NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES
OLOF PALME HOUSE
FIRST YEAR COURSES: 2001-2002
I. The first new course of the year is REDISCOVERING DEMOCRACY IN AMERICA: LIBERALISM AND COMMUNITARIANISM. There is a debate raging in American universities about two different approaches to American political and economic institutions. One school, represented by John Rawls, Robert Nozick, and Richard Rorty, argues for a continuation of liberalism with its emphasis on individual rights, liberties, and freedoms in the market, whereas the other, represented by Alasdair MacIntyre, Robert Bellah, Michael Sandel, and Benjamin Barber, argues for a new American communitarianism with its emphasis on political community, democratic consensus, public participation, and the common good in social institutions. We will examine the communitarian school of thought and the manner in which it borrows from the Greek view of moral economy, political constitution, and the polis. Finally, critics of both these schools will be studied as they wish to include questions of political economy, income and wealth distribution, class, and the organization of work.
II. The second course in the first year, which examines the relationships between social justice and nature, is entitled SOCIAL ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: ARISTOTLE AND THE MODERNS. Here we will examine the contemporary debates about nature, ecology, and the environment. As with the previous course, this, too, ties together the modern discussion with classical influences. Key to this course will be the debate between the representatives of the deep ecology and social ecology movements. The former stresses biological deteriorization, ecological crisis, and environmental pollution, whereas the latter emphasizes the use of small-scale technology, decentralized industry, local communities, and participatory democracy. Here, too, many authors return to the Greeks for inspiration and insight. The focus upon decentralization and democracy draws its inspiration from the Greek polis. We will examine Aristotle's Physics and Metaphysics and his influence on Martin Heidegger, Heidegger's students (Karl Löwith, Hans Jonas, and Herbert Marcuse), Max Horkheimer, Karl Polanyi, Wendell Berry, and Murray Bookchin. The course will also examine the metaphysical assumptions of modern science and technological rationality (E. A. Burtt, T. Kuhn, and M. Berman). Humanity's relation to nature is viewed through the debate between those arguing for a return to the Greek view of sensuousness and a symbiotic relation with a living nature and those defending the more traditional view of a deterministic and mechanical Cartesian and Newtonian universe that informs much of the social sciences today.
SECOND YEAR COURSES: 2002-2003
I. The second year begins with a new course, MODERN GERMAN SOCIAL THEORY: THE ROMANCING OF ANTIQUITY, which investigates the relation between classical art, philosophy, and politics and their influence on modern intellectuals, such as Johann Winckelmann, Friedrich Schiller, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Leo Strauss, Hannah Arendt, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas. At first, through art and drama and later through politics, the modern thinkers were enamored of the works of Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Plato, and Aristotle. Students will see how the ideas and perspectives of the classical period were filtered and transformed to fit the needs of modern writers responding to the development of the rise of industrial society and liberalism. The course begins with the Oresteia, Oedipus Tyrannus, and Antigone and Aristotle's Politics and moves on to flesh out the appropriation of the Greek experience and its relevance to the crisis of modernity.
II. The final course, ETHICS AND SOCIAL JUSTICE: THE ANCIENT AND MODERN TRADITIONS, focuses on the political and ethical dimensions of the interaction between antiquity and modernity and their effects on religion and moral philosophy. There seems to be an interesting conflict between natural rights and natural law traditions within various religious traditions that reflect deeper ambiguity between the church and the state. We will read sections of Deuteronomy and Leviticus from the Torah and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics and Politics, and then proceed to contemporary usage of natural law thought in Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Buddhist analyses of American society.