Thomas Homer-Dixon

Teaching

I enjoy teaching and consider it a vitally important part of my professional activities. Since the 1980s, I have taught university courses—both undergraduate and graduate—on environmental security, energy and society, causes of violent conflict, international relations theory, global security governance, negotiation theory and practice, social innovation, research methods, philosophy of social science, and complexity theory.

My teaching now increasingly focuses on applications of complexity theory to social phenomena. I’m especially interested in how societies innovate in response to complex economic, environmental, and technological problems. Social science is often grounded in out-dated mechanistic theories that assume societies are made up of individual rational actors, that causal relations among social variables are deterministic and linear, and that social systems tend to migrate towards a stable equilibrium. I introduce students to the wide range of alternative models of complex systems that allow for emergent properties, nonlinearity, and multiple equilibria.

Teaching should be informed by the best scholarly research. At both the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo, I have integrated teaching and research at every possible opportunity. I am also deeply committed to interdisciplinary education, because all of the pressing problems that humankind faces straddle multiple disciplinary boundaries and so require interdisciplinary solutions. Despite paying lip service to the importance of interdisciplinary education, our universities and research institutions still tend to “silo” human knowledge and scholarship. I encourage students to exercise their interdisciplinary curiosity, bring ideas together from multiple fields, and successfully apply them to practical problems.

List of Syllabi:

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