The People’s Colloquium › Forums › Academics › Philosophy and Ideas – Lectures and Discussions › October 2018 – March 2019: Theory, Criticism, and Society › Monday, October 22nd – Theory, Criticism, and Society
Below, please find syllabi for our October 22nd discussion and lecture. Typically these resources are posted 2 weeks in advance.
Theory, Criticism, and Society: 10/2018 – 3/2019
During this semester, we’ll explore ideas from theory and criticism focusing on art, literature, music, and culture, with the further intention of applying such ideas to the creation and organization of society. Our goal is to deepen our understanding of theory and criticism, and to broaden our perspective of the world we live in—and the possibilities open to us.
Nietzsche on Hardship
Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most influential thinkers of the last 200 years. Yet, he is also one of the least understood. During this lecture we will focus on Nietzsche’s idea of the value of struggle and hardship. While most thinkers throughout history have tried to teach people how to reduce the amount of pain in their lives, Nietzsche stands almost alone among philosophers by declaring that failure and difficulty were to be welcomed by anyone interested in leading a fulfilled life.
After exploring Nietzsche’s reasons for holding this view, we will examine some ways in which society has integrated or rejected this worldview consciously or unconsciously. Questions to explore in this lecture include why Nietzsche thinks modern morality is corrupt and whether or not he is accurate in his analysis. How does our society either value or devalue the notion of hardship in life?
To this end we will read a very short section from Nietzsche’s “The Antichrist”.
Discussion: Security vs Liberty: a critical examination of the dilemma in comparative historical and modern contexts
Syllabus: The United States is a unique country, and an often idealized country because of its foundation not on a common nationality, borders defined by centuries of warfare, religious identity, or any of the other things that defined most countries in human history. Instead, the United States was one of the very first, if not the first, to establish itself on philosophical principals of human rights, as in God given rights belonging to every man. Time and changing circumstances have worn away at these rights from the foundation of the country to the present. The problems that color modern American life are radically different than those the founders could have possibly anticipated. Violence, the fear, and threat of violence, and emerging technology have continually eroded the permissions of freedom, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, an expectation of privacy, and an inherent legal presumption of innocence enshrined in the foundational documents. How can we reconcile the lofty intentions laid out at the foundation of the country with the ills it now faces? This discussion will attempt to come to new ideas in the ever contentious security vs liberty debate by examining this question through a critical juxtaposition: historical ideals and modern problems.
How much liberty is worth trading for security?
How much credence should we pay to the foundational documents and the philosophy that inspired them? Can we read these documents as originalists, relying on word for word exact renderings of meaning or should we look to the spirit of the words?
Should we regard these people, ideas, and documents as more guidelines than hard and fast rules, or even relics of the past?
What does liberty mean, in a practical sense, when translated from philosophy to American life?
How much liberty is necessary for people to live up to the standard ideal of the ‘American dream’ of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness outlined in the constitution? Can that be quantified?
What do these questions mean in light of the digital age and its constraints on both privacy and security?
What do these questions mean in terms of terrorism or organized crime?
The readings are in two tiers, one is required the other is recommended. Required reading is a single document with selections from foundational documents and the philosophers who inspired them. This includes a preamble to the constitution, a portion of the declaration of independence, the bill of rights, and a few synopses of the philosophers the founders were referencing in these documents.
The recommended reading is a large portion of the patriot act, a recent California law about data sharing and privacy, some statistics on no knock swat team raids, and further synopsis of philosophers.
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