, in this course we will emphasize, like the Europeans, the similarities between the various Human sciences.
This course is designed to accomplish two related goals: first, to provide the participants a way to step back and view as a whole the Human sciences, the humanities and social sciences, and, second, to prepare you engage in upper-level research.
To accomplish the first goal we will examine the relation of the human sciences to the natural sciences. We will explore the familiar dichotomy that science is an “objective” pursuit of knowledge whereas the human sciences are a “subjective,” a “relative,” exploration of mere opinion. What will become clear is that significant intellectual, scientific, and cultural developments since the late 19th century are pushing us (or have already pushed us) “beyond objectivism and relativism.” Since many current debates in the human sciences, and between the humanities and the social sciences especially, are fundamentally debates over interpretation and interpretive understanding, in the second half of the semester we will take up an investigation of philosophical hermeneutics. Hermeneutics – the science or the art of “interpretation” – takes as its specific interest how it is that we come to understand not only what we read (works of philosophy, history, or fiction, etc.) but also ourselves and others, and the natural world around us (psychology, sociology, anthropology, etc.). Towards the end of the seminar we will take up a few challenges to hermeneutical understanding and consider a test case in the hermeneutical understanding of the self and of culture.
To accomplish the second goal we will examine research strategies including how to create a research project and how to work with primary sources/data. Each student will create a mock-VURF proposal and create an annotated bibliography for her or his mock-project.
The Natural Science Seminar is designed as a preparation for sophomore-level Honors students who are planning on pursuing Senior Thesis research in anticipation of receiving a B.S. Honors degree. In this course, you will be introduced to the principles of scientific research and will hear lectures from faculty in the sciences about their research areas and methodologies. In addition, I will invite outside speakers from industry and academia to talk about their work. Where and when possible, we will visit laboratories both on and off campus. Given the varied majors among students in this course, we will hear talks from faculty in various disciplines. We will discuss current literature, and learn about writing research proposals, and about applying for some of the Nationally Competitive Scholarships for students in the sciences.
This purpose of this course is to help you design, research, and write an excellent senior thesis. We will meet once per week throughout the first part of the semester in order to discuss your interests and hone your thesis topic and research design. We will be in touch after the mid-term break to discuss your progress on your research to date. Towards the end of the semester, you will present the result of your research thus far at a research workshop attended by your senior thesis class, your Tutors and Readers, and underclass Honors majors. We will meet before then so that you can practice presenting your research to each other. At that time, you are expected to have draft of the thesis. I will be working closely with your Tutor and Reader throughout the course of the semester to make sure everyone is on the same page in terms of deadlines and work expected.
We have set up an FAQ page on the Honors Website that might help you.
No official meeting time
Required of all December graduating students who are completing the senior thesis.
No official meeting time
Required of all December graduating students completing the Oral Exam Track. This course serves as the capstone for oral examination track students. Students will write a 5 page paper that integrates knowledge obtained from 3 upper-level Honors courses. This paper will be used as the basis for the oral examination held at the end of the semester. The examination will be conducted by a committee made up of 2 of the 3 professors from the chosen upper-level Honors courses.