(Please note: not all modules may be available)
LA 3018 Freedom is to Learn
This module looks back to thinking that has featured throughout the programme but also forward to leaving the Academy and becoming a graduate in the world beyond. It explores the concept of modern freedom and in particular examines the idea of Western subjective freedom in relation to such fundamental concepts as life and death, God and man, and master and slave. In addition, the idea of modern metaphysics is brought to bear on the relations of the three religions of the Book. Finally, as students prepare to leave University, we explore ways in which higher education might serve them in what lies beyond – for employment, but primarily for human existence.
What counts as a useful higher education?
What are the problems with solutions?
Is there a modern metaphysics?
What is modern liberal arts?
How will you live?
Ibn Arabi, Bassam Tibi, Franz Rosenzweig, Kierkegaard, students
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
in my beginning is my end… in my end is my beginning
LA 3019 First Principles: Core Texts
In this module, we are able to look at one writer or theorist or artist who has shaped the tradition and make a careful reading of some their most important and influential texts and ideas. Alternatively we can choose to look at one text in great detail from within the tradition or beyond. In 2016-17 we will be reading some of the work of Soren Kierkegaard.
What is it to doubt everything?
What is marriage?
Can one suspend the ethical?
Can subjectivity be truth?
How can we learn to exist in what we understand?
Kierkegaard, Johannes Climacus, Johannes de Silentio, Constantin Constantius
Kierkegaard’s engagement to Regine Olsen in 1840 lasted for one year, during which time Kierkegaard explores the aesthetic, ethical and religious meanings of marriage. We will read some of the extraordinary texts from his writing during this period, including from his Journals. In the end, he leaves us with this thought: marry or do not marry, you will regret it either way.
LA 3005 The Devil: Arts, Literature and Religion
This module will critically explore the figure of the devil as it has appeared in works of literature, art, music and religion. Whether adversary, trickster, comic, nihilist, or co-creator, the devil presents us with various ways of imagining what the ‘diabolical’ in human affairs might look like. Using philosophical and theoretical approaches this module will think through the nature of the ‘diabolical’ in relation to human freedom, language, history, time, truth and God. But to do this requires also that we think about what it means to be human and so the module encourages us to explore various dimensions of experience which teach us something of our humanity.
What does the devil look like?
How is he our ‘adversary’?
Where is he to be found in modern culture?
How are the devil and freedom related?
What is the ‘diabolical’?
Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, Rowan Williams, Dante, Augustine
This week we explore the relationship between freedom – understood as the choices available to us as ‘consumers’ – and the diabolical. In getting our own way, in winning, are we practising the diabolical against all those who have been unsuccessful, or who have not got what they wanted? Is winning diabolical? Does the world we live in make the freedom of one person always compete against the freedom of another; are we forced into situations where freedom is ‘terroristic’? Does the modern world make the diabolical a fact of life?
LA3006: Learning from the Holocaust
The Holocaust is recognised as a defining moment in Western, if not world history. But how are we to learn from such an event? This module explores some of the many ways in which the Holocaust has been and continues to be represented, and questions whether it is possible to represent the Holocaust in ways that do justice to its victims and to those who survived to bear witness to the event. In sum, this is to examine the educative significance of studying the Holocaust. This will entail exploring some of the many very difficult and complex moral, ethical, political and philosophical issues around notions of power, prejudice, conformity and violence which are intrinsic, not only to the Nazi regime of the 20th Century but also to many other human situations.
What does studying the Holocaust teach us about the human condition?
Can we comprehend the incomprehensible?
In what ways is the political person complicit?
What is the relation between justice, the law and the citizen?
Does silence and indifference provide the necessary conditions for the persecution of others?
Levi, Lyotard, Agamben, Adorno, Rose,
We begin the module by considering various approaches to studying the Holocaust. Some theorists argue that the Holocaust is unique and ineffable whilst others argue that educative significance can only be gained by striving to comprehend the Holocaust and comparing aspects of it to other human situations. This week will consider both sides of the argument to provide a foundation for the ideas and perspectives we will examine in future weeks.
LA 3007 Modern Tragic Lives
This module completes the trajectory of modules that have followed the perception of tragedy from the earliest records of public art; in this module the focus turns upon the Modern. As with the second year module, ideological analysis offers a starting point, but rather than this being considered at the level of the state, it now focuses on the individual subject and this subject’s hopes and despairs. The opportunity is therefore taken to consider psychoanalytic accounts of the vicissitudes of the subject, but two further dimensions of analysis are also included: a review of the forms of representational strategy that have become appropriate with the development of electronic media, and a retrospective study of the contemporary place of myth and the heroic, and of the utopian/dystopian distinction under modernity.
Does a ‘stream of consciousness’ limit or enhance understanding of the ‘tragic’?
Did Freud’s ‘Rat Man’ have a tragic life?
When the Nazis declared most of the modern art forms of the Twentieth Century ‘degenerate’, were they pointing to a tragedy of civilisation?
Is memory the universal source of tragedy?
In what sense should one be ‘strategic’ about facing tragedy?
Benjamin, Camus, Golding, Kafka, Rank
Walter Benjamin’s friendships with Asja Lacis and Bertolt Brecht appear at first sight to have had very consequences for his own critical project. This week we consider if, in fact, these differences hide a more significant unity of outcome related to Benjamin’s notion of what might constitute a dialectical image.
LA 3020 (Human) Nature
The principal focus of this module is a philosophical enquiry into the nature of nature. The study introduces a variety of scientific, technological, and psychological modes of development that have had, are currently having, or may soon have, a profound impact on humanity’s capacity to control its environment and its own actions. In each case, the study is matched by corresponding changes in society’s understanding of the ‘natural’, and in its disposition towards ‘natural’ events. This can include debates about geneticism, creationism, euthanasia, the internet, and cybernetics – indeed any current debate regarding the human manipulation of (human) nature.
Is modern science dangerous?
Will humans make themselves unnecessary?
Is human nature an oxymoron?
Do we need a God particle?
What is string theory?
Darwin, Dawkins, Sagan, Hawking, Turing,
To explore human nature writers have often cast one human being alone on a desert island, in order to illustrate what is left if you strip civilization away and leave only natural man. This week we look at some of the most famous examples of the desert island version of human nature, and ask whether this too is only a human version of nature.
LA3014: Spirit: Life and Death
At the end of a degree programme in Modern Liberal Arts, it seems appropriate to finish with the most significant and fundamental issue that besets human existence. This module examines one of the most fundamental dialectics of human condition, that is, the dialectic of life and death. Through studying a variety of thinkers, and a range of writers, old and new, we will consider some of the many different ways that the relation between life and death can be understood and how these understandings influence the way life knows itself. This will lead us to examine concepts such as the negative, loss and mourning as we examine the educative significance of life’s relation to death.
How might the study of death offer meaning to life?
What might death teach us about the infinite and the eternal?
What is the significance of religion, faith and God to our understandings of life and death?
Does loss and mourning have significance for human learning?
What is a living death?
Socrates, Hegel, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Rosenzweig
Life and death is one of the most fundamental dialectics of human existence and this week we will explore some of the Socratic dialogues on death to introduce ourselves to it. This will lead us to consider why the study of the difficult relation between life and death might be necessary if we are to fully comprehend the awe and wonder of life and the kind of explorations that might be necessary in order to do so.
LA 3011 The Natural Universe and Ecology
This module explores in depth philosophical questions raised by recent work on ecology and the human-nature metabolism, and relates these to ideas with long provenance in Western philosophical tradition such as matter, conatus, system, and substance. In particular, two strands of thought are analysed – deep ecology and ecomarxism. These are located within contexts shaped by major thinkers from antiquity to the twentieth century. Whilst pluralistic, the module requires students to make connections between concepts and across historical periods in an attempt to develop a fuller understanding of humans’ place in nature in a period of ‘environmental crisis’.
Can you claim not to have a cosmology?
Can matter choose?
When does a human become a self?
Are animals, plants, planets or the universe selves?
Is it possible conceive of the universe without a human/nature or mind/matter split?
Schelling, Marx, Dietzgen, Naess, Mathews
We ask whether at the root of human consciousness lies the unity of self and not self, of ‘I’ and ‘it’. If we consider the newborn as our starting point, the nature of the problem becomes ‘genetic’: in the first instance, the infant does not need to learn to identify with the wider ‘universal Self’. Rather, the infant learns to divide and differentiate the ‘me’ from the ‘other’, the mother, the object of experience, even the body: we begin our lives with what Naess calls a “totalitarian disposition” towards the reasonableness or importance of elaborating a ‘total view’, before we even begin to make philosophical enquiries.
LA 3012 Philosophy of the Teacher
A philosophy of the teacher requires us to ask some hard questions about the identity of those who teach us. It enables us to think about contradictions that appear in both the theory and practice of teaching, and ways in which we might begin to understand these contradictions. Indeed, much of our own education and many of the experiences in which we learn things, could be said to happen directly in these contradictions and perhaps even in spite of the teacher and the formal curriculum. In this module we will not seek to resolve these contradictions, but only to understand them more deeply through a variety of philosophical perspectives. At stake, here, amidst all the paradoxes, will be the much neglected idea of the teacher as practising a vocation.
What is the authority of a teacher?
How does the ‘canon’ view the teacher?
Is the teacher/student relationship illustrative of the I-Other relationship?
What is a ‘spiritual’’ teacher?
Can a teacher teach by contradictions?
Socrates, Rousseau, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger
Plato is often criticised for his model of the teacher as the ‘philosopher-king’ because the philosopher-king assigns to himself powers over the uneducated. But is there a more ‘spiritual’ interpretation of these teachers, one that sees their authority spring from the contradictions of their emergence from and return to the cave?