Foundations of Critical Inquiry (FCI)

FCI engages a combination of perspectives, including aesthetic, ethical, historical, and societal, to explore a particular theme.

Themes include Nature and the Environment, Justice and Inequality, Memory and Forgetting, and The Self in Context. Exploring topics through a rich array of perspectives aims to develop the ability to see that all interpretations are impacted by the context, values, and attitudes of the interpreter—including, of course, our own. Course materials include a range of media and genres to explore the topic and learn to use complexity and ambiguity to enrich and deepen our inquiry.

This theme-based course aims to establish a foundation of skills that anticipate the more disciplinary and interdisciplinary analytical skills that are introduced at the Intermediate Level of the Liberal Arts Curriculum.

What is the nature of our long relationship with nature? We are simultaneously part of nature and apart from it. Nature both provides us life and guarantees our death. Our relationship to and within the natural world is emergent, multidimensional, and often deeply ambivalent. In the face of ever-accelerating environmental changes and related concerns about the health of the planet and the various life forms that depend upon it, what is our responsibility as human beings, moral agents, ethical citizens? This course focuses on nature and the environment; it explores both theory and practice in areas such as ethics, the accountability of individuals and institutions, the development and use of energy sources, the creation of markets and technologies, the role of art, creativity, and expression, the management of agricultural expansion and food consumption, and the critical examination of business practices and economic systems, cultural values and lifestyle choices, as well as social, economic, and legal policies.

What is the meaning of justice for global citizens, for individuals and groups within national boundaries? How can we best achieve it, especially in the context of modern democracy? What are the various forms of injustice in our contemporary society? How is inequality interconnected with race, class, gender, ability, and sexuality? With colonialism and nation building? With labor and production? In our food system and our relationship to the environment? How is the tension between justice and inequality manifest in the prisons and legal system? In our access to civil rights and civil liberties? In the lives of migrants and immigrants across the world? What are the historic legacies of inequality and oppression? How have they shaped societies and the lives of individuals? Why are we so often blind to injustice and oppression in our midst? Finally, as Babson students, what is our relationship to issues of justice and equality? How can we best work to address the injustices of our contemporary world?

Who would we be without memory—as individuals, as families, as social groups, as nations? It is through memory that humans constitute their identity and situate themselves in a web of relationships to others, to the past, and to the future. This course explores negotiation of memory and forgetting in numerous historical and cultural contexts. What do personal acts of remembering contribute to our understanding, and how do we evaluate those contributions? By what processes are collective memories created and sustained? Whose voices are privileged? How are “lost voices” recuperated? Are memories forever, or are they mutable? What is the relationship between history and memory? How is “forgetting” socially negotiated? By the end of the course students will have a deep understanding of the ways in which memory and forgetting work to secure, destabilize, reproduce, and transform sociopolitical orders.

This course explores the complex relationships among self-identity, culture, and ways of knowing. When we know something, we see it from a point of view which is always significantly influenced by our cultures and identities. We want to become sensitive to the ways these viewpoints shape our knowing. To better understand how viewpoints are shaped, this course also will highlight the relational character and meaning of self-identity. Becoming whole, healthy selves and full human agents, we must concern ourselves with both our inner lives and with our interdependent relations with others. Our values take shape and have meaning primarily in negotiation, in conversation, in relation with others. This course, then, emphasizes the reflexive character of self-identity. In shaping our identities, we become responsible and influential agents who affect our local communities, and increasingly, the larger world.