Great Ideas Seminars (IDS Seminars)

The Great Ideas Seminars examine the books, theories, and discoveries that have had the greatest influence on the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. If students are to understand the interrelatedness of the disciplines, they must understand the ideas that have shaped those disciplines. The Great Ideas Seminars are designed to teach a variety of interdisciplinary research skills. While they are being taught mainly by faculty of the Department of Philosophy, each Great Ideas Seminar makes use of guest lecturers from different disciplines.

The seminars are taught during the evening, either once or twice a week. One IDS seminar is offered per semester, including the summer semester. The following seminars are taught throughout the year:

IDS 6931 Great Ideas Seminar: The Age of Science

This seminar focuses on great ideas from the natural sciences, including the revolutionary ideas of Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein. Students study the historical development of these ideas, their evidential basis, and their broader implications. The goals and methods of science are examined, and attempts to demarcate science from other human activities are evaluated.

IDS 6939 Great Ideas Seminar: Politics and Society

This seminar examines great ideas in political and social thought. Students study the changing and competing conceptions of society and polity, and are exposed to the thought of such major figures as Plato, Aquinas, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, and Mill. Topics include the nature and extent of political obligation, the idea of social contract as a basis for the polity, the rule of law, and the nature of community.

IDS 6938 Great Ideas Seminar: Human Nature

This seminar examines great religious, philosophical, literary, and scientific ideas about human nature, including the view that human beings have no nature. Students are exposed both to ancient religious traditions like Confucianism, Buddhism and Upanishadic Hinduism and to secular thinkers like Aristotle, Darwin, Freud, Skinner, and Sartre. Conflicts between ideas are identified, and the possibility of integration is explored.

IDS 6937 Great Ideas Seminar: Special Topics

In this seminar, students learn about the interrelatedness of the disciplines by investigating a single great idea, and in particular an idea whose development and impact spans more than one discipline. Which idea is chosen for study will vary from one semester to another.