LS 898: Graduating Seminar – Explorations in Contemporary Cultural Tensions

Spring 2017  | Dr. Stephen Duguid

Course Description:

The entire GLS Program is structured around exploring tensions with an eye, I think, to locating the space between the dualities and dichotomies that have played such a dominant part in defining Modernity since at least the Renaissance if not from the very origins of Western culture in ancient Greece. One thinks immediately of the speech by Aristophanes in the Symposium, the gender dualities in fiction from Romeo and Juliet to Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and the philosophic machines invented by Descartes and his followers. During your studies in GLS you have, I hope, discovered that for a culturally healthy self or system it is never passion versus reason or self versus other, but rather it is the struggle to find an appropriate spot between the two that makes possible the good life – happiness, justice, fulfillment…

It has been the tradition in LS 898 that we read fewer but more complex and more modern texts that, each in their on way, circle around these connections between passion/emotion and reason. In this version of the course we are going to be exploring these connections via a look at the biological/cultural context, a philosophic discussion of transgression, a sociologist’s assessment of modernity, and an interdisciplinary scholar’s argument for a more powerful role for emotion in political life.

Course Assessment:

Field Exam - In the brochure describing the Graduate Liberal Studies Program we are told that “The central theme of the program is an exploration of significant tensions within our intellectual culture, tensions that have historical origins and that have practical consequences in our present world.”  In a 7-10 page paper, summarize your particular experience of this exploration during your time in the GLS Program.

This review of your experience of the Program will be presented to the seminar during the 1st and 2nd week of the semester and you will be assigned readings for which you lead seminar discussions.

Course readings:

  • Christopher Boehm, Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame (NY: Basic Books, 2012)
  • Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought: An Alternative History of Modern Philosophy (Princeton, 2002)
  • Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Polity Press, 2012)
  • Martha Nussbaum, Political Emotions: Why Love Matters for Justice (Harvard, 2013)