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Minnesota university teaches philosophy through Harry Potter

FILE - In this Monday, May 20, 2013 file photo, Sotheby's director of the department of printed books and manuscripts Dr Philip Errington poses for photographers by holding a first edition copy of the first Harry Potter book "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" containing annotations and illustrations by author J.K. Rowling on top of a stack of other annotated first edition books featuring at auction, at the auction house's premises in London. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File)

A Minnesota university is mixing the magical world of Harry Potter into philosophy teachings.

St. Cloud State University professor Carolyn Hartz is applying Aristotle's work on friendship to character relationships in J.K. Rowling's books about the boy wizard, the St. Cloud Times reported. The class discusses ethics, logic, love, the human soul and nature while examining the stories.

"These are fundamental human concerns," Hartz said. "Philosophy is, in my view, critical thinking about fundamental areas of human concern."

Rowling's stories provide understandable examples of philosophy concepts that can be difficult to comprehend, said Miles Nelson, a second-year university student who took the course last spring. He said the class also shows the depth in Rowling's work that many people may not have realized if they read the Harry Potter books when they were children.

Nelson said he was inspired to minor in philosophy after taking the course.

"This class really solidified how much I love thinking about hard problems and questions with hard answers," Nelson said.

Hartz's office is full of Harry Potter references, including a time turner necklace, a logic puzzle from the first book, and red stones that resemble the sorcerer's stone from the first book.

"Most of the students in the class are Harry Potter nerds. That's why they sign up for it," she said. "I tell them: 'You can bring your wands, but you can't use them on exams.'"

Hartz has considered teaching philosophy through other pieces of pop culture, such as video games or the HBO series, "Game of Thrones."

"Maybe next year it might help tide people over to the final season (of Game of Thrones)," she said.

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