Honors | Ideas and Experience - Modern
H212 | 0002 | Rieselbach, H.


We borrow Freud's phrase to describe our situation in this, the last
decade in the twentieth century. In this course we examine some works by
important thinkers of the past two hundred years, searching for possible
clues about our past and future. How has our consciousness been shaped by
history, by the forces of technology, and by our discoveries about the
natural world and about the workings of the human mind? The works we study
are works of philosophy, of scientific speculation, and of imagination.

As we move from Rousseau's romanticism to contemporary feminism, some
questions recur. Can we define the nature of a human being? What does it
mean to be human? Is it possible for human beings to live together in a
harmonious and just society? What sort of society might approximate an
ideal? Does the family, as an institution, have a future? What is the role
of religion in our lives? To what extent can we control nature, and how
far should we go in our efforts to do so? Has technology outstripped our
capacity to make rational choices about its employment? Many other
questions will arise, but our primary emphasis will be on the relevance of
each of these works for us, here and now, in 1997. I want our discussions
to center on your responses to the readings and on your perceptions.

Class Procedure and Requirements:
This is a discussion class, responsive to your interests, puzzlements, and
insights. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that you come to class
thoroughly prepared to discuss the day's assignment. Many of these
assignments will be lengthy, and all of these works require a close and
attentive reading.

I.  Students will be asked to bring to each class several questions for
class discussion. Your questions will be collected and evaluated.

II.  There will be six papers, of 4-6 pages, due at approximately two-week
intervals. These papers will be essays of critical and analytical
interpretation, focusing on your response to the work. They are not
research papers. In alternate weeks, you will write a shorter (1-2 pages)
response to the reading.

III.  Your involvement in class discussion is crucial. Come to class
prepared  to participate and to listen carefully and responsively to
others' insights. You will be asked to lead class discussion on
occasion, usually in the company of one or more of your peers. (You
will be warned of this in advance!)

Your grade will be based on your essays (60%) and on your daily questions
and class participation (40%).