New Philosophy Classes in Spring 2023

Casey Pac

Photo courtesy of GoodReads

This spring, JCHS has two new half-year classes created by Humanities teachers. Mr. Phelan, an English teacher at JCHS, will teach Philosophy Through Science Fiction. Dr. Trause, the World Language coordinator at JCHS, will teach Classical Philosophy. Classical Philosophy is available as a half-year elective to all students, and Philosophy Through Science Fiction is available to Juniors and Seniors as a selective course to meet the English requirement.

In Philosophy Through Science Fiction, the class will read short stories and watch movies to understand how science fiction and philosophy connect. Mr. Phelan is excited to teach stories from the collection Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, which centers around a translator working on an alien language. The class will also see clips from The Matrix and Interstellar. Another reading in the class will focus on the idea of the meaning and effects of physical beauty. The class will read “Liking What You See: A Documentary,” where a medical procedure removes a person’s ability to perceive beauty.

JCHS Juniors and Seniors have the unique opportunity to choose a half-year English selective to go with a half year of English 11 or 12. Mr. Phelan has previously taught an Introduction to Philosophy course, so he is excited to combine science fiction with philosophy with the new elective course. Units in the class will range from Spacetime and Time Travel to Free Will and the Nature of Persons. Mr. Phelan encourages all students who enjoy reading and watching science fiction to consider the class. He adds that students who “enjoy class discussions and pondering the big questions of meaning, life, and existence will like the class.”

Although listed under foreign language electives, Dr. Trause’s course, Classical Philosophy, is open to all students, and he encourages students who are curious about the subject to take the course. Dr. Trause is excited to offer students the opportunity to explore philosophy in high school. Previously, students would only be able to take a philosophy course in college, so he hopes that students will take advantage of the new offering to explore the discipline. Dr. Trause also created this course to fill a need for more options after JCHS transitioned to block scheduling.

In Classical Philosophy, students will explore the four branches of the subject: Metaphysics—the nature of reality: Epistemology—the study of human knowledge; Axiology—the study of the nature of value and meaning; and Logic—the study of discourse. The class will center around class discussion and reading and understanding primary texts. Dr. Trause says he is looking forward to “hearing students’ responses to the ideas from the great philosophers.” This course will explore questions that are relevant to students because they deal with who we are and how we interact with others. In the class, students will study the idea of the philosophical argument. Dr. Trause hopes that students will learn the principles of logic and leave the course with an understanding of conveying their thoughts in a logical argument with a well-supported thesis.

JCHS senior, Gabby Patino, is currently enrolled in the Classical Philosophy course, and she comments, “I’ve found different philosophical theories intriguing, and I thought taking the class would be a good opportunity to explore them and learn more.” JCHS students interested in philosophy have two great elective options as course selections for the 2023-2024 school year approaches.