The courses in this learning community will explore perspectives in the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, asking how representations of our world can be both matters of fact and matters of fiction.

Patty DeWinstanley, DeSales Harrison, and Todd Ganson collaborate in Matters of Fact, Matters of Fiction cluster. Photo credit: Jennifer Manna

Matters of Fact, Matters of Fiction

Offered fall 2017
Open to first-year students

What do debates about free will, the waggle-dance of honey bees, and a poem by Sylvia Plath have in common? They each invite questions about how we represent the world around us and within our minds. The courses in this learning community will treat some of these questions from perspectives in the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, asking how representations of our world can be both matters of fact and matters of fiction.

• The Science of Thinking about Thinking will explore how the disciplines of anthropology, computer science, neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy can work together to understand consciousness, free will, and creativity.

• Representation and Reality will investigate the ways in which human and non-human animals make and exchange representations about inner and outer states of affairs.

• Objects and Apparitions will ask how lyric poems can seem at once fictional and factual, objective and subjective.

Each course will seek to build the skills and expertise appropriate to its own methods, but will assume that no full account of our central questions can be made without understanding how other disciplines approach these problems.

PHIL 209 and either FYSP 044 or FYSP 084 are required for enrollment in the learning community.


Instructors

Course instructors for this learning community are Professor of Psychology Patty DeWinstanley, Associate Professor of English DeSales Harrison, and Professor of Philosophy Todd Ganson.

Matters of Fact, Matters of Fiction will help students use their skills and subject knowledge to understand how other disciplines approach these problems.

Representation and Reality

Todd Ganson, instructor

PHIL 209 Representation and Reality
Meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 11 am, 4 credit hours; enrollment limit 30.

Required as a part of  Matters of Fact, Matters of Fiction cluster.

This course explores the notion of representation, which figures centrally in the behavioral sciences and the arts. Scientists routinely explain behavior by determining a creature’s viewpoint on reality—the way the creature represents the world.

How do scientists determine a creature’s subjective point of view and how do they arrive at an objective viewpoint on reality from which representational accuracy can be assessed?

In discussions of art since Plato, representational art has been thought to exploit the boundary between reality and representation, between fact and fiction. How does representational art blur the lines between matters of fact and matters of fiction?

First Year Seminar Program: The Science of Thinking about Thinking

Patty deWinstanley, instructor

First-Year Seminar 084: The Science of Thinking about Thinking 
Meets Tuesday and Thursday, 3 pm, 4 credit hours; enrollment limit 15.

Required as a part of Matters of Fact, Matters of Fiction cluster. Must also enroll in PHIL 209.

Our awareness, understanding, and control of our perceptions, memory, thinking, and reasoning are central to our ability to distinguish between matters of fact and matters of fiction.  Some of the questions that we will consider are the following: What is knowledge? What is consciousness? What is free will?  How much control do we have over our consciousness and our free will?  What is creativity and can we know about and control the processes that lead to creative performance? And, do non-human animals and machines have metacognition?

First Year Seminar Program: Objects and Apparitions

DeSales Harrison, instructor

First-Year Seminar 044: Objects and Apparitions
Meets Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, 10 am, 4 credit hours; enrollment limit 15.

Required as a part of  Matters of Fact, Matters of Fiction cluster. Must also enroll in PHIL 209.

Poems have traditionally understood themselves to be matters of fact and matters of fiction at the same time. The word “poem” comes from the Greek for “made thing.” As a made thing, a poem is an object, but it is also a representation, often of subjective experience.

Because they are works of imagination, we think of them as made up, or fictional. This course considers poetry as a rich domain in which to examine the relation between art objects and subjective experience. What roles will objectivity and subjectivity play as we learn to “make sense” of poems?