•   “No one asked that question favored by small children and geniuses alike: ‘Why?'"


    Brain with gears

    Honors Humanities

     Welcome to Honors Humanities. While not strictly a philosophy class, we will touch on a number of philosophical concepts, issues, and controversies, as well as create (and attempt to resolve) a few controversies of our own. We will spend first semester examining the processes by which we acquire understanding - what philosopher Bertrand Russell called the "theory of knowledge." During second semester, we will examine what others have concluded about these issues through a study of specific schools of philosophy. The culmination of our course of study will be projects created by each student that respond to the essential philosophical question that the class will generate and agree upon. These responses will be presented at Humanities Night in May, an event that is open to the public and will count for the majority of your second semester grade.
    My hope is that you will come into Humanities with an open and inquisitive mind, ready to both learn and teach. This is a student-driven, open-ended discussion, and as such will be very different from your other classes at West Linn High School. You will be challenged, but I believe that the challenge will be well worth the results.
    To sum up, I will share astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson's response to a young child's simple question: "What is the meaning of life?"

    "So — what is the meaning of life? I think people ask that question on the assumption that 'meaning' is something you can look for and go, 'Here it is, I found it. Here's the meaning. I've been looking for.' That scenario, however, doesn't consider the possibility that 'meaning' is something you create. You manufacture it for yourself and for others.

    So when I think of 'meaning' in life, I ask, 'Did I learn something today that I didn't know yesterday, bringing me a little closer to knowing all that can be known in the universe?' If I live a day and I don't know a little more than I did the day before, I think I wasted that day. So the people who, at the end of the school year, say 'The summer! I don't have to think anymore!' — I just don't know. To think brings you closer to nature. To learn how things work gives you power to influence events. Gives you power to help people who may need it — to help yourself and your trajectory.

    So when I think of the meaning of life, that's not an eternal and unanswerable question — to me, that's in arm's reach of me everyday. So to you, at age six-and-three-quarters, may I suggest that you explore nature as much as you possibly can. And occasionally that means getting your clothes dirty because you might want to jump into puddles and your parents don't want you to do that. You tell them that I gave you permission."


    Julian - Humanities syllabus