[02.001] Global Humanities: Literature, Philosophy, and Ethics

Course Description

The Self, Human Values and Design
When we are making a product, we create an outward expression of who we are and the values and virtues that we have internalised. What we make embodies our values and virtues, and becomes a tangible or intangible expression of our Self. The more able we are to transcend our beliefs about our Self, the better we can create designs that clearly express our aims. As much as what we make embodies our Self, we pass on our attributes, vision, and intent to others when they consume what we make. Irene Au, the former head of design at Google summarised this concept of design succinctly, “design is the culmination of intention, values, and principles manifested in a tangible or intangible form and passed on to another.” In other words, Design has to power to shape how we think and feel.

In this term, the humanities team has organised the course around the theme of the Self, human values, and its relationship ­with the design. Although each chosen text possesses multiple themes and strands of narrative—such is the nature of a canonical text—they all attempt to grapple with human subjectivities and values of the representative civilisation in different geographical and historical period of time. Our course begins with East Asian Confucianism. We will discuss the ideal of Confucianism and how this ideal manifests itself in politics and art design. Thereafter we will focus on Europe, South Asia, and the Islamic world, discussing different cultures’ perceptions of self and the manifestation of dominant and emerging values in design in different historical times and places. We are going to discuss what is a self? How have various groups of people conceptualised it? How has the tangible and intangible work they created expressed the very notion of the self and their values and visions?

This course will not only equip students with critical reading, thinking, and writing skills by engaging with the interpretative richness of these major documents of human culture, but also emphasise how the ideas, values and mindset behind the tangible and intangible cultural heritage.

Learning Objectives

  1. Summarise and appraise in a critical manner the content of assigned readings.
  2. Interpret the various, multi-layered meanings of classic texts, both by recognising and assessing previous interpretations and developing new ones.
  3. Identify meaningful connections between texts from different periods of time and geographic location.
  4. Effectively communicate arguments in writing and speech.

Delivery Format: 3-0-9

Grading Scheme:

  • 30% of the grade will be based on a midterm project of 1000-1200 words, which asks you to construct your own interpretation about one or two texts from the course. This assignment enables you to explore the historical, intellectual or cultural context of one of the texts you have enjoyed in the first half of the course.
  • 35% of the grade will be based on a final paper of 1200-1500 words, which asks you to construct your own interpretation about one or two texts from the course. This assignment seeks to hone your skills in making a focused, interesting argument that can be supported by evidence from the texts.
  • 25% of the grade will be based on your over-all investment in the class, including, but not limited to, attendance, taking responsibility for your own success, thoughtful participation in class, communication outside of class, work ethic, and contribution to creating a dynamic and effective classroom environment. Successful completion of weekly written assignments will also factor into this grade. As per SUTD course policy, 2% of your participation grade will come from completion of the end of term course survey.
  • 10% for the 2D project.