Honors Seminars

2024-2025 Honors Seminars

Honors seminars are small, specially-designed four-unit classes on a variety of topics taught by top UCI faculty. Campuswide Honors offers a selection of seminars each quarter during the academic year. These seminars are open to all rising sophomores, juniors, seniors, and Honors to Honors transfer students in Campuswide Honors to enroll on a first-come, first-serve basis. The seminars are worth 4 units each. Campuswide Honors students may take as many of these seminars as they wish, and can even use one of them to substitute for one quarter of a Classic Track honors core course as designated by Campuswide Honors (see credit descriptions for each seminar below).

Only one substitution total permitted per student.
Sustainable Societies Track is not eligible for honors seminar substitutions.

Fall 2024 Seminars

Social Science Core Equivalent Seminar

The Properties of Property

Instructor: Professor Lee Cabatingan

Enroll in: CRM/LAW H80

Credit: GE Category III, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core

This course takes a deep dive into the concept of property with a goal to denaturalize and critique the private property regime that structures much of the world in which we live. It asks: how have we come to own what we think we own? What ideas undergird the legitimacy of this ownership? Whose ideas are these? In which institutions are these ideas supported? And are there alternatives to private property? To address these questions and more, the course draws from historical, legal, and anthropological sources, amongst others, and features several guest speakers to establish a sociohistorical understanding of how private property came to be, a legal understanding of the cases and laws that have helped to regiment these ideas of ownership, and a cultural understanding of different forms of ownership and alternative ways of relating to objects and land. Through these readings, as well as discussions and guest lectures, the class formulates arguments for and against private property and entertains the possibility that the world could be organized differently. As a case study, the course covers the ongoing, but beleaguered, presence of communally owned land in the Caribbean and elsewhere. As a class, we consider whether this is a viable, desirable, or advisable model within the hegemonic reign of private property.

Science Core Equivalent Seminars

Drugs and Society

Instructor: Professor Sam Schriner

Enroll in: Pharmaceutical Sciences H80

Credit: GE Category II, may substitute for one quarter of Science Core

The majority of individuals in modern society will use drugs at some point. Most drugs have legitimate medical uses, while some are used recreationally, and drugs from both groups can be abused. This course will introduce some basic physiology, including the brain reward circuit, needed to appreciate drug action. However, it will mostly focus on recreational drugs and where they come from, how they work, how and why people abuse them, the costs of drug abuse on society, which drugs are commonly abused, and how drug abuse can be prevented or treated. Overall, the course will consider the importance of recreational drugs in relation to medicine, public health, science, law, politics, humanities, philosophy, religious beliefs, economics, sports, and innovation. While this course is intended for non-science majors, it would be helpful that students have had biology and chemistry in high school. Grading in the course is composed of three midterms and one final. These may be multiple choice, short answer, and/or essay format. In addition, each student will give two oral presentations on drug-related topics of their choice. Finally, the class will work together to create, administer, and analyze a drug use survey given to the UCI community.

Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics

Instructor: Professor Jeffrey Barrett

Enroll in: LPS H141

Credit: No GE, may substitute for one quarter of Science Core

An examination of the standard von Neumann-Dirac formulation of quantum mechanics. The quantum measurement problem is discussed along with several proposed solutions, including GRW, many-worlds, man-minds, and Bohm’s theory.

Tentative Winter 2025 Seminars

Social Science Core OR Science Core Equivalent Seminar

The Philosophy and Biology of Sex

Instructor: Professor Cailin O’Connor

Enroll in: LPS H91

Credit: GE Category II or III, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core OR Science Core

This seminar discusses how cultural beliefs about gender, especially, but also about race and sexual orientation, impact the biological sciences related to sex. We begin by discussing philosophical and sociological work on gender, race, and sexuality. This work reveals how these concepts are typically culturally developed, and specific to different cultures. We then delve into the biological sciences including work on the origins of biological sex, anisogamy, dynamics of sexual selection, the evolution of sexual behavior in humans, sex differences, sexual orientation in humans and more. In doing so, we explore how our cultural notions have shaped research in these areas. We find that cultural beliefs impact a range of study choices from which subjects to include, to what topics to investigate, to how to interpret evidence. Along the way we develop a much deeper and more sophisticated picture of how science works. Course assignments include weekly reflections, a short midterm paper analyzing how gender works in popular media, and a final paper looking at a recent scientific work to understand how culturally specific beliefs have shaped it.

Social Science Core Equivalent Seminars

Exploring Memory

Instructor: Professor Sarah Farmer

Enroll in: Humanities H80

Credit: GE Category IV, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core

Why does it matter that we have a past? How do we remember? Questions about human memory are central to scholarly inquiry across the humanities, sciences and social sciences. This class explores questions historians, writers, psychologists, sociologists, legal experts, and neuroscientists ask in their efforts to understand the role of memory in defining our experience as humans. Students will learn about the range of approaches, sources, and methods developed by those who study memory. For example, we will consider ways we remember the past as individuals and as members of groups. Both writers of autobiography and scientists who study the biological bases of memory think of memory as the property of individuals. On the other hand, historians and sociologists often approach memory as a social phenomenon—something elaborated in groups (such as the family, the state, clubs, religious communities). You will write regular short assignments in preparation for in-class discussion of common readings as well as participate in devising a group presentation to the class. The focus of this class is lively in-person discussion. We will have occasional guest lectures from distinguished UCI faculty who study the workings of memory.

What is a University?

Instructor: Annie McClanahan

Enroll in: English H83

Credit: GE Category III, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core

Description TBD


Tentative Spring 2025 Seminars

Social Science Core OR Science Core Equivalent Seminar

Evolutionary Foundations of Human Moral Psychology

Instructor: Professor Kyle Stanford

Enroll in: Logic & Philosophy of Science H83

Credit: GE Category II or III, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core OR Science Core

Recent decades have witnessed an explosion of interest in our “moral psychology”:  the distinctive ways in which humans experience, reason about, and make judgments concerning what is right or wrong.  This course will examine the origins and functioning of this human moral psychology from an evolutionary point of view.  We will consider the increasingly influential view that much of our moral psychology represents a complex adaptation for facilitating cooperative, altruistic, and prosocial interactions between the members of ancestral (and contemporary!) human social groups. Along the way we will be exploring some of the most puzzling features of that psychology.  For example, although most of our behavior is motivated simply by our subjective preferences and desires, we do not experience moral motivation in this way.  Instead we experience moral demands and obligations as somehow imposed on us externally or “from the outside”, requiring each of us to act or not act in particular ways no matter what our own subjective desires and preferences may be.  We will draw on both theoretical work and experimental findings from evolutionary biology, social psychology, developmental psychology, comparative psychology, primatology, anthropology, and philosophy.  Course assignments include one midterm and one final, as well as contributions to online and in-class discussions.


Social Science Core Equivalent Seminar

Improvisation and Modes of Research and Creative Expression

Instructor: Professor Alan Terricciano

Enroll in: Arts H81

Credit: GE Category IV credit, may substitute for one quarter of Social Science Core

The goal of this course is to recognize, build and apply a set of cognitive skills collectively categorized under the umbrella of “improvisation.” Improvisation utilizes a complex of powerful, formal cognitive tools applicable toward many fields. The course begins by examining improvisatory practices within the arts and extrapolates a set of tools embedded in artistic improvisation – temporal awareness and engagement in time; real-time design; pattern recognition and pattern repetition; and the ability to identify, explore, and illuminate connections between disparate phenomena. Through readings, guest lectures by UCI faculty and visiting artists (when possible), in-class student-centered learning, and project design/presentation, this course sets out to demonstrate how the “tool set” applies across the disciplines, from creative writing to the analysis of large-scale data sets to the application of the scientific method.


Science Core Equivalent Seminar

What is Disease?

Instructor: Professor Lauren Ross

Enroll in: LPS H123

Credit: GE Category II, may substitute for one quarter of Science Core

This course explores philosophical issues regarding human health and disease. It examines theories of how to identify, classify, and explain disease, with a focus on examples from physical medicine and psychiatry. A brief examination of different theories of disease is provided, from the Hippocratic corpus, to 18th and 19th century medicine, and modern times. After this review, the course focuses on various questions related to modern medicine. These include: What is disease and how is it understood and explained in modern medicine? How should we understand appeals to causal concepts such as “mechanism” and “pathway” in contemporary disease explanations? How should disease diagnosis, classification, explanation, and discovery be understood? What challenges face these practices in modern medicine? Are diseases socially constructed concepts or objective things in the world?The goal of this class is to provide students with a critical understanding of these theoretical issues. Previous knowledge of biology, neuroscience, and/or medicine is not needed. Key notions and concepts in these fields will be introduced and explored throughout the course.