Terry Sparkes (program director)
A full description of Scholars program opportunities is included in the Academic Information section at the beginning of this catalog. The following listing includes only curricular offerings. For information see the program director.
The Scholars program curriculum, Intersections: Seeking the Common Good, provides highly motivated students an opportunity to engage in a series of seminars and colloquia focused on in-depth liberal arts study of the great ideas, issues, and challenges of the human quest for the common good. The Intersections curriculum offers students intellectual depth and connections by emphasizing both historical and cross-disciplinary inquiry into classic questions and texts, shaped in explicit connection to the goal of preparing students to understand, confront, and engage in service to the common good. It emphasizes the value of "intersections"—of people, cultures, approaches, methods—and the challenges of inquiry itself as part of each student's (and citizen's) intellectual journey.
To enroll in Intersections courses beyond the first-year level, students must apply for admission to the Scholars program. The application process is open to all students. Applications will be evaluated by the Honors Advisory Committee; continuation in the program is contingent on successful progress in the courses. Students who earn a minimum of 16 credit hours, including at least three seminars and at least one research or project-based course/experience, will receive a certificate of Scholars Distinction.
This is a 1-credit course that provides small-group discussions of readings, of local or national current events, or of the amazing cultural and intellectual events available on campus. Some sections of the colloquium focus on a particular theme for the semester; others range more broadly to include attendance at such events as lectures (by Luther faculty members and visiting scholars and dignitaries), concerts (ranging from classical to jazz to contemporary), theatre and dance performances, poetry readings, and art shows. The various sections of Scholars Colloquium are taught by faculty members from across the curriculum.
Are people less religious today than they were five hundred years ago? Has religion lost much of the influence it once had prior to modernity, or does modernity lead less to religious decline and more to changes in how people understand and practice religion? Why do these questions matter in the modern world, or do they? This Intersections seminar examines the interdisciplinary debate and the various theories concerning the causes of religious decline and change in the modern West. We will discuss those elements of modernity and modernization that are often viewed as culprits in secularization, including industrialization, urbanization, science, technology, economic prosperity, and religious pluralism. And we will grapple with the larger questions of what kind of distinction can be made within the West between a "secular Europe" and a "religious America," and how the West differs from the Global South in terms of the influence of religion. [Rel, Hist]
We usually hear the phrase "it's all relative" used as a challenge to the stability of moral truths and the fixity of human understanding. While relativism can be a symptom of intellectual laziness, there is also a long history of thinkers who take relativism seriously, arguing that theorizing the differences in human experience is the only way to truly understand our world. In this course we'll trace the intellectual history of relativism as a serious response to fundamental questions about the limits of human knowledge in the areas of natural science, morality, language, and politics. From the master rhetoricians and sophists of ancient Greece to contemporary post-modernists, this course invites students to critically assess the consequences, both ethical and philosophical, of a relativistic worldview.
The reality of human-caused global warming is no longer seriously debated, but even with widespread acceptance of this fact, we are still left with an enormously challenging question: What are we supposed to do about it? In this course we will examine what lies behind the scientific, economic, political, technological, and ethical issues that make a simple solution to climate change very difficult to attain. Through our discussion of climate change, we will also address broader societal questions such as: How do we make decisions in the face of unavoidable uncertainties, both scientific and economic? How do we reconcile the seemingly competing goals of human, environmental, and economic well-being? To what extent can (and should) humans manage the natural environment?
What it is to be human: of Gods, Ghosts, and Golems. Gods, ghosts, golems, angels, fairies, vampires, werewolves, zombies, human mutants, artificial humanoids, space aliens - there is a long tradition of stories about non-human intelligent beings that interact with the human species. Many mythologies include these supernatural characters, and not just modern fiction is full of encounters between normal humans and these human-like creatures. As almost all of these non-human actors are either imaginary or (in the case of aliens, robots, and AIs) highly speculative, one must ask why there is this fascination with beings that are somehow like us, but different, a fascination that stretches over thousands of years. This course explores the rich tradition of non-human beings in literature, art, movies, and computer games, in pursuit of the question what it is to be human. Comparing ourselves with these human-like others will enable us to define the limitations and possibilities of human existence, how we experience them in the real world, and why we fantasize about un-human, post-human, and trans-human life.
When defining and realizing the "common good", we are guided by our dreams and fears, on an individual level just as much as on a societal level. Literally and figuratively, dreams and fears are at the core of our humanness. They shape our actions and define our vision for the future. They can push us forward or hold us back. We can pursue them or run away from them. Dreams can turn into hopes, desires, and obsessions; fears intro aversions, hatred, and determination. The guiding question for this course will be: How do dreams and fears influence and shape human actions towards the common good? To find answers, we will look at dreams and fears from various angles, such as history, philosophy, psychology, sociology, political science, and art, with a focus on examples in modern Western society such as utopian/dystopian fiction, presidential election campaigns, and the notion of "the American Dream."