Courses

Flexible Curriculum

The STV minor boasts an extensive course catalog that enables our students to design a program of study tailored to their interests.

Our Spring 2019 offerings feature over 50 courses in history, sociology, anthropology, political science, economics, and more. For a complete listing, please consult the University's course catalog.  Below is a partial listing of new and popular courses:

STV 20556-02 Science, Technology & Society*

This course introduces the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies. Our concern will be with science and technology (including medicine) as social and historical, i.e., as human, phenomena. We shall examine the divergent roots of contemporary science and technology, and the similarities and (sometimes surprising) differences in their methods and goals. The central theme of the course will be the ways in which science and technology interact with other aspects of society, including the effects of technical and theoretical innovation in bringing about social change, and the social shaping of science and technology themselves by cultural, economic and political forces. Because science/society interactions so frequently lead to public controversy and conflict, we shall also explore what resources are available to mediate such conflicts in an avowedly democratic society. 

*This is the core course for the STV minor, and can be used to satisfy the second philosophy requirement.

STV 20647-01 Data and AI Ethics

In the last decade, the Big Data revolution and developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have both created promises and raised several ethical issues. Computational emerging technologies have fostered the achievement of apparent benefits, while at the same they seem to exacerbate social inequalities and threaten even our own existence as a species. In this course, we will discuss those ethical and societal issues related to the development of AI and Big Data that have direct and concrete consequences on the way we perceive ourselves as persons, as members of society, and the way we conceive our place as a species on this planet. These issues will be analyzed in light of major ethical theories, but a special emphasis will be placed on virtue ethics. Recent works in virtue ethics are well positioned to make sense of the importance of our place as human beings on this planet, but at the same time they can account for the indispensable roles that machines play in our environment. The course is divided in three main parts. In the first part, I will introduce the main ethical frameworks, and in particular virtue ethics. In the second part, we will discuss AI. Societal and ethical issues raised by AI include the threats posed to the existence of our species; whether we should trust AI or we should find a way to build artificial agents with moral characteristics; whether AI will do most of our jobs in the future and if this scenario is desirable. In the third part, we will focus on selected issues concerning the Big Data revolution, such as how the autonomy of very complex algorithms can shape our lives in opaque ways and whether transparency is desirable; if the design of algorithms may hide bias leading to social inequalities; how algorithms are changing the way healthcare is provided. Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to: 1. define and sketch focal points of the virtue ethics and other relevant ethical theories 2. identify moral theories in arguments provided in support or in opposition to the use of certain AI-related and Big Data technologies 3. compare different arguments and highlight strengths and weaknesses 

STV 30176-01 Faith and Reason Through the Ages

How do we resolve conflicts between faith and reason? When these two means of knowing and understanding the world appear to conflict in such a way that one must be right and the other wrong, what do we do? We will look at this question by examining a series of case studies which have shaped the relationship between faith and reason throughout history. We begin with an exploration of the Greek scientific tradition and then explore the reactions of the Christian and Islamic traditions. Using the resulting historical framework, we then explore more modern controversies between faith and reason. From this, we will endeavor to understand past faith and reason conflicts in their historical context and develop the skills necessary to understand modern ones. 

STV 30009-01 Global Biopolitics (1 credit)

This one credit module explores the intersection between biology and politics, providing students with an opportunity to reflect on the governance of life at the individual and the population level through biomedical knowledge production. Our empirical focus will be on the AIDS epidemic, which we will explore through film and writing. 

STV 20311-02 Health and Culture

This introductory course uses anthropological concepts to explore how different social groups experience health, illness, and healing. Our encounters with "traditional" healers, shamans, holistic practitioners, and medical doctors will prompt us to think about health and healing systems - including biomedicine or "Western" medicine - as social institutions, as well as sources of power and authority. Through critical readings, class discussions, and hands-on health practices, we will also consider how transnational flows and historical inequities shape how we know and experience our bodies. 

STV 20410-01 Health, Medicine, and Society

This course is a comprehensive introduction to the sociology of health and of medicine. First we will examine how sociological variables affect people's health. Research is rapidly accumulating which shows that sociological variables have a huge impact on people's susceptibility to various illnesses, on their access to health care, and on their compliance with medical advice. Such variables include people's neighborhoods, occupations, and lifestyles; their social class, education, race, ethnicity, and gender - and the density of "social networks", whose importance for health was predicted by one of sociology's founders over 100 years ago. Second we will examine medicine, both the practice of medicine by individual health care professionals, viewed sociologically, and the operation of the increasingly large and bureaucratic medical institutions in which health care professionals must work. In addition, we will examine sociological issues that overlap "medicine", such as radically long shifts; the rapid increase in the proportion of female doctors; and increasing concern with work/family balance among practitioners. Third, we will examine health and medicine in relation to other dimensions of society, such as the modern economy, the media, law, the internet, government and politics. Health and medicine are intrinsically social and they cannot be isolated from the effects of the rest of society, many of which run counter to strictly "medical" considerations. Finally, we will examine health and medicine globally. We will compare health and medicine in a number of societies to see and explain how they are similar and how they differ - for example, how different societies pay for medical care. And we will examine global trends with implications for health and medicine that require cooperation among societies, such as the way in which global air travel both increases the danger of global pandemics and makes possible "medical tourism." 

STV 20130-01 Madwoman in Literature

Why is madness often located in the woman? Why are emotional responses from women often devalued and illegitimated as vagaries of insanity? Why does society find peace in locking the madwoman away in the asylum? The course will begin with such inquiries and investigate what the inherent connection is between insanity and womanhood, both of which are considered peripheral to conventional patriarchal society. This course will consider literary representations of the madwoman - from classical drama to modernist novels to contemporary graphic narratives - and examine whether literary discourses anticipate and accord with the efforts of the medical establishments to keep the madwoman under surveillance or whether they critique normative behaviour. Through close readings of primary texts and critical material, class discussions, and written reflections we will grapple with the question that whether the madwoman is silenced in male dominated texts, or the madwoman uses her insanity to fight against patriarchal oppression. Ultimately, we will reflect on how literature, over time, has redefined the centre/margin dichotomy with relation to the madwoman. 

STV 43242-01 Morality, Parenting, and Nature

The course explores the cognitive and emotional aspects of moral mindsets, how they are fostered by families and cultures, what their effects are on people and planet. We develop our ecological mindset and nature connection so that we can live sustainably as members of the bio community. We examine basic needs and what is needed to prepare ourselves and others for recovering optimal human nature and planetary health in this Anthropocene age. 

STV 30175-01 Philosophical Questions in Medical Science

Loss of health is a part of life. Medicine is one means by which this part of life is addressed,negotiated with, or battled against. In this course, we will explore the questions surrounding the nature and use of medicine in a variety of historical and social contexts. These questions will include, but are not limited to, the following: What is medicine, exactly? Is it a science or an art?How has the answer to this question evolved over the course of certain histories? Are diseases and medical causes, as typically conceived, mind-independent entities or human constructions?How do our worldviews and philosophical commitments affect what we observe and what we count as evidence? What kinds of medical epistemology are possible? Which ways of knowing should be granted authority? If medicine is defined as the practice of alleviating suffering, whose suffering should be alleviated and whose suffering is justified by the acquisition of further medical knowledge? What does it mean, existentially, to lose one's health? Finally, what should the aims of medical practice be? We will explore these questions in a philosophical manner using a variety of intellectual resources from philosophy, history, sociology, and contemporary medical science. 

STV 30530-01 Science Fiction in Russian Literature and Film

Science fiction in Russia is a political weapon. From showcasing the awesome heights to which Soviet technology could propel the modern man, as in Stalin's famous quote that "the writer is the engineer of human souls," to dissident authors' dire warnings of apocalyptic futures on alien planets, science fiction has always had a close relationship with the Soviet and Post-Soviet state. While science fiction classics in English, such as George Orwell's 1984, continue to loom large in international politics and culture, few outside of Russia know that Orwell and others borrowed heavily from groundbreaking novels of Soviet dystopia, including Evgenii Zamyatin's WE. In this course students will explore the development of modern science fiction through the study of Soviet pioneers of SF in literary prose and film. 

STV 40310-01 Visits to Bedlam

Until visitation was restricted in 1770, London's Bethlem Hospital (popularly known as "Bedlam") attracted as many as 96,000 spectators per year who paid for the privilege of watching mental patients. Like the tigers in The Tower, these patients were not simply chained, but shown, put on exhibition. The cruelty of this practice and the fact that it was stopped both point to the eighteenth-century fascination with madness, with the irrational, with what Freud would call the "unheimlich," the "uncanny." Samuel Johnson's astronomer who comes to believe that he personally controls the weather, Laurence Sterne's mad Maria, piping for her lost lover, John Locke's man who believes himself made out of glass and who acts "reasonably" to avoid hard objects, or Jonathan Swift's modest proposer who concocts a cookbook to save the Irish nation all bear witness to this other side of the eighteenth century, the subject of this course. We will begin with selections from Cervantes' Don Quixote and some short readings in Locke and others who attempted to analyze madness. We will then move on to explorations of Samuel Johnson, Tobias Smollett, Laurence Sterne, and Jonathan Swift. Our major focus will be on Swift, with special attention to his poetry, Gulliver's Travels, and A Tale of A Tub. Swift, who was a Governor of Bethlem Hospital, left most of his money to fund the first mental hospital in Ireland, St. Patrick's, which is still there. As he later said, "He gave what little wealth he had, To build a house for fools and mad: And showed by one satiric touch, No nation wanted it so much." For the sake of comparison, we will conclude with several nineteenth century selections.