On Campus
1 x 1-hour lectures weekly
1 x 2-hour tutorials weekly
1 x 8.25-hour independent study weekly

Distance Online
1 x 1-hour online lectures weekly
1 x 2-hour online tutorials weekly
1 x 8.25-hour independent study weekly
Assignment(s), Participation, Project
Topic description

This topic is part of the suite of multidisciplinary Grand Challenges topics aiming to focus on a range of complex issues facing the world. Throughout this topic, you will critically examine challenging societal contexts and consider how to best tackle them.

The birth of the modern age in the West placed the human at the centre of all understanding. And yet, history shows that the status of the human is anything but transparent. Humanism has been bound up with violence and exclusion; witness to the pathologies of imperialism, racism, and sexism. But it has also stimulated technological progress and marvels of cultural production. Some suggest we are entering the age of the ‘post-human’, as advances in artificial intelligence and challenges to the nature of personal identity show the limitations of the category. The aim of this topic is to consider the human not as the source and summit of our understanding, but as a contested concept that is embedded in a context that is natural, cultural, and political – in a word, global.

Educational aims

This topic aims to:

  • Gain a broader understanding of global challenges
  • Critically examine challenging societal contexts
  • Place debates about the nature of humanity in historical and cultural contexts
  • Interpret global news events in terms of the history of ‘humanity’ as a concept
  • Evaluate the ethical dilemmas that arise in debates about ‘post-humanism’, raised by such issues as artificial intelligence and other technological innovations
  • Understand the ‘human’ as a politically contested concept linked to questions of exclusion and social justice
Expected learning outcomes
On completion of this topic you will be expected to be able to:

  1. Critically analyse challenging contexts
  2. Examine ‘human’ as a concept using a critical understanding
  3. Discuss the history of debates about the place of humanity in nature
  4. Explore differing modes of understanding from an ethically responsive perspective
  5. Evaluate critically literature forecasting the future of humanity