Auburn University
Auburn University
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Auburn University

The Human Odyssey Course and Curriculum

Human Odyssey I and II contribute 6 hours to the core curriculum. Its team-taught interdisciplinary curriculum consists of lectures, videos, and ~170 readings (see sample syllabi for Fall and Spring semesters). (Link to sample syllabi)

Organized three decades ago as an exploration of C.P. Snow's "Two Cultures" (the sciences and humanities broadly defined), for a decade the course was taught as "The Ascent of Man." More recently, the Human Odyssey course explores Jerome Kagan's analysis of "Three Cultures" (adding the social sciences) and "ways of knowing" as illustrated by the scientific method and artistic and other humanistic endeavors.

Conceptualizing the Human Odyssey curriculum for the preceding 33 years has not been an easy task. In general terms, the Human Odyssey course has attempted to understand the human condition by studying and integrating scientific findings with the humanities. These ways of knowing distinguish humans from each other and from other forms of life on earth. But, consider the following examples of "Ways of Knowing" and ask if they can be "integrated."

  • Music (composing, performing, listening)
  • Logic (rules for thinking, for reasoning)
  • Meditation and Prayer
  • Language (communication with other humans)
  • Stories and literature including histories
  • Math (quantification, modeling of physical world)
  • Reason (thinking involving logic)
  • Intuition (thinking and emotion combined)
  • Science (scientific method, physics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience)
  • Technology
  • The visual arts (painting and sculpture)
  • Dance, theatre, athletic performance

The Human Odyssey course is unique because it is an interdisciplinary undergraduate curriculum at a university which is for the most part department driven; because it has lasted over three decades independently of a departmental structure; and because it is faculty generated and self-renewing through the efforts of an interdisciplinary core of faculty members representing a broad academic spectrum.