Knowledge, Values, Rationality (UNST 239)


This course introduces the Knowledge, Values, Rationality cluster. This course invites students to think critically about their value decisions, factual beliefs, policies that govern local institutions, and the norms and principles of the culture and society they represent and inhabit; it is designed to develop students’ metacognitive skills and encourages the use of these skills throughout students’ academic experience; it introduces students to an interdisciplinary perspective on rationality, one that employs methods, concepts, insights, and perspectives from philosophy, history, and philosophy of science, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, economics, physics, and systems science. The class uses a case study to evaluate how critical thinking skills can be used to negotiate the interrelationship among equity, economics, and the environment.


The theme of the cluster is the nature of rationality and its emergence from the interplay of knowledge and values.  The curriculum explores the major forms that human rationality takes in the acquisition of knowledge, logical inference, moral reasoning, decision making, and societal organizations and policy. Individual courses focus on models of rationality as such and conceptualizations of rationality in areas such as logic and inference, natural and social sciences, biomedicine and psychiatry, social and political theory, law, educational policy, societal value conflicts, and moral theorizing including everyday ethical dilemmas. Human rationality is also approached from a comparative perspective that includes machine and animal learning including broader evolutionary perspectives. Finally, cluster courses offer a critical perspective on perennial and popular doctrines that endorse non-rational or irrational approaches to existential and ethical questions, politics, and scientific inquiry.

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Knowledge, Values, and Rationality Cluster Courses

Knowledge, Values, and Rationality Learning Outcomes

Cluster Coordinator: 
Tom Seppalainen Ph.D., Associate Professor of Philosophy
Office Number: 
CH 45
PSU Phone: