1 DRAFT SYLLABUS History 2901E Conceptions of Humanity and Society in Western Culture Tuesday, 9:30-11:30, UCC-59 Instructor: Eli Nathans Office: 2217 Lawson Hall Course Description: This course seeks to acquaint students with a series of classic texts of the Western tradition by juxtaposing four series of debates or discussions, each of which helped define the cultural climate of the eras in which they took place. All had an enduring influence on the culture of the West. The first pair of texts is the Odyssey and Aristotle's Nichomacheon Ethics. The Iliad and Odyssey, both traditionally attributed to the poet Homer, remained for centuries a guide to the conduct of individual lives and the true nature and goals of Greek society, even as this society fundamentally changed. Both poems emphasized a heroic and military ideal. Aristotle formulated an ideal that was both more philosophical and ethical, clearly in conscious opposition to the models found in Homer. The influence of the model of Aristotle is suggested by the fact that in medieval Europe the authority of Aristotle was considered in the academic schools to be next only to that of the Bible. The course then examines excerpts from the Hebrew Bible and their interpretations. It then turns to the Confessions of St. Augustine, the fourth and fifth century Christian Bishop whose writings reflected the influence of Greek and Roman writers, contemporary religious and ideological debates, the dire contemporary circumstances of the Roman Empire, and the New Testament. St. Augustine's work has been and remains deeply influential in the history of Christianity. The third pairing is of Erasmus and Luther. Erasmus was the dominant intellectual figure of the early sixteenth century, a man whose learned interpretations of scripture often contained criticisms of contemporary practices. Erasmus' writings influenced princes, popes, and many other literate Europeans. Luther was among the products of the intellectual fervent that Erasmus helped create. Learned and earnest, he rejected compromises and ambiguities that Erasmus accepted. In this part of the course we examine the contrasting ways in which both men searched for meaning and truth. The final section of the course focuses on the Enlightenment, or perhaps better, the Enlightenments, including both the iconic figures of the French Enlightenment and
2 also of the more moderate British variant, figures whom some recent historians of the period, notably John Pocock, insist must be considered part of the world of ideas to which Montesquieu, Voltaire, and also Rousseau belonged. We examine Voltaire's admiring descriptions of English society, Rousseau's scathing attack on the inequality and, hence, corruption, of European societies, and Montesquieu's careful historical analysis of what he considered the three principal political alternatives open to European governments, republics, monarchies, and tyrannies. The course then considers several of the writings of Edmund Burke, who admired Montesquieu and disdained Rousseau, and wrote a classic defense of British political institutions that is often mistakenly understood as a purely conservative tract. While there will be some lectures, for the most part this course will be discussion based. Students should be prepared to participate actively in analyzing the assigned texts. Learning Outcomes Students who take this course will be able to explain the meaning or meanings of the assigned texts, and place them in their historical context and in relation to each other. Grading: Response papers on assigned readings: 15 points Class participation: 10 points Three six to eight page essays, on readings assigned for the course: 25 points each Books St. Augustine, The Confessions (New York: Oxford World's Classics, 2008). Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford World's Classics, 2009). M.I. Finley, The World of Odysseus (New York: New York Review Books, 2002). Homer, The Odyssey, translated by Richmond Lattimore (Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2007). Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality (Oxford World's Classics, 2009). Voltaire, Letters Concerning the English Nation (Oxford World's Classics, 2009).
3 Other books to be assigned Coursepack (or use of sources listed in OWL) Schedule of classes: September 13 Introduction. Homer, The Odyssey, book 1. September 20 Homer, The Odyssey, books 2-7. Finley, The World of Odysseus, 5-45 (chapters 1-2). September 27 Homer, The Odyssey, books Finley, The World of Odysseus, (chapters 3-4) October 4 Homer, The Odyssey, books Finley, The World of Odysseus, (chapter 5) *A.W.H. Adkins, Moral Values and Political Behaviour in Ancient Greece. From Homer to the end of the Fifth Century (New York: Norton, 1972), October 11 *Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics, translated with commentaries and glossary by Hippocrates Apostle (Grinnell: Peripatetic Press, 1984), (Book Beta). *Adkins, Moral Values and Political Behaviour in Ancient Greece. From Homer to the end of the Fifth Century,
4 *Jonathan Barnes, Early Greek Philosophy (Toronto: Penguin Books, 2001), xi-xxv. *Jonathan Barnes, "Aristotle," in R.M. Hare, Jonathan Barnes, and Henry Chadwick, Founders of Thought (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991), , *Jonathan Barnes, introduction to Aristotle, The Nichomachean Ethics (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), ix-xxi. October 18 *Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics, translated with commentaries and glossary by Hippocrates Apostle (Grinnell: Peripatetic Press, 1984), (Book Theta) October 25 *Genesis 1-3; 6-9:17. *Marc Zvi Brettler, How to Read the Jewish Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 7-12, *Thomas Pangle, Political Philosophy and the God of Abraham (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2003), November 1 Discussion of Genesis continued. November 8 Guest lecture November 15 Early Christianity: lecture. Peter Brown, Augustine of Hippo, any edition, selections November 22
5 The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book One, chapters 7, 16, 19 Book Two, chapters 1-4 Book Four, chapters 1, 2, 4 Book Five, chapters 13, 14 Book Six, chapters 3, 4, 12, 13, 14, 15 Book Eight, chapters 6, 12 Book Ten, chapters 3, 4, 22 November 29 The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book Twelve, chapters 7, 24, 27, 28, 30, 31 Book Thirteen, chapters 22, 23, 28 December 6 Lecture Winter Break Janury 10 Lecture on Humanism and the Reformation January 17 Erasmus, On Education for Children Erasmus, Letter to Dorp Erasmus, On the War against the Turks The Erasmus Reader, ed. by Erika Rummel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), , , , secondary readings to be assigned
6 January 24 Luther, The Freedom of a Christian Man Erasmus on Luther, The Erasmus Reader, ed. by Erika Rummel (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), secondary readings to be assigned January 31 Lecture on the Enlightenment February 7 Voltaire, Letters Concerning the English Nation (Oxford World's Classics, 2009). Exchanges between Voltaire and Frederick the Great, ruler of Prussia, and Catherine the Great of Russia John Pocock, Barbarism and Religion, vol. 1, The Enlightenments of Edward Gibbons (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), Section II, Voltaire. Neo- Classicist and Philosophe in the Enlightened World Picture," selections. February 14 Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality (Oxford World's Classics, 2009). February 21 No class: Reading Week February 28 Charles de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Anne Cohler, Basia Miller, and Harold Stone, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), preface, books 1-5 Annelien de Dign, French Political Thought from Montesquieu to Tocqueville, Liberty in a Levelled Society? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 1-39.
7 March 7 Charles de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, Anne Cohler, Basia Miller, and Harold Stone, eds. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), books 11, 12, 19 March 14 Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, books to be determined March 21 Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford World's Classics, 2009), March 28 Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (Oxford World's Classics, 2009), April 4 Open