Special Topics in Rhetoric
189 - 002 | CCN: 17226
Thinking, Dwelling, Polity
Instructor: Nancy Weston
We live in distinctly unsettled, even perilous times. The polity is riven, shot through with turmoil, disharmony, and accelerating uncertainty, as conflict and hostility shred the social and political fabric. All manner of mores as to how we are to comport ourselves, how to think, how to engage with one another, are thrust aside; what had seemed settled verities and unwritten standards of conduct and civility are wholly upended, bringing widespread bafflement, anger, alienation, and fearful hostility. The very possibility of truth, of right, and of living peaceably with one another have all come into profound question.
As urgent and clamorous as this situation is, we will not attempt, in this course, to confront it head-on in its pressing immediacy; instead, we shall enter into a sustained encounter with three great inquiries that take up, each in its own way, the essential matters at issue here. Engaging with the historic thinking of Plato, Aristotle, and Kant on the questions of truth, right, and polity, we will undertake to learn, not only from the thinking in evidence there, but from how these inquiries take their start and what they understand to guide their task. In particular, we will find that these great thinkers of the past did not understand truth, right, and polity as matters for isolated fields of inquiry and theorizing, but inquired into all, as going to the single and enduring question: How shall we live?
In the company of these thinkers, we may hope to encounter not any system, code, authority, or theoretic or policy solutions to our current crisis, but rather illumination for our path, as we, like them, attend to the fundamental questions of ethics, of polity, of truth, and of right action as conjointly fundamental to human dwelling — attention that has shown itself to be desperately needed, now.
Prior coursework in 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,on in Room 205, Dwinelle Hall.
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 classafternoons. 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.
Martin Heidegger: “The Word of Nietzsche, ‘God is Dead’” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1977)
Plato: Republic, trans. Allan Bloom (New York: Basic Books, 2016)
Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics. (Cambridge: Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, 1926)
Immanuel Kant: Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, trans. H.J. Paton (New York: Harper & Row, 1964 or Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2009)
Martin Heidegger, What is Called Thinking? (New York: Harper Perennial Modern Thought, 1976)
**** This course counts for either the History & Theory or Public Discourse concentrations.