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Current courses on Isidore


This capstone course addresses some of life's most enduring questions, such as "How do we make sense of life?" and "How shall we live?" Together in this course we explore how people come to know themselves and others—especially in their life stories—in ways that cultivate (or thwart) happy, wise, and meaningful living dynamically within their sociocultural ecologies. No one field of study can adequately address such grand issues, so the course integrates several subfields of scientific psychology (developmental, personality, social, cultural, clinical, cognitive) as well as fields beyond (philosophy, sociology, cultural studies, literature, history, and the world's wisdom traditions). We embark on this transdisciplinary adventure to cultivate a deeper and broader understanding of what it means to be a person, to help make sense of modern life and society, and to help chart and navigate our various paths in life.


This course presents an overview of human development across the life span, with an emphasis on our evolving understanding of the self and others. The main aim of the course is to cultivate your ability to think from a developmental perspective—to help you better understand your own life (and the lives of those around you) over time. A developmental perspective on life helps you step outside the immediate moment to assess where that moment came from and where it’s going. For more on this developmental perspective, see the next course description.


A developmental perspective gives the long view of life over time. A developmental perspective on your own life helps you step outside the present moment in order to see how it was shaped by the past and how it might influence the future. This course challenges you to think about how people change (and stay the same), why they do so, and what all this says about us as humans. Studying adult development is complex, but only to a degree that is appropriate to the rich dynamics of everyday adult life. To give a sense of it all: Individual adults have particular genetic dispositions, social influences, and personal idiosyncrasies that shape their lives over time. As for the social influences, we live simultaneously contexts that are interpersonal (family, friends, lovers, coworkers, etc.), cultural, economic, political, religious, educational, commercial and more—all of which evolve over historical time as we and the generations before and after us live out our daily activities. Plus, adults have subjective interpretations of the past and intentions for the future (sometimes consciously, most times not) that objectively shape the path of their actual lives as well as the lives of others. As if all this weren’t complex enough, an individual’s adulthood can span several decades, during which time all these factors change in various ways, which further affects the development of the other factors. Therefore this course takes an integrative, organismic view that attempts to understand adult life over time in a vibrant context of self-organizing, interrelated, and developmental processes.


Personality psychology is the study of personhood. We begin and end this course with the question, “What is a person?” In between we explore how psychological science has provided answers to that question. In a nutshell, we find that there’s more to personhood than meets the eye. Each person possesses a vast range of characteristics—routine patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving—that we call “personality." Some of these personality characteristics are objectively observable. Others are subjective, such as our life story and sense of self-identity. Whether objective or subjective, all personality characteristics can be studied scientifically and have objective effects on our lives. Furthermore, personhood unfolds over time. Our personalities develop in a dynamic confluence of our genes, our intentions, and our interactions with families, friends, communities, and cultures at a particular time in history. Personhood includes all these factors. We are these things. They all combine to make us who we are, whether we think about it or not.


Welcome to the History of Psychology. By now you have taken several psychology courses. First you took Introduction to Psychology, where you got a little taste of the different disciplines within the vast field of psychology. Then you took several courses that explored the specific disciplines more deeply. In this course, you will again get the big picture of the entire field of psychology, but this time with a depth and breadth of view that is better understood after having gained some exposure to the various disciplines. We will not study the history of psychology for the sake of nostalgia. We'll study the history of psychology in order to lift the veil of what we think the mind and humanity are all about. Over thousands of years, the evolution of psychology has harnessed a wide range of disciplines—from philosophy and religion to physiology and biology—in order to study one of science’s great frontiers: The mind. The history of psychology makes us face some of life’s biggest questions: Why are we here? Who are we? What are we? How do we know? How should we know? Studying the history of psychology can be an appropriately humbling experience—one that clears a space for deeper understandings of psychology and of ourselves.


This course presents a dynamic portrait of the self. To start, the self refers to our subjective understanding of ourselves as persons—a subjective self that has objective effects on our life over time. By dynamic, I mean that we will study the self (and the person who has that self) as developing over time in conjunction with others within cultural and historical contexts. We will focus on the transformative self, which is a self-identity that emphasizes the personal growth of the person who has that self-identity. A person who has a transformative self aims toward exploring, expanding, and deepening their understanding of themselves and their world. Drawing on scientific research and theory in psychology, as well as work from philosophy, history, cultural studies, literature, and world religions, we will examine some of life’s perennial questions, like: What does it mean to be me? What is my “true” self? How do I know such things? Where do I fit in society? What is a good life? How do I become what I want to become? What is growth? What is authenticity? What is self-actualizing? What are the steps and stumbling blocks along the way? This course provides several perspectives from which to explore the facets and processes of self-development, including your own.


Like PSY 471, but more in depth


Welcome to the field of personality development. This field studies how people become who they are. No small task. We will examine several theoretical and empirical approaches to personality development, with a particular focus on the development of self-identity. The main questions of the course are some of life’s big, perennial questions: What is a person? How do we know ourselves? How do we become who we are? What is a good life? How do we cultivate a good life? I am particularly interested in the question of how we interpret our past and plan our future (i.e., our self-identities), how culture shapes these interpretations, and how these subjective understandings of our lives shape how our lives actually turn out. For more on the course's approach to both personality and development, see course descriptions above.

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