Intellectual Foundations

AUSTIN, TX

INTRODUCING UATX’S B.A. IN LIBERAL STUDIES:

LAUNCHING FALL 2024

program overview

goals & outcomes

Display proficiency in the English language through interpretation of texts, persuasive writing, and effective speaking
Model and solve problems using quantitative reasoning tools, and understand how to quantify uncertainty as it applies to decision-making and risk
Achieve a critical understanding of the varieties of knowledge, their interrelationship, and the difference between knowledge and wisdom
Identify the necessary conditions of flourishing human lives and communities
Achieve a critical understanding of modern society and Western culture
Understand and appreciate the unique vibrancy of the American form of government and way of life

Areas of
Concentration:

Center Foundations:
INF 1100
Chaos and Civilization (4.5 credits)

This seminar asks what foundational texts of the Western tradition can teach us about the origins of civilization. What is the character of the beginning of human life, and why does it matter? What roles do the heroes of Homer, Plato, the Greek tragedies, and the Bible play in the beginning of civilization? Are they agents of order or disorder?

INF 1200
The Beginning of Politics (4.5 credits)

An introduction to the nature, meaning, and purposes of political life. What is politics? Are human beings political animals? Does a city differ from a pack of wolves, a herd of sheep, or a band of robbers? What is law? Can we say that some laws are better than others? What do Greek and biblical understandings of politics and leadership have in common?

INF 1210
Writing and the English Language (3 credits)

This seminar aims to increase our appreciation for the English language and to make us better writers and more perceptive readers. What can great poems, plays, speeches, letters, autobiographies, short stories, and essays teach us about the depth and range of the English language and the uses of language as such? How can good reading promote good writing—and vice-versa?

INF 1300
Christianity and Islam, Europe, and the East (4.5 credits)

An introduction to Christianity and Islam that explores their place in Western civilization. What is Christianity? What is Islam? How do both interpret their biblical predecessors and incorporate classical thought? Can Christianity find common ground with Islam? How do these religions relate to the European identity? What is revealed about Christians, Muslims, and Asiatic peoples through their encounters?

INF 1310
Mortality and Meaning in Art and Music (3 credits)

This seminar explores the relationship between mortality and meaning through the study of works of art from different historical periods and cultures and in various genres and media, including painting, sculpture, and music. Does death negate the meaning of a human life? Or can mortality and death give life meaning?

Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Technology
inf 1120
Knowing, Doing, Making, Wisdom (4.5 credits)

This seminar examines the nature and limits of knowledge and the relationship between knowledge and wisdom. Guiding questions include: What is knowledge? What are its sources, modes, objects, and methods? How is knowledge manifested in doing and making? How is it acquired, preserved, and transmitted? What are the limits of our knowledge? Is some knowledge ineffable? How does knowledge differ from wisdom?

INF 1130
Quantitative Reasoning I (3 credits)

The first of a two-course sequence in quantitative reasoning. Topics include interpretation of graphical information, functional notation, patterns, mathematical problem formulation. Throughout the course examples will be drawn from a variety of fields including physics, biology, and economics; there will be particular emphasis on the laws of nature and analogies among them.

INF 1220
Quantitative Reasoning II (3 credits)

The second of a two-course sequence in quantitative reasoning. Topics include quantifying uncertainty, estimation techniques and applications. Throughout the course examples will be drawn from a variety of fields including physics, biology, and economics; there will be particular emphasis on the laws of nature and analogies among them.
Prerequisite:  INF 1130

INF 1330
Foundations of Science I (3 credits)

This course is the first part of a two-course sequence designed to explore and understand some of the most important ideas in science. This first course introduces students to a framework for scientific thinking and investigates key ideas in physical and earth sciences. Emphasis will be placed on applications and interdisciplinary connections across areas of study in the course sequence.

INF 2100
The Uses and Abuses of Technology (3 credits)

This seminar examines the advantages and disadvantages of technology from a broadly human perspective. What is technology? How has it shaped human life? What are its intellectual presuppositions, social conditions, benefits, and dangers?

INF 2110
Foundations of Science II (3 credits)

This course is the second part of a two-course sequence designed to explore and understand some of the most important ideas in science. This second course will build on principles from the first course and investigate key ideas in the chemical and life sciences. Emphasis will be placed on applications and interdisciplinary connections across areas of study in the course sequence.
Prerequisite:  INF 1330

Social and Behavioral Sciences
INF 1320
Intellectual Foundations of Economics (3 credits)

Students will become familiar with some of the most important analytical tools related to understanding individuals’ economic choices and their consequences. Specifically, we will examine how rational people with well-defined life objectives manage their lives as consumers, laborers, and entrepreneurs, and how those individual decisions operate within a market economy to create outcomes for all of us (the prices and quantities of goods and services produced, exchanged, and consumed by individuals and firms).

INF 2120
Modernity and the West (4.5 credits)

This seminar is an introduction to modernity and the West. What does it mean to say that we are modern, that we have progressed beyond a pre-modern or medieval world? How do conceptions of the natural world, human being, science, and the aims of knowledge change with the advent of modernity? What is distinctive about modern Western ways of thinking, feeling, and acting? What discontents are endemic to the modern world?

INF 2200
The American Experiment (4.5 credits)

What is the American regime—the form of government and way of life—and what, if anything, makes it distinctive? Why has America been a land of hope? What great failings have Americans struggled to overcome? Can Americans be said to have a distinctive character? We shall explore these questions through the study of a variety of writings, including political documents and speeches, autobiographies, novels, and essays.

INF 2300
Ideological Experiments of the 20th Century (3 credits)

This seminar is an examination of the philosophical roots and practical consequences of ideological tyranny in the 20th century, particularly Nazism and Soviet Communism. What are the presuppositions of ideological experimentation? What does ideological tyranny do to the bodies and characters of individual human beings? What are its effects on thought, art, politics, religion, and the economy?

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