Honors | Ideas & Experience II (HON)
H212 | 27318 | Norm Furniss

TuTh 1:00-2:15 pm
HU 108

The general aim of all our H212 seminars (quoting from the Hutton
Honors College Catalogue) is “to study some of the sources of our
modern mentality and discover how the great writers from the
Enlightenment to the present have shaped our views.” I hope this
seminar will be a useful step on this intellectual journey. To give
focus to our specific efforts, we will orient our work around the
ideas given primacy in our Declaration of Independence: “We hold
these truths to be self-evident, that all men are endowed by their
creator with certain inalienable rights, hat among these are Life,
Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

We will take up these ideas in a different order: first, liberty,
then life, finally, the pursuit of happiness. Throughout we will
relate our discussion to current issues and controversies. Our
investigations conclude by considering the idea and empirical
descriptions of happiness in relation to our previous discussions of
liberty and life. What does “happiness” mean to each of us? What
insights do our “liberty” and “life” writers offer? How
is “happiness” best pursued?

Books for purchase will include, and will probably be limited to,
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty; Charles Darwin, On the Origin of
Species; and (a nice change of pace) Eric Weiner, The Geography of
Bliss. Turning to the goal for our seminar, in my view all our work
should aim to further what the German/English Sociologist Karl
Mannheim termed “democratic education,” which he summarized
as “learning the essential things and taking a definite stand.” This
combination is both necessary and hard to do. Especially in seminars
like ours that propose to “study some of the sources of our modern
mentality,” learning “facts” apart from context and relevance is
sterile, while expressing uninformed opinions is vacuous.

I would be pleased to discuss all aspects of this seminar including
specific assignments with anyone who might be interested in taking
it. My office is Woodburn Hall, Room 405, telephone 5-9100, email
furniss@indiana.edu. While I am not teaching this semester and thus
have no formal office hours, it should not be difficult to find a
time to meet.