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THINK 41: The Conscious Mind: The Philosophy and Biology of Consciousness, Memory, and Personal Identity

How do our common-sense conceptions of the mind and of ourselves hold up against the growing body of psychological and neurobiological knowledge of the brain? How is your mental life anchored to your physical self?nYou wake up from a dreamless sleep and suddenly everything's buzzing with color and sound. Somehow your brain sustains this rich landscape of experience, integrating it with a repertoire of memories to constitute yourself. This course probes the neurobiological bases of these familiar yet miraculous facets of the mind. You'll learn to analyze primary philosophical and scientific texts, using basic knowledge of the brain to assess and even innovate experiments that could shed light on the nature of consciousness and personal identity.
Terms: not given this year | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-SMA | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 43: What is love?

Is love a spiritual or a bodily phenomenon? Is the concept of love timeless or ever changing? How does thinking about love lead us to ask other important philosophical and social questions? In this course we will examine the classical roots, medieval developments, and contemporary permutations of Western ideas of romantic love. With an eye to thinking about representations of love in our own culture, we consider some of the foundational love books of the Western tradition. From Plato's Symposium to Chester Brown's graphic novel Paying For It, we ask the fundamental question of whether and how we might distinguish between spiritual and physical desire. We consider how medieval and contemporary writers dealt with the relation of love to sex, power, money, marriage, and gender. We discuss these works of the past, for example the illicit love in the courtly romance Tristan, in tandem with representations of clandestine love from the present day, such as the portrayal of same-sex love in Brokeback Mountain.
Terms: Aut, last offered Autumn 2015 | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 44: Belief

Why do people believe in God? What does it mean for people to experience the supernatural? How do we understand belief in God? How do people convey experiences that are by definition extra-ordinary to others? In this course we ask the big (and unanswerable) question why people believe in God. Some scholars argue that belief results from direct experience, such as visions or moments of transcendence, that testify to God's existence. Others suggest that belief in the supernatural is better explained by the way the human mind has evolved or people's experience of the social world. In this class, we will pair medieval literature on Christian mysticism and magic with readings from modern psychology and anthropology. We will look at the dominant answers provided by each discipline. For example, belief might result from our sensory experience of the world, or it might have developed as part of our cognitive apparatus in response to fear. Our aim is to show how different disciplines can work together to cast light on a basic question of human existence.
Terms: Win | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-SI | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 49: Stories Everywhere

Do we perceive the world through stories? Are we made of stories? Can we make sense of the world without narrative? The telling of stories is not just a form of entertainment but an essential human activity that moves and persuades us, compelling us to action and reflection. In this course, we will probe how moral, cognitive and historical forces give stories their power. You will be introduced to the basic theory and art of storytelling, enabling you to understand and master the fundamentals of narrative structure, plot, and character. This will allow you to practice producing your own stories through both interpretative and creative writing assignments. The class will also give students the chance to participate in various story-making activities and work with the Stanford Storytelling Project, San Francisco StoryCorps, School of the Arts and the Stanford Innocence Project to create assignments that would be useful to both private and nonprofit organizations.
Terms: Spr | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-CE | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 52: World of Words

In this course, we define and make sense of the world around us through the words we use. Students will be asked to consider how words are formed, and who chooses what gets accepted into the dictionary. What do words reveal about status, class, race? Why are there so many derogatory words for women, but so few for men? We will enquire about how the words we use have changed over time, both through shifts in meaning, and through the life and death of words. We¿ll seek to discover how different cultures make sense of the world through specific sets of words, but also why the world loses an average of one language every two weeks. We¿ll explore how we create new names for things, from a `refrigerator¿ to `Google¿. We¿ll ask how words function in relation to the Internet, and how coding can be thought of as language. Words are the key to understanding the minds and ideas of a people and in tracing the biographies of words we are able to discern how the world was, is, and might be perceived and described. The course will be structured through a sequence of weekly words that are the starting point for a discussion on a major characteristic of the dynamic and fascinating world of words.
Terms: Win | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

THINK 53: Food Talks: The Language of Food

In this course, we examine how the ways we talk about food offers us a window into history, psychology, culture and economics. We ask students to think critically about language and taste as well as explore the hidden meanings and influence of the language that surrounds us. Students will analyze the language of food through menus, recipes, Yelp reviews, TV food shows, as well as the history and etymology of food words. Some of our examples will be drawn from East Asian food and culture in addition to, and as a point of contrast with, foods and cultures that may be more familiar to students.
Terms: Spr | Units: 4 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-SI | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
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