Can Science Help Me?...To Be Better?

Fall 2013 quarter

Taught by

veterinary medicine

Most of you are in school because you want to live a better life; many of you probably think about what it might mean to live a good life. Is a good life one full of pleasure and devoid of suffering? A moral life? A long and healthy life? Of course, it is possible that the good life cannot be defined at all and simply has to be lived and attended to.

Let's start with the premise that most of our reliable, useful knowledge comes from science. Scientists work according to philosophically sound methodologies, which include commitments to impersonal inquiry and trying, always, to find the data most likely to defeat their favorite hypotheses; they work in open communities of other scientists, all of whom are obligated to be vigilantly critical of their colleagues' work; they generally qualify their claims to knowledge based on the limitations of their methodologies and their understandings of the probabilities of their claims being incorrect. But can science help us to be better , to live a good life? Some think that science can help us recognize, even define, our values, and we will explore this possibility from the perspectives of neuroscience, brain evolution, psychology, social science and philosophy. Some say that science can never answer questions of morality or what it means to live a good life, or even a better life; something more is necessary, they say.

Reading and written assignments, faculty presentations and deliberate discussions with vigilantly critical colleagues will assist students in an independent inquiry about how science can help a person live better with regard to some question of critical concern to the investigator(s). This program explores the power and limitations of scientific inquiry. Students should be able to imagine themselves discussing neurotransmitters and the moral life in the same sentence, but they should know that any education aims, finally, to help them know themselves.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

biology, philosophy, philosophy of science, physiology, psychology and sociology.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


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Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall)

Class standing: Freshmen–Senior; 25% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 48


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10155
So - Sr (16 credits): 10158

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