A survey of ancient Greek thought, especially as represented by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Our focus is ethics and political theory. We begin with the pre-Socratics: Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Pythagorus, Heraclitus, and Parmenides. We then turn to Socrates, reading four dialogues connected with his trial and death: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. This leads to a consideration of how Plato, a student of Socrates, developed his teacher’s way of thinking. We study Plato’s “doctrine of ideas” and devote five sessions to a reading of the Republic. Finally we take up the work of Aristotle, devoting four sessions to his Nicomachean Ethics and five to his Politics.
A survey of the Catholic intellectual tradition from Augustine to the present, focused especially on the relationships between faith and reason and between the Church and the world. Unit 1 focuses on authors from early Christianity to the start of the modern period, including Augustine of Hippo, Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila. Unit 2 builds on this foundation to focus on more recent materials, including the relationship between the Church and “the modern world” and works by Jacques Maritain, Dorothy Day, Shūsaku Endō, Elizabeth Johnson, and others. In conclusion, we study several works by Pope Francis and consider some recent debates in Catholic life, especially about economics and ecology.
A survey introduction to the three liberal arts of the trivium: grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Students acquire the tools to assess the claims and arguments of others and build strong arguments for their own views, laying a strong foundation for continued work in college and active participation in civic life thereafter. We mostly avoid the complexities of formal, symbolic logic and dive instead into the “art” of critical reasoning. The goal of the course is to promote and support original critical reasoning on the part of each student.
In this course, students deepen their understanding of what democracy is and what it requires, in order to strengthen their ability to defend it. Unit 1 surveys the history of democracy from its origins to the present day. We start in ancient Greece, reading selections from Pericles, Plato, and Aristotle, then move into the early modern period to look at the work of Machiavelli and Hobbes. Next, we consider the social contract tradition (Locke and Rousseau) and how this informed two defining revolutions of the modern period: the American and the French. Finally, we consider the work of thinkers who have exposed the dangers of democracy (including Tocqueville, Mill, and Douglass) as well as of others who have challenged it directly (Marx, Lenin, and Mussolini, among others). In Unit 2, we apply all this work to our present moment, studying selections from three of the most prominent, recent books about the threats facing democracy today.
A survey of the history of Christianity, supplemented by a series of short primary readings. In Unit 1, we study the early Church up to the Council of Chalcedon in 451, including a reading of the Gospel of Mark. In Unit 2, we focus on the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, considering the development of the Church is various areas of Europe and Middle East, scholasticism, the split between Eastern and Western churches, and the emergence of Christian humanism. In Unit 3, we turn to the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation, up to the so-called “wars of religion” in the seventeenth century. In Unit 4, we begin with the Enlightenment period, considering the significance for Christian history of the revolutions of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and study the missionary movements that flourished around the start of the twentieth century. In Unit 5, we focus on the period from 1914 to the present, considering the World Wars and counterculture movements of the 1960s, and conclude by considering the shift of energy in the Church from the West to other parts of the world.
Human rights violations can be found across the world: from the detainment of Turkic Muslims in China, to the suppression of the rights of LGBTQ people in Russia, to the killings of unarmed black men in the United States. How can we identify and effectively oppose such violations? In this course, we study the history, theory and practice of human rights and engage with multiple case studies of the violation and effective defense of these rights. We engage with news articles, videos, first-person testimonies, and primary source documents (e.g., the Universal Declaration, UN Documents, reports from human rights organizations).
An introduction survey of four major religious and ethical traditions native to Asia. After studying materials to orient us in the study of these traditions, we begin by turning to Hinduism, including a reading of portions of the Bhagavad Gita. We then consider two major traditions of China: Confucianism and Taoism, including readings of portions of Confucius’s Analects and the Tao Te Ching. Finally we devote several weeks to the study of Buddhism, here making our most comprehensive study. We walk though that tradition’s major teachings and features, focusing especially on the Zen traditions. We conclude with a reading of portions of the Dhammapada.
We read a wide variety of sources including stories, essays, memoirs, spiritual writing, and selections from popular works of non-fiction. In Unit 1, we explore “the life of the mind,” reading works on four themes: learning, imagination, writing, and contemplation. In Unit 2, we turn our attention to the practical life and ask directly what it means to “live well.” Here we focus on five themes: “the good life,” happiness, love, loss, and death. In Unit 3, moving deeper into our engagement with the world and with others, we ask what it means to “live together,” focusing on the themes of nature, struggle, race, and community. Readings includes selections from Ursula Le Guin, Stephen King, Richard Rohr, Jonathan Haidt, bell hooks, Harold Kushner, Annie Dillard, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Michelle Alexander, Robert Reich, Arthur C. Brooks, and others.
A survey of writings and other materials related to the spiritual life. Unit 1 addresses the basic question, “what is spirituality?” We learn about spiritual traditions in several religious and secular contexts, focusing on examples from Christianity, Islam, philosophy, feminism, and LGBT experience. Unit 2 considers three key dimensions of spirituality: as related to our experience (in mysticism, jazz, counterculture, and science), as itself as way of life (in psychology and business), and as a part of society (in health care and through the Buddhist philosophy of “interbeing”). Unit 3 engages with what it means to lead a spiritual life, focusing on the relationship between spirituality and religion, being “spiritual but not religious,” and Buddhist and Christian practices of meditation. Includes visits by several speakers and local practitioners.
A survey of the role of religion in the civil rights movement, both at the movement’s height in the 1950s and 1960s and in the continued struggle for civil rights in the US today. We focus in turn on the work of a series of luminary contributors to the movement and its legacy: Howard Thurman, Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Heschel, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, James Cone, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. We also study key events in the history of the civil rights movement, including in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Washington, DC. We conclude by considering the relationship between the civil rights movement and Black Lives Matter movement, focusing on the role of religious faith and organizations in each. The course is designed to offer a thorough “history of the present” of debates in the US around issues of race and the role of religion in the ongoing struggle for racial justice.