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A seminar includes a morning series of classes or an afternoon series of classes in a given week—with the exception of the Science Institute in Weeks 2 and 3, which meets both in the morning and in the afternoon. If you take any other two seminars, morning and afternoon, you will receive a discount for immersing yourself in an intensive week. Seminars run Monday through Friday. Optional evening events—lectures, panels, socials—will be added throughout the week.
“Sing, goddess, the anger of Peleus’ son, Achilleus.” So begins Homer’s epic poem, set in the tenth and final year of the Trojan War. Insulted by Agamemnon, Achilleus stays back from the fighting until his companion Patroklos is killed by Hector. He then joins the battle to avenge Patroklos’s death, knowing that doing so means he himself will die at Troy. In the course of unfolding the story of Achilleus’s anger, the Iliad presents a vision of human life that invites us to think deeply about the nature of honor, friendship, civic life, familial ties, and mortality.
In this seminar we carefully read and discuss the influential opus magnum of Martin Heidegger’s late thought: the four lectures he delivered to lay audiences in the late 1940s under the title “Insight Into That Which Is” (also known as the Bremen Lectures). In these lectures Heidegger analyzes such wide-ranging themes as the meaning of mortality, art, and technique; the dangerous effects that planetary technology is having on our relationship to the world; and the true value of non-objectified things. Prior acquaintance with Heidegger’s thought is not required.
Dostoyevsky is among the most powerfully affecting of Russian novelists, and The Brothers Karamazov is his greatest work. Set in Russia during the late 19th-century period of social and political unrest that ultimately led to the 1917 Revolution, it is in various parts murder mystery, family saga, psychological study, morality play, and philosophical and theological inquiry. Dostoyevsky presents an imaginative tableau of characters who fully inhabit their vivacity, as do the intense circumstances and eternal questions that overhang the work. Testimony to its richness and reach is the fact that a wag, when once asked for a recommended reading list for a course on fathers and sons, responded, “Read The Brothers Karamazov for an entire term.”
Tales of the Hasidim, by Martin Buber, represents a Jewish storytelling tradition of great moral and theological depth, an attempt to express a view of the world as filled with divine presence, where human righteousness arises not from duty but from a kind of fundamental joy. Poignant, enigmatic, and often filled with a strange humor, these brief parables and tales give glimpses of a mysterious and forgiving wisdom. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov, regarded as the founder of Hasidic Judaism, “The world is full of enormous lights and mysteries, and man shuts them from himself with one small hand!”
Like its better known sibling in the field of political economy, The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments brings to bear, in the field of moral theory, a combination of comprehensive, systematic thinking, with careful and detailed observation of everyday phenomena. Smith not only shows how to construct an entire moral theory on the basis of our tendency to sympathize with others and our desire for others to sympathize with us, but he fills it out with a wealth of detail and a full complement of subtle and nuanced distinctions: between propriety and merit; between the love of praise and the love of praiseworthiness; and among pride, vanity, and the love of true glory.
Thomas Mann set out to write a short, satirical piece on life in a sanatorium. Twelve years later, he ended up with a novel of more than 700 pages, The Magic Mountain, published in 1924. Just as its central character, Hans Castorp, comes down with a bit of a bug while visiting a sanatorium, only to be diagnosed with tuberculosis and persuaded to remain there for seven years, Mann appears to have been held in a greater grip by the elements of the novel than he first realized. And just as pilgrims brought together on a journey often share a single goal but little else, Mann’s characters, thrown together on the mountain, share disease and a confrontation with death. This commonality throws into sharp relief their differing inclinations and world views, ultimately shedding light on the intellectual and spiritual conflicts of pre-war society.
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