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Chico State University Honors Program
Course Descriptions for Lower Division Honors Seminars
Course Description:
In this course we will investigate and discuss the concept of beauty. What does it mean
to say that something is beautiful, or to say that one finds something beautiful? Are
judgments of beauty merely subjective, and if so, why are they so important to us?
Should we be suspicious of other people’s claims about beauty, or of our own? Is
beauty a sign of moral goodness, or of any sort of goodness? Is beauty worth pursuing?
Is ‘beautiful’ still a useful term in the discourse of art criticism, or should it be jettisoned,
as some writers have argued? How, if at all, does the human capacity to create or
appreciate beauty relate to other character traits that have been classified as virtues?
We will be investigating the concept of beauty, and related concepts, from a variety of
disciplinary perspectives. Philosophy, art history, biology, psychology, sociology,
anthropology, and other academic fields all have important things to say about what
beauty is, what it has been taken to be, and the roles that beauty plays and has played
in human life.
HNRS 202
Course description:
This seminar will be a multidisciplinary exploration of Nature. The story of Nature is one
that presumably has a beginning, a middle period, and an end. Using perspectives from
the physics, chemistry, biology, geology, anthropology, philosophy, history, literature,
music, and art we will focus on several basic and fundamental questions, such as:
How did the Universe come into existence?
How do we explain order and design in Nature?
Is it possible to comprehend the dimensional scales of Nature?
What is revealed by an investigation into the Laws of Nature?
How do engage in a systematic study of Nature?
What are the kinds of relationships humans have with Nature?
How do religious beliefs influence our views of Nature?
How do we determine what is natural or unnatural with respect to human values?
HNRS 203
Course description:
This inter-disciplinary Honors course aims to help students explore questions about the
nature of virtue. At its most basic, virtue is a concern with the sort of person that we
think we “ought” to be or the sort of character that we want to see in other
people. Though it is often viewed as part of morality, we often associate virtue with a
person’s character rather than just right or wrong actions or individual choices. But
quick discussions of virtue usually open up a host of questions, and this course will try
to explore some of those. What is virtue and why is it so important to individuals and
culture? What is the relationship between “virtue” and “vice”, and do our views of one
inform the other? Who decides what counts as virtue? Are virtues universal and
timeless: Are the same virtues shared and respected across different cultures in
different eras? Or are virtues culturally distinctive and relative to a particular time and
place? Is virtue gender-specific?: Are there virtues to which we should hold women to
that differ from those by which we might judge male character (and visa versa)? Finally,
is virtue role specific; that is, is what counts as virtue a function of the job or role or
vocation to which a person is committed (e.g. soldier, mother, teacher, nurse?) Can
virtue be taught, or is it in our DNA? We will use ideas and methods from philosophy,
religious worldviews cultural anthropology, sociology, psychology and the natural
sciences to explore these questions.
HNRS 204
Course description:
This inter-disciplinary Honors course aims to help students explore questions about the
nature of truth, how we can best discover it, what is its value, and what are its limits. We
will use ideas and methods from philosophy, religion, cosmology, logic, anthropology,
sociology, psychology and other disciplines to make sense of these questions.
Course material will be organized into four historical eras: (1) The Ancient World; (2)
The Abrahamic Faiths; (3) The Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution; (4) The Crisis
of Reason. In examining each of these eras we will consider constellations of questions
and answers characteristic of specific times and places, but we will also use
contemporary tools of logic and critical thinking to engage them.