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Spring 2018 Honors Seminars

 HONS 1810W-67
“Medical Ethics”
MW 2:35 – 3:50 pm
Professor Russel McIntire
Department of Philosophy
AXLE: Humanities & the Creative Arts (HCA)            

New biomedical ethical issues arise every day. Enduring ones from the first instances in human healing linger—some unresolved, others uncomfortably unresolved.  By considering ethical dimensions of issues that arise in the context of providing medical care, doing biomedical research, and adopting health care policies we will explore ways of thinking, describing, talking about, and making these kinds of decisions. What is the right thing to do? We will discuss, evaluate, and utilize ethical theories as they apply to many aspects of providing health care, principles and rules that may follow from those theories and even approaches that challenge the dependence on those principles. Case studies will be analyzed to remind us that these dilemmas arise in the complex context of human needs, often at moments where life and death decisions must be made on both an intimate and a global scale. This will be a seminar and active participation in class—research, presentations, group presentations, conversations with each other and with guests—will be a vital part of the course.


HONS 1820W-31
“Interpreting the Ethics of Health Practices”
TR 11 – 12:15 pm
Professor Keith Meador – Vanderbilt School of Medicine
Professor Dan Morrison – Department of Sociology
AXLE: Perspectives (P)

“Interpreting the Ethics of Health Practices” is the second of a two-course sequence that provides an opportunity for faculty-mentored, hands-on experience in observing care at the Vanderbilt University Hospital, among other health care organizations. Our focus is on reading and thinking through the ethics of care as a normative project using qualitative research methods honed in the first course (taken in fall 2017). Students will conduct ethnographic fieldwork and apply their learning by developing an on-campus ethics of care proposal.
* Students applied for this two-course sequence in spring 2016 and have already been selected. The class is closed to additional students.


HONS 1830W-50
“Evolution of the Human Brain”
TR 2:35 – 3:50 pm
Professor Jon Kaas
Department of Psychology
AXLE: Social & Behavioral Sciences (SBS)

Each of us evolved from a series of progressively more distant ancestors that were less and less like ourselves. We will review the evolution of brains from early mammals to present day humans and consider the changes in brain organization and function that allowed our ancestors to adapt to a series of changing environments. A focus will be on how human brains are similar and different from those in other primates and mammals, and how these differences relate to human abilities. Related topics include the relation of genes to behavior, natural and sexual selection, communication and self-deception, mate choice, aggression and status, group selection, altruism and conflict, and human life span.


HONS 1850W-24
“Why is Biology Complex? Parasites, drug development, and society”
TR 1:10 – 2:25 pm
Professor John Wikswo
Department of Physics
AXLE: US History and Culture (US)              

The complexity of biology is legendary, as best illustrated by the recent discoveries in the human genome project and the development of detailed gene-regulatory models by systems biologists. This course explores and celebrates this complexity, which presents remarkable intellectual challenges for scientists, engineers, artists, and philosophers, and others. A course for humanists and scientists alike, Why is Biology Complex? Parasites, drug development, and society uses readings from popular books (e.g. New Guinea Tapeworms and Jewish Grandmothers: Tales of Parasites and People, and Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic) to guide the selection of scientific articles to view this complexity from the perspectives of the biology, the social factors affecting parasitic and viral infections worldwide, and the challenges faced in funding development of drugs to fight them. No science or mathematics background is required. This Socratic-style seminar will improve skills in critical, quantitative analysis and presentation, and lead to an appreciation of the vastness of the complexity of biology, as well as the relationship between biology, physics, engineering, medicine, pharmacology, and politics.


HONS 1850W-24
“What is Real?”
TR 1:10 – 2:25 pm
Professor Randolph Blake
Department of Psychology
AXLE: Math & Natural Sciences (MNS)

Using resources from multiple disciplines – philosophy, art, literature, science, medicine, theology – we will tackle an intellectually vexing question whose answer has profound practical consequences: what constitutes reality? One major theme running throughout the seminar is the mind/brain’s contribution to the establishment of our sense of reality, and a recurring “sidebar” to this theme will be disorders of mind/brain and their creation of alternative views of reality. A second theme tying things together during the seminar is the nature of evidence that undergirds our sense of truth, including evidence arising from the interplay of “facts” and “beliefs.”


HONS 1860W-13
“The Great Beauty: Italy on the Silverscreen”
TR 11 am – 12:15 pm
Professor Letizia Modena
Department of French & Italian
AXLE: International Cultures (INT)

This Seminar surveys the cinematic landscape of modern Italy by focusing on the intersections of society, especially urban society, and film in the most compelling and critically acclaimed dramas and comedies from the period 1940-2014. We will follow an itinerary of Italian cities and regions in order to explore the dialogical relationship between space (natural and built environments), the self, and the socio-historical period depicted in contemporary Italian film. We will explore expressions of Italian identity, in particular, how selected Italian regions and cities are portrayed, imagined or remembered by a wide selection of Italian film directors. Students will be introduced to various social, cultural, geographical, and architectural aspects of Italian urban and regional landscapes through cinematic images. Some of the films are adaptations of novels or essays, excerpts from which we shall read and discuss in class. We shall analyze the interplay of space and identity, paying special attention to how and what specific Italian settings signify to characters within the films and to potential audiences. The films will be streamed on Brightspace.


HONS 1860W-18
“The Roman Household and Family”
TR 2:35 – 3:50 pm
Professor Thomas McGinn
Department of History
AXLE: International Cultures (INT)

This seminar explores various aspects of ideals and reality in the Roman family and household, including the status and role of women, law and the regulation of the private sphere, sexuality and gender role, demography and family structure, marriage, children, religion, domestic architecture and the household economy, the impact of Christianity.  Special emphasis will be accorded the role of patria potestas and sexual fidelity between spouses.