Advanced Themes in Legal Theory, Philosophy, Argumentation
167 001 | CCN: 32474
The Law of Thinking
Instructor: Nancy Weston
Location: Social Sciences Building 56
Date / Time: Mo/We 5:00pm - 6:29pm
This course in advanced topics in law, philosophy, and rhetoric proceeds as a philosophical seminar, taking, each term, a different path of inquiry into the philosophy of law as it reveals itself in diverse ways and places. This term, we shall engage in thinking on law by way of inquiring into the law of thinking.
In turbulent times – such as ours, now – it seems we have “no time” for thinking, as we find ourselves wholly caught up in action and reaction. And yet it is precisely in these times that thinking, above all, is most profoundly called for – and so, first, thinking on thinking: What is thinking? What guides and governs it? …What can? These are the questions we will come to contemplate on our course together this term.
In the history of Western thought, we find the question of thinking straightaway turned to the question of knowledge: of what, and how – by what method, and with what certainty – we can know: that is (in all but the most ancient attentions to this question), how we can ascertain, so as to master, reduce, explicate, map, and utilize, what we encounter in the world. The question of thinking thereby turns from a task, calling for devotion, to a tool, a device for gaining mastery and utility. Method thereby becomes dispositive, a matter of compliance with pre-emptive rules for proceeding in ratiocination and evaluating its results.
Western thought thus unfolds as the history of subjecting thinking to rule: that of logic, of reason and rationality, of perception and perspective, and, finally, of sheer utility as a means to attain power’s goals. Rather than taking up the rule of these authorities from within, under their unquestioned dominion, we shall undertake, in this seminar, to step back from the ubiquitous and insistent pursuit of these goals and thinking’s apparent service to them so as to wonder at the phenomenon of thinking and its subjection to rule, itself.
With the aid of Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, we shall find ourselves brought to think anew, not only on thinking, and its law, but thereby on what law is, and may be, itself.
Prior exposure to philosophy is not required; an openness to its challenges is.
Please note: All students interested in taking this class — whether pre-enrolled, wait-listed, or neither — are to attend the first class meeting, 5-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 25. In accordance with current university directives in response to the pandemic (which are subject to change), the first week of this seminar – only – will meet via Zoom; the course thereafter will be conducted on campus, in person. Accordingly, it is necessary that anyone interested in taking this class who is not enrolled contact me for the Zoom invitation code (which I will send to all enrolled students before class begins) in order to enter our first class meeting, as is required for anyone considering enrollment in the course; only those students who are enrolled or who have contacted me in advance will be able to enter the first week’s Zoom seminar meetings.
In addition to weekly reading and writing assignments and prepared participation in each week’s seminar meetings, students will attend to writing a final paper, to be developed, with abundant feedback, throughout the duration of the course.
The course is an intensive seminar; prepared, participatory attendance is obligatory. Students are advised to plan their schedules accordingly. In addition, students should be aware that wide-ranging collective discussions, often lasting an hour or more, will generally occur during office hours held after class on Wednesdays. In past classes, students have found these informal but intense discussions to be of substantial help in coming to terms with difficult material encountered in the course. Students are strongly encouraged to plan their schedules so as to be able to attend these sessions. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the course.