Liberal Arts BA (Hons)
On our Liberal Arts degree modules integrate areas of study including content and perspectives from philosophy, natural sciences, arts, humanities and social sciences.
(Please note this is an indicative list: not all modules may be available)
In year 1 of our modern Liberal Arts degree we explore the origin of the liberal arts in Antiquity. Along the way we take in philosophy, science, music, astronomy and politics. Through reading some of the key texts of the period—those by Plato (Socrates), Aristotle, Hypatia, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes and others—we come to understand the culture in which the liberal arts were first conceived, and the ways they have shaped western thinking up to and including the Islamic and European Renaissances. Year 1 also includes modules that introduce students to ‘the arts’, and to ways in which some of the themes are represented in modern film.
LA 1001 Freedom is to Learn (1)
Over the three years of the degree the ‘Freedom is to Learn’ modules explore three distinct areas of enquiry within the liberal arts tradition: freedom, truth and nature, looking at both ancient and modern sources. In the first module in Year 1 we introduce ourselves to the ancient culture in which Liberal Arts education began. The centrepiece of the module is a close reading of Socrates’ Apology, and Plato’s Republic, including the famous metaphor of the cave. It explores the question of freedom in relation to the education of the self, as well as with regards to the tradition of liberal arts education.
Are we free?
What is to be ‘enlightened’?
What is ‘liberal’ about Liberal Arts?
What is Plato arguing for in The Republic?
What do we mean by ‘principles’?
Socrates, Plato, Isocrates, Kant
Is the art of public speaking concerned with truth, or spin? This week we explore rhetoric in ancient Greece, looking at the Sophists, the rhetoricians, and their relationship to the philosophers. We will see the extent to which these three groups shaped politics over the next 2500 years, and we will ask whether they continue to do so.
LA 1014 Harmonia mundi
Here we explore the principal theme that has characterised ancient and medieval Liberal Arts: the search for first principles and their relation to harmony. Such principles, which must be presupposed in order to explain how anything exists at all, have been the holy grail of liberal arts. In this module we will explore aspects of this search in all of the liberal arts; in literature, philosophy, mathematics, geometry, astronomy and music, as well as in the related areas of theology and politics. This will act as an introduction to work in these areas that will be followed up in future modules.
Can the universe sing?
Should we ban rock music?
Plato, Nietzsche, Bloom, Ficino, Shakespeare, Milton, Augustine
How is it possible that there might be a natural harmony in the universe? We will look at the thinking of Pythagoras and Plato who tell us that harmony is the first principle of the natural universe, and that man can tune his own soul to this cosmic music. We will try to prove that the planets can sing.
LA1012: First Principles Core Texts: Introduction to the Arts
This module introduces students to the arts primarily through stories and storytellers. The stories encountered come in the form of epics, plays, poetry, rap and performance. The trajectory of the module starts with today’s storytellers and traces a journey back into antiquity. By thinking philosophically about stories and our experience of them we will explore questions raised by such works and consider their significance for our own lives and for wider society. Our study of each work will introduce us to various approaches, styles, and themes, and will ask in what sense an artwork can be a relationship between freedom and discipline.
Why do we tell stories?
How has storytelling changed from Antiquity to the present day?
What is the difference between spoken word and poetry?
Can Homer teach us something about the human condition, and can he speak to today’s concerns?
Whose voices are silent in the stories we are told?
Kate Tempest, Lauryn Hill, Homer, Plato, Euripides, Pullman, Aristotle, Lorca
This week we will introduce ourselves to the work of Kate Tempest, focusing initially on her ‘Brand New Ancients’. First we will consider in what ways the opening of Brand New Ancients follows Homer’s storytelling tradition. As works that have their vitality in an oral tradition we’ll ask how and if something is lost or gained as literary works. This means that part of this module will also be asking what changes with art when it is somehow “performed”.
LA 1006 Film and Philosophy
The subject matter of this module – film – is treated in two different ways. During the first half of the module a range of philosophical ideas are introduced and discussed using selected films as the initial source of illustration. This is followed by a second half in which the medium of film itself is considered as a direct embodiment of philosophical thinking. While the first treatment is well represented within academic literature, the second is more speculative, relying on a greater understanding of the medium of film itself, as well as its possibilities of signification.
Is film just a succession of still images?
Are silent films a purer medium than the ‘Talkies’?
In The Matrix, in what circumstances would you not take the red pill?
Chris Marker’s La Jetée features the relationship of memory to fate – is this a rational relationship?
Is documentary film an art form?
Rudolf Arnheim, Roland Barthes, Stanley Cavell, Serge Eisenstein, Slavoj Žižek
Eisenstein is particularly associated with the theorisation of film montage. This week, we review several illustrations taken from Eisenstein’s own work before considering how montage might contribute to the idea that film may be capable of sustaining a non-verbal, ‘figurative’ form of thinking.
LA 1005 Ancient 'Canonic' Tragedy
This module reflects on the mythic and the tragic as developed in the narratives, poems, and art of earlier civilisations. There are three dimensions of content selection: the first is breadth – examples will be sourced so as to include non-Western accounts, rather than the more usual ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman samples. The second criterion is depth, engaging myths/tales with a philosophical notion of the tragic. The third criterion presents a diversity of media forms so that some estimate can be made on the nature and form of the rhetorical contexts within which these accounts were enacted.
Is the tradition of tragedy a peculiarly Western narrative obsession?
Does Frazer’s cult of the ‘dying king’ constitute a tragedy?
What qualities of narrative separate ancient accounts of the death of a hero from contemporary ones?
When Aristotle defines tragedy in relation to an error of judgement, rather than a quirk of fate, does he make it particularly hard to identify tragic heroines?
Is tragic death related to the birth of a soul?
Aristotle, James Frazer, Homer, Nietzsche, Sophocles
Nietzsche provides a polemical account of the circumstances leading up to the ‘birth of tragedy’. This week we review his arguments in relation to the defence and praise of Richard Wagner, the composer of the Ring cycle.
LA 1004 Learning from the Renaissance
Here we introduce students to themes and personalities that were central to the period of Western history called the Renaissance. We provide an historical overview of key events, look at the relation of the Renaissance to other historical periods, and explore more deeply into selected ideas with a view to illustrating their significance both within the Renaissance and beyond. We explore the fine arts, including sculpture, music, architecture and painting; science and technology; literature; and politics, Central to the approach of the module will be to illustrate ways in which the Renaissance holds an ‘educational’ import both within itself and in terms of a legacy.
Renaissance of what?
What was humanism?
What difference did perspective make to art?
How did renaissance music shape human subjectivity?
Should we laugh at the divine comedy?
Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Palastrina, Vasari, Plutarch
This week we explore the jewel of the Renaissance: Florence in Italy. Here we find examples of art, sculpture, architecture, music and politics that changed Europe for centuries to come. Once experienced, Florence never leaves you same as you were before.
LA 1007 Spirit: Innocence and Experience
In this module we will explore the two related themes of innocence and experience from across a range of philosophical, religious and literary texts and ideas. We will look at the idea of ‘nature’ and consider various ways in which it has been understood as disrupted, corrupted or ‘tamed’. This will raise questions concerning the relation between beginnings and ends, good and evil, reason and passion. We will ask whether there is still a place for the concept of innocence and if there is, what it might look like in a world suspicious of the religious and philosophical tradition which bequeaths it.
What is the Christian distinction between good and evil?
Can we trust notions of good and evil?
Can we or should we ‘go back to nature’?
Was the Fall a necessarily gendered narrative?
Do we all live corrupted lives?
Milton, Augustine, Dostoevsky, Rowan Williams, Rousseau, Nietzsche
Looking at the concept of childhood in western modernity we will explore the relation between innocence and freedom in modern social and political experience. And if we are, in various ways, witnessing to the ‘loss of childhood’ then what are the political and educational implications of this?
In year 2 the reading of primary texts continues. Here we move from the ancient and medieval worlds to the modern world of enlightenment, revolution, spirit, religion, capitalism, Holocaust, feminism, and various modern forms of instrumentalism, including bureaucracy and objectivism, using teaching and education as an example. Students also have the opportunity to explore Buddhist, Confucian and Sufist ideas as expressed in poetry, prose, dialogue and music. By the end of year 2 we will have come to understand the world, among other things, through the wonders of quantum physics and the controversial ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche, and to have seen the rise and fall of western conceptions of morality and the soul. We will also begin to think about planning for the dissertation that is written in the third year.
LA 2001a Freedom is to Learn - LA 2019 Freedom is to Learn
These are the two compulsory modules in modern Liberal Arts at level 5 (Year 2). They allow students considerable scope in the direction of their work. Each week introduces content within which to discuss ideas surrounding freedom. In semester 1, indicative content includes assessing freedom within the antagonism of mastery and slavery, and exploring the sources of inequality between people. Our authors include Rousseau and Weber, and we explore modern feminism through the ancient tragedy Antigone. In semester 2 we look at the modern mysteries of space and time in Galileo, Newton, Einstein and quantum physics. We end our year immersed in the study of the philosopher Nietzsche, examining the impact of his ideas on the ideas of first principles, truth, God and freedom.
Rousseau, Weber, Irigaray, du Bois, Heisenberg, Nietzsche
We give a close and detailed reading of Rousseau’s classic text Emile. We explore its political, spiritual and educational significance, and ask if there is anything in this work that still speaks for the modern world?
LA2004 Disciplining the Soul
The soul has often been seen as the medium through which man is related to the creator. We will explore some of the most influential theories in the Western tradition that see the soul in this way, including those which focus on the soul and the city and the soul and God. But within many of these theories we find a moral value placed on the relationship between the soul and the body, a value expressed in terms of disciplining the soul through punishing the body, including those who see bodywork as a mode of know thyself. Part of this engagement will consider again the relationship between body and soul, and explore its meaning in the tension between philosophy and rhetoric, and how this shapes a relationship between the closed fist of knowledge and the open palm of creativity. We will explore this relationship within religious, social, political and philosophical thought and look at some of its most ardent critics.
What is the soul?
What is the relation between the soul, the city and the ‘good life’?
How is the relation between the body and the disciplined soul to be comprehended?
Is punishment an inherent aspect of the disciplined soul?
How can we understand God, religion, mysticism and spirituality in relation to the disciplining of the soul?
Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Foucault, Boal
In the first half of the session we will introduce ourselves to the themes and concepts that we will explore through the various thinkers and perspectives we will encounter during the module. In the second half of the session we will examine the question that underpins the module ‘What is the Soul?’ through Plato and Aristotle’s theories of the soul. We will begin to consider some of the differences between the meaning of ‘soul’ in ancient Greece and the more contemporary meanings that we might be more familiar with.
(Image: Desires of the Soul, Kelsey Brookes, reproduced with kind permission)
LA 2005 Music and Philosophy
This module explores the relation between music, freedom, nature, politics, and religion. By looking at the metaphysical and political dimensions of music as they have been understood in the Western tradition we see how music expresses and generates some of the most profound human experiences and ideas, including life and death, self and other, master and slave, God and man. But we cannot do this without also listening to music. To this end a large part of the module involves being encouraged to listen to some of the greatest musical achievements in Western history and culture, including those which it has marginalised in the course of its own development.
Du Bois, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Adorno, Odetta
We explore the relationship between Beethoven and the Enlightenment. We look in particular at how ideas of freedom and autonomy are played out both in Beethoven’s music and in his personal life. We will read some of Beethoven’s letters in relation to some of his music. Finally, we will compare the heroic ideals of his youth to the deeply felt struggles that he expresses in some of his late quartets.
LA 2014 First Principles Core Texts: looking East
This module introduces students to Buddhist, Confucian and Sufist ideas as expressed in various artistic genres. Set against the narrative backdrop of the ‘historical Buddha’, we explore the first principles of Buddhist thought as articulated in poetry, iconography and prose. We also investigate poetic manifestations of Confucian humanism as well as making connections between Sufism and medieval Persian verse. Alongside thematic ideas such as fate and density, we will address allied ethical issues such as orientalism and imaginative imperialism. What are the first principles of Buddhism, Confucianism and Sufism and how are these manifested in art? Is art more ‘philosophical’ than philosophy itself? Such questions give shape and form to the confluence of art, philosophy and religion explored throughout this module.
Can one talk of Eastern first principles?
What is Eastern art?
Is ‘East’ an orientalism?
What is Confucian humanism?
A reading of The Conference of the Birds, by Farid Attar, from twelfth century Iran.
LA 2007 Utopia and Tragedy
This module follows on from the level 4 module, Ancient ‘Canonic’ Tragedy, and continues to explore the theme of tragedy, but now the focus turns away from mythical and heroic figures to tragic states of society. The specific focus of this module is, therefore, utopias and dystopias as sites for ideological investigations of what counts as the socially normal and the socially deviant, and how this tension is played out through the experience of the tragic within a social collective.
Is it possible to imagine the future?
Is it possible to imagine the past?
Where is Utopia, and what might be lost if it could not be thought of?
What is the role of science in ‘science’ fiction, and ‘history’ in historical fiction?
Massacres are often described as ‘tragedies’ – what narrative assumptions lie behind this usage?
J. G. Ballard, Anthony Burgess, Ursula Le Guin, George Orwell, Mary Shelley
This week we feature the first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in order to carry our two related investigations into a) the significance of the text’s ‘monstrous’ formal structure – the multiple narratives of narratives – and b) the manner in which the monster gains an education of its own embodiment.
LA 2018: Theorizing the Holocaust (Shoah)
If we are to ‘think the Holocaust’ we must not only consider the particularities of the event but also the philosophical, political and ideological conditions from within which it emerged and within which it was carried out. This module will introduce us to some of the prominent thinkers of early 20th century Germany who were, in various ways, implicated in Nazism. We will consider how particular aspects of their thinking lend themselves to fascism in the context of what we now know to be the consequences of such thinking. This will lead us to explore philosophical perspectives on the Holocaust offered by more recent thinkers.
What are the principles of fascism?
How do the principles of fascism become manifest in particular political regimes?
How were concepts such as ‘humanity’, ‘truth’ ‘soul’ and ‘spirit’ understood by Nazi theorists and philosophers?
How can social, political and philosophical thought be used and abused to bring about, and to justify, wrong doing and evil?
Can the philosophical inquiry of the ‘free man’ be dangerous?
Rosenberg, Heidegger, Schmitt, Fackenheim, Bauman
We will begin the module this week by introducing ourselves to the principles of fascism as set out in some of the doctrines of fascism in early 20th Century Europe. We will consider these in relation to the social and political situations from and through which they emerged. This provides the basis from which we will consider the relation between the potential inherent in the principles of fascism and the actual characteristics of a particular political regime in future weeks.
LA 2010 Theorising Education and Ecology
This module explores our relationship with nature and the environment. Starting with an overview of changes in understandings of this relationship in the nineteenth century following Darwin & Marx, this module moves to developing an insight into the thinking of twentieth century green theorists. If there is an environmental crisis, how do we understand and respond pedagogically? A consideration of such questions for policy and practice is examined within a context of contemporary debate around ‘education for sustainability’. The module concludes with a reading of visions of change in contrasting eco- utopian and dystopian versions, re-positing the question of education’s role in the realisation of such imagined futures.
What is environmental ethics?
What is mans’ place in nature?
What is the relationship between the human and the environment?
What is ‘deep ecology’?
What are Ecomarxism & critical ecopedagogy?
Marx, Freya Methews, Bonnett, Krishnamurti, Kahn
We will try to explore and reflect on the question of the interrelatedness of individuals/things at both a societal and ontological level, and to see how thinkers propose to teach us to reconceptualise the world in a more fundamentally integrated way.
LA 2011 Power of the Teacher
This module explores issues of power and domination, of master and slave, in the context of education, and in particular in the relationship between teacher and student. We ask whether the relationship between the student and the teacher can, or should, ever be democratic? Can and should students be given responsibility for their own learning and enlightenment? Does education always require a teacher? We will examine these questions by looking at the ways in which progressive educators, critical pedagogues and postmodernists can contribute to these debates. At stake always in these questions is the necessity or otherwise of the power of the teacher over the student.
Freire, Habermas, Lyotard, Foucault, Gur Ze’ev
Some argue that teachers are merely paid agents of the state, doing whatever the state requires. If education is so tightly controlled what kind of freedom is left for teachers in their teaching? Is it the case that, as Althusser says, teachers are just ideological tools of the establishment?
LA 2012 Spirit: in ruins
This module examines the meaning of the concept of spirit in the Western philosophical and political tradition. It concentrates on two particular periods: Antiquity and the movement from immediate ethical life to the status of the ‘person’; and the notion of spirit as it is found in the period known as the ‘Enlightenment’. This takes us to thinking about the concept of spirit in ruins, with primary focus on the dramatic events of the French Revolution, its violence, its music, and its political and philosophical ideas.
Antigone, Rose, Kant, Mozart, Beethoven, Hegel, Hugo, Žižek.
In this session we will explore the ways in which the difficulties of Beethoven’s life and music is reflected in the wider social and political revolutionary events of the time.
In year 3 once again, careful reading of primary texts by specific theorists, writers, and artists helps to develop a detailed understanding of important contemporary themes and issues, including within ecology and technology. In essays and in the dissertation at the end of the degree we hope the student’s voice will emerge better informed, clearer and stronger, and able to speak with both breadth and depth, and with greater knowledge and understanding. We also endeavour to look backwards and forwards. What is the state of liberal arts in modern times and what if any of its founding principles are still held to be true? Is there a different kind of liberal arts beginning to emerge out of the ancient ruins of liberal arts? Most importantly, what can liberal arts graduates take with them now from their higher education into the wider world of work, leisure and relationships? Along the way our modules explore freedom, truth, nature, life and death, and forms of prejudice including those relating to women, to people of colour, and to the very shape of critical thinking. Our final question for our soon-to-be graduates is, ‘is the examined life still worth living?’
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.
Hegel, Franz Rosenzweig, Kierkegaard, Rose, Booth, our 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; for example Soren Kierkegaard. Alternatively we can choose to look at ideas and issues that are of contemporary significance, for example, post-humanism and post-foundational thinking, the status of animals, racism and sexism in the liberal arts tradition, and the concepts of difference and identity.
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.
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 3025 Education, Ecologies and Ethics
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?
To see a full list of programme modules click here.