The contemporary world is dynamic and unsettling—and unsettling precisely because it is so dynamic. The experimental and theoretical investigation of nature, the acceleration of technical innovation, and the sustained increase in material productivity that first emerged in the West have spread throughout the world. It is now difficult to find a society or culture that is untouched by these developments and that might be called simply traditional.
What are the institutions, structures, and practices that have encouraged these changes? What resources exist within contemporary societies to foster, to resist, and to adapt to change? Can a heritage or tradition be preserved in the face of unfettered dynamism? To what degree can we understand the forces and processes at work in the contemporary world, and how far can we guide our practice by what we learn of them? In light of the great Western traditions of learning and culture, how can we productively and creatively address the impending future? These are the kinds of questions that are addressed by the concentration and the major in Human Sciences in the Contemporary World.
The major and the concentration in Human Sciences in the Contemporary World have five major goals:
First, they aim to understand how the transformations of the contemporary world have both enhanced life and set it unprecedented problems.
Second, they cultivate a sophisticated appreciation for the contemporary influences, movements, forces, and tendencies that are progressively transforming human activities and institutions.
Third, they offer ways of understanding the structures of contemporary societies and the processes of change that they undergo.
Fourth, they strive to counteract the divisive force of intellectual overspecialization and compartmentalization.
Fifth, they place these matters within the context of the great traditions of the West and Christian thought, in particular their interest in and openness to many cultures and global civilization.
Human Sciences in the Contemporary World addresses these issues and questions in particular by marshaling the resources, concepts, and methods of disciplines that for the most part have emerged in the past 150 years as part of an attempt to gain a scientific understanding of human being in human community. Disciplines like anthropology, sociology, social psychology, linguistics, and social studies of science have developed both fundamental and heuristic concepts that are essential for understanding the differences between traditional and modern cultures and societies.
By taking a reflective view of these disciplinary developments and how they come to grips—and sometimes do not come to grips—with the realities of the contemporary world, Human Sciences in the Contemporary World aims to cultivate in students a productive, philosophically- and historically-informed understanding of the world of the twenty-first century.