What it Means to be Human: The Making of the Social Sciences

History R1B

Fall 2018
122 Latimer
Day & Time: 
Tue/Thu 8–9:30am
Class Number: 
  • This course satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition Requirement.
  • This course does not count for credit toward the History Major but may fulfill other requirements.
  • Disciplines such as sociology, anthropology, history, political economy, and psychology share a commitment to explaining some aspect of human life and human interaction. Whether they study society, human culture, the economy, or human cognition and behavior, these sciences each claim to be able to elucidate something fundamental about human existence. But how exactly have these sciences defined the human being and what it means to be human? This course explores the social sciences when they first emerged and what made them possible. From the Enlightenment through the nineteenth century, we will be concerned with how European intellectuals imagined the origins, organization, and purpose of human life as well as humans’ capacity for reason, language, morality, and law. Our engagement with philosophical texts and scientific attempts to render the human an object of science will be supplemented by readings of secondary scholarship in order to broaden our understanding of the ways knowledge about humanity gets produced and negotiated. This course will develop your writing skills and introduce you to the foundations of historical research. You will learn to read primary and secondary sources carefully and charitably, to use evidence to support your claims, and to craft and defend original arguments. As this course is writing-intensive, heavy emphasis will be placed on editing and revising written assignments throughout the semester. Writing assignments consist of a diagnostic writing sample, two short essays, and a final historical research paper.

    Gloria Yu is a PhD Candidate in the History Department. Her research interests include European cultural and intellectual history, the Enlightenment, the history of education, histories of the body, and the history of moral, political, and scientific concepts.