Master of Liberal Studies

Social Science Core Course MLSC503: Violence and Human Nature

Fall 2005


Instructor: David J. Schneider

Department of Psychology


Course Description

This course is open only to students in the Master of Liberal Studies Program at Rice and is one of the three required core courses. As such the course is less about the topic of violence than an introduction to the ways social scientists think about a particular set of issues. In future semesters the topic of the Social Science Core course will change, but the focus will remain on the many ways social scientists question and try to achieve answers. Other topics such as racism and prejudice, status and inequality, authority and leadership, beliefs and ideology, socialization and education, to name but a few, could equally serve as a vehicle for the course aims.

Unfortunately social scientists use a wide array of methods to investigate issues, and because available methods often dictate the kinds of questions that can be answered different social scientists often approach issues in quite different ways. In particular those from different academic disciplines sometimes seem to be on "different pages" when examining ostensibly the same general problem. In the case at hand, the psychologist tends to examine how people learn to become violent and why some people are more violent than others, the anthropologist looks at cultural influences, the sociologist at general societal factors, political scientists at institutional and international factors, the historian at historical forces. Violence is a complex phenomenon with many causes, and there is no reason to believe that one kind of analysis should be privileged over others. Nonetheless less choices must be made, and we will spend more time on some sorts of analysis than on others.

Course Requirements and Grades

I expect that you will attend all class meetings, that you will have done the reading, and that you be prepared to discuss it. Part of each class will probably be devoted to lecture, but for the most part we will be discussing the reading and related issues. There will also be frequent short papers (probably 4 or 5) due at the beginning of the relevant class. A term paper will be due at the beginning of the last class. Class participation, short papers, and the term paper will each count 1/3 of the final grade. I do not plan to have examinations, although we will if necessary.

Reading and Assignments

The books for the course will be provided to you during orientation or at the first class. There will also be assigned articles and papers from professional journals, and these will either be copied for you or in electronic form, available through Fondren Library's electronic reserves or via links from the course web site. Obviously you will have to have access to the Internet for these materials, and high speed access will be useful if not absolutely necessary. If you do not have high speed access (cable or DSL) from home or office, you can use one of many computers on campus; however, you will have to pay to print materials from campus terminals.

The actual reading for each week and the writing assignments will be listed on the course syllabus (use the link below). While you will probably want to print off a copy early in the semester, I expect that the reading and perhaps writing assignments will change as the semester progresses.




Writing Assignments

Data Assignments

Term Paper

Schneider Home Page