Prof. Robb’s Prompts and Questions from Sapere Aude

Big ‘H’ Humanities = this course. Small ‘h’ humanities = a division of the college, as distinguished from the natural and social sciences.
Via negativa (‘negative way’): first define social and natural sciences, then say the humanities departments or courses are any that aren’t sciences.
This semester, I encourage you to think about which questions we’re asking are normative (at least implicitly), and which questions are more descriptive and “scientific” in nature.
This semester: I encourage you sometimes to pause and ask yourself what principles are at work when you’re interpreting. What are you assuming about the person or persons you’re encountering? Are these assumptions justified?
Essential contestability
1. Don’t be discouraged by confusion and don’t be intimidated by ambiguity.
2. Don’t think that intellectual work will always involve a flash of insight or inspiration.
3. Apply the Principle of Charity to your texts (and to your professors, classmates, fellows).
4. Enjoy the course!

Where did the term “liberal arts” come from? How much of this original meaning is captured in the current term “liberal arts college”?

Where did the term “humanities” come from? How is this origin related to what we currently call humanities?

Can you give any examples in which science addresses normative (for example, moral) questions?

Give some more examples of essentially contestable questions.

How do you think the humanities produce empathy?