Core Courses

Changing Perspectives One Hour at a Time

See course equivalencies for all Core courses.

Freshman Year – Core I

COR 101. Narratives of the Self I

COR 102. Narratives of the Self II

The first-year course sequence investigates narratives of the self. Among the topics that students will consider are a variety of fictional and philosophical constructions of the self, the relationships of memory to personal identity, and the disjunction or harmony between public and private selves. The authors considered in the courses may include Homer, Socrates, St. Augustine, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Descartes, Cervantes, Lao Tsu, Nietzsche, and Toni Morrison.


Sophomore Year – Core II

COR 201. Human Nature and the Social Order I

COR 202. Human Nature and the Social Order II

The sophomore course sequence focuses on the relationship between individuals and communities, examining the extent to which the “good life” can be pursued within the confines of any social order. These courses investigate issues such as the nature of human excellence and virtue, the character of justice, the origins and sources of social order, and the status and legitimacy of political power. How can we obtain an accurate description of humans as social beings? What is the good society, and how may it be realized? Students in this course are invited to become more thoughtful, self-conscious, and self-critical members and citizens of the society and polity in which they live. Authors such as Aristotle, Locke, Smith, Tocqueville, Marx, and Weber are read.


Junior Year – Core III

COR 301. Historical Perspectives on the Social Order I

COR 302. Historical Perspectives on the Social Order II

The junior year sequence constitutes an historical examination of human experience in response to some of the themes and issues raised in the first two years of the core. Drawing on a variety of perspectives from both the humanities and the social sciences, the course strives to reconstruct the histories of significant periods in human history. The first semester focuses on the rise and fall of civilizations from antiquity through the Renaissance. The second semester concentrates on the problems of modernity, such as the rise of the modern state, nationalism, revolution, and globalization. Both courses examine the ways in which significant moments have become essential parts of our historical consciousness, enshrined in myth, and religion, tradition, culture, and institutions. Through careful analysis of current scholarship and original sources, students are invited to consider the complex relationship between history, cultural traditions, and the social and political institutions derived from them.


Senior Year – Core IV – One of the following:

COR 401. Science and Human Nature: Biological Sciences

The senior year course deals with the way scientific methodologies inform current thinking on the nature of the human organism. Starting from basic genetic and psychological understandings, it emphasizes how evolutionary mechanisms may be seen as contributing to the origins of uniquely human behaviors. Elements of DNA structure as it applies to information storage and transmission, the regulation of gene expression and the mechanics of protein synthesis, mutation and its centrality in producing variation, sexual reproduction and how the laws of probability apply to biological systems, sex determination, “altruistic” behavior, and kin selection are among the topics explored.

COR 402. Science and Human Nature: Physical Sciences

Modern western society is largely science-dominated, and the consideration of science and its role in society is essential for any educated person. This core course investigates the practice of science by focusing specifically on scientific revolutions. It is during such periods of upheaval that we can most clearly see how science is actually practiced. What causes a new idea to challenge the scientific status quo? What determines whether the new idea will be accepted, or not? When seeking new explanations for natural events, what guides the scientist’s search? The goal of this course is to equip the student with the necessary tools and background to seek answers to these questions, and others, for such questions are increasingly a part of each of our lives if we live those lives reflectively.


Fine Arts Requirement – One of the following:

COR 103. Music and Culture

The appreciation of music begins with an understanding of the creative process as a means of self-expression and the artist’s relationship to the world. Using primary sources, guest lecturers, and artists, this course examines the styles, trends, and developments of Western and international music from early civilizations through the 20th century. Study and discussion begin to develop an understanding of how music and the cultural arts reflect and affect societal trends and values.

COR 104. Art and Culture sample syllabus

Through the study of art this course will help students understand the basic chronology of Western culture, lay the groundwork for broad cultural literacy, and look at how art reflects the human condition. The course explores content, formal elements, and historical context of the art of Western and non-Western cultures from ancient to modern times. Four basic themes will prevail: Art and Religion, Art and Power, Art and Nature, and Art and the Personal.


Mathematics Requirement

COR 203. Great Ideas of Modern Mathematics

This course explores several major modern mathematical developments and helps students to understand and appreciate the unique approach to knowledge which characterizes mathematics. The mode of inquiry employed is reason. This is not to be confused with the approach used, for example, in the natural or social sciences. It is, rather, reason divorced from anything empirical. As T. H. Huxley remarked, “Mathematics is that study which knows nothing of observation, nothing of experiment, nothing of induction, nothing of causation.” The course will be organized around three or four major mathematical ideas that have emerged since the time of Newton. These ideas will be drawn from such fields as calculus, set theory, number theory, probability theory, modern algebra, logic, topology, and non-Euclidean geometry.
Note: This course is taught by faculty in mathematics, transfer credit is not awarded for this course, and there is no placement examination since it has no prerequisite.