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Ideas of human nature, 7.5 Credits

Swedish name: Idéer om människans natur

This syllabus is valid: 2017-01-16 and until further notice

Course code: 1IH073

Credit points: 7.5

Education level: Second cycle

Main Field of Study and progress level: History of Science and Ideas: Second cycle, has only first-cycle course/s as entry requirements

Grading scale: Three-grade scale

Established by: Faculty director of studies, Faculty of arts, 2014-09-19

Revised by: Head of Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, 2016-09-12


What does it mean to be human? Are we spiritual creatures, or strictly genetically determined, or maybe both? These questions, and many others, will be addressed in this course as it invites students to engage with a broad array of historical texts on human nature. These texts focus primarily on western scientific accounts, (e.g. psychological,  philosophical,and biological) of what human beings are, or could be. Students are encouraged to reflect on core themes, arguments and knowledge claims in these texts and how they relate to the historical contexts in which they were originally expressed, as well as the relevance of these perspectives for how we understand ourselves today. The course is taught primarily in the form of short video introductions, online group seminar discussions, reflection exercises, and writing and presentation assignments.

Expected learning outcomes

After having completed the course the students will be able to:
Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of core themes, arguments and knowledge claims in selected historical and contemporary theories and conceptions of human nature,
  • Relate historical ideas of human nature to their relevant contexts,

Skills and Ability

  • Clearly and coherently discuss and reflect on course content,
  • Present a selected historical text/work for a non-academic audience using multimedia,

Assessment and Approach

  • Reflect on the role that ideas of human nature have for how we understand ourselves as individuals, as well as collectively as a society.

Required Knowledge

90 ECTS courses in history of ideas, or a Bachelors degree (180 ECTS), or the equivalent. Proficiency in English equivalent to Swedish upper secondary course English A.

Form of instruction

The course is taught completely online and involves only asynchronous learning activities. The course is structured into 10 week-long learning units/modules and is designed around the active participation of students, in the form of group discussions and other types of interaction.

Technical requirements

  • Regular, reliable, high speed internet access
  • A computer (laptop or stationary) with a webcam (built in or external)
  • A microphone, preferably a headset with microphone

Examination modes

Active participation in the course’s weekly online group seminar discussions and reflection exercises is obligatory. The examination also includes a written individual essay and an individual multimedia presentation.  

Academic credit transfer
Transfer of credits is handled by Student Services/Degree Evaluation Office. See http://www.student.umu.se/english/getting-your-degree/transfer-of-credits/


The literature list is not available through the web. Please contact the faculty.