This seminar focuses on two philosophical works that grapple with the phenomenon of identity- based violence. The first, Susan Brison’s Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of the Self (2001), analyzes the author’s experience with sexual violence through the lens of trauma theory and philosophies of the self. The second, George Yancy’s Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly about Race in America (2018) chronicles the author’s experience with hate-filled, racist responses to an essay he published in the New York Times, raising crucial philosophical questions about the structures that imbue dominant conversations about race. These texts will guide our discussion of identity, violence, inequality, discourse, vulnerability, and the possibilities of resistance. In addition to the goal of developing a robust understanding of these philosophers’ texts – both of which include a compelling combination of personal narrative and philosophical analysis – the seminar will explicitly focus on developing the skills necessary to have an authentic, intellectually productive, robust discussion, especially when facing topics that are both philosophically and ethically challenging. To this end, students will reflect frequently and substantially on the quality of our discussions, and experiment with ways to improve them. We will aim to have conversations that are lively, troubling, brave, and worthy of the challenges that the texts present to us.
Summer Program in Philosophy
The 2019 HCSPiP was June 24–July 5, 2019.
Unlike other philosophy summer programs, the HCSPiP is designed not mainly to prepare students for graduate work, but to explore new ways to teach and learn philosophy. Instructors are all committed to active, student-centered learning. The classes may not feel like philosophy classes to which you may have become accustomed!
This course will have students learn and practice different philosophical methodologies as employed by historical philosophers, in particular Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, and Confucius. We’ll start with a close examination of Socrates’s use of the elenchus or the method of cross-examination, and we’ll practice the method by trying to answer certain questions: What is virtue? What is knowledge? What is bullshit? What is awesomeness? We will then study the method of disputatio in Aquinas, focusing on condensing arguments and accurately summarizing objections and opposing positions, and we will hold formal debates in class following the medieval format. Finally, we will practice the approach of Confucianism by reflecting on the sayings and actions of Confucius or sages who are regarded as moral exemplars. We will then practice this method by closely observing moral exemplars and trying to imitate similar patterns of decision-making and action. We will conclude by assessing the strengths and limitations of the various approaches as well as attempt to devise other philosophical methods.
It is difficult to live well as a human being, when we’re unsure what being human means. It is hard to live well when our decisions represent the expectations of others, not our own values. It is challenging to move past these obstacles and take responsibility for ourselves when we fill our lives with distractions that keep us from facing uncomfortable facts of our life. Existentialism was one of the most popular philosophical movements in the 20th century, with lasting influence in philosophy and other disciplines such as psychology. It engages these problems, emphasizing that philosophy needs to regain its emphasis on living well, not just thinking well. Part of the solution, they say, often involves accepting the hard to face aspects of our existence like death and anxiety: by facing these ‘hard truths’, we can finally move towards living a free, authentic existence. Participants in this course will have a chance to engage existentialism not only theoretically, but – in the spirit of the Existentialists – also experientially. In the classroom we will engage concepts like boredom, human irrationality, radical freedom, absurdity and meaning, and creativity. Students will then conduct existential experiments ‘in the real world’ such as breaking social conventions and testing the limits of human irrationality in virtual reality.