The Good, the Beautiful, the Brain

Learn how morality and science go hand-in-hand

October 28, 2022

Is morality subjective? Is beauty simply in the eye of the beholder? How can we tell? These questions and more are asked in a Grinnell philosophy course titled The Good, The Beautiful, The Brain.

The central question is ‘What is the good life?’

Joe Neisser, associate professor of philosophy

In this course, you will explore the philosophy of the values that shape your life. The central question is “What is the good life?” says Associate Professor Joe Neisser. Understanding the “good life” is the fundamental question for any philosophical tradition and vision of humanity. While this sounds like a profound and heavy question, not to worry — Neisser connects it with circumstances and situations we can all relate to. You will learn about the science, values, and ethics behind human behavior and how they interact with daily life.

Philosophy for Your Daily Life

Answering the question for yourself leads to deeper thinking about the life we all strive to find for ourselves. Should I pursue a life of pleasure? Of meaning? Of virtue, love, friendship, contemplation, or freedom? Neisser leads the class through those questions throughout the semester, allowing students to soak in the information and decide how it fits into their daily lives.

What, if anything, can modern neuroscience contribute to a philosophical understanding of values? In this course, you’ll examine what is at stake through conversations about neuroscience and specific influential theories. You will learn about value theory and contemporary empirical approaches to values, especially neuroscience, Neisser says.

How Philosophy Fits in Your Future

At Grinnell, we also focus on career development and where your studies will lead you. This class is a stepping stone to higher learning — perhaps grad school in philosophy or another humanistic field. Neisser says that as a medical humanities course focusing on neuroscience, it can also lead to a career in the biomedical field. As a crucial part of your liberal arts education, this course focuses on a multidisciplinary study of values, aligning with Grinnell’s mission to provide a 21st-century liberal arts education.

Past students in this course have enjoyed the student-oriented discussions and the opportunity to think more deeply about how the scientific ideas behind morality and values apply to their lives. The course presents a broader context of life and culture, making it an invaluable part of your higher education.

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