Philosophy of Human Nature [CRN 31351]

Discipline: Philosophy and Religious Studies
Instructor: Harmon
Credits: 3
Day: B
Start: 0800
End: 0920
Field Work: Day 1 | March 18, 2019 | South Africa
Prerequisites: The standard Colorado State University prerequisite - one (1) philosophy course - has been waived by the instructor. Download Syllabus

Human beings appear to be the only biological entities on our planet that ask ourselves:  who are we?  What does it mean to be a “human being?”  Are we entirely physical creatures, or do we have a spiritual component?  What is the nature of consciousness?  What happens to us when we die?  Do the answers to these questions impact our behavior while we are alive?  Are human beings essentially good or fundamentally wicked?  What motivates us?  Is there such a thing as ‘human nature’ at all, or are we entirely malleable reflections of culturally specific forces?  You will meet many new people on this voyage, and these encounters will prompt you to ask:  How are they different from me and why?  How are we the same?  The theme of the universality of human nature will animate not only the course, but all your interactions with others, both in the countries we visit and on the ship.  Philosophy of Human Nature will also force you to interact intensely with yourself.  Our readings and discussions will be global and comparative in nature.  We will be studying a variety of Western thinkers, including Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Hume, Hobbes, James, Freud, as well some thinkers from the Confucian, Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions.

Field Work

Country: South Africa
Day: 1
Date: March 18, 2019

The Langa Township was created shortly after the 1923 Urban Areas Act as a designated area for Black Africans to live before the apartheid era.  The townships are generally a legacy of apartheid when Black Africans, and other people of color, were mandated to leave their neighborhoods that were designated as “white only,” and were forcibly relocated to the townships. From 1960 to 1983, 3.5 million nonwhite South Africans were removed from their homes and forced into segregated neighborhoods; it was one of the largest mass removals in modern history.  The Langa Township is the oldest township in South Africa, and it was also the site of much resistance to apartheid.  Students will take a walking tour of the area to witness the daily life of township residents.  In the late morning, students will walk to the Langa Cheshire Home, a home for approximately 25 people with a range of mental and physical disabilities. There students will help to garden, cook meat, make salad, take residents out for walks, and engage in recreational activities with the residents.  After lunch, students will have more time to talk to, and interact with, the residents at Cheshire Home---to learn about their lives, experiences, and culture.  After the Cheshire Home, we will visit the Happy Feet Project, an initiative started in 2007 to provide the children in Langa township with positives alternatives to drugs and to gang life.  There we will get to watch a performance of gumboot dancing before returning to the ship. Learning Objectives:

  • To learn about the history of apartheid, and observe first-hand what life is like in a township;
  • To provide students with a meaningful opportunity to work and interact with individuals who have physical and mental disabilities;
  • To explore what aspects of universal human nature, if any, are apparent in the lives of people in the township;
  • To contemplate what impact poverty might have on human resilience and the pursuit of “happiness.”