Lifelong Learning Courses


‘The Holy Trible’: Coordinated Readings from the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and Qur’an

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

From a literary perspective, the Hebrew Bible, New Testament and Qur’an constitute an “Abrahamic scriptural trilogy” in which the later works build upon — and depend upon — the earlier works. Yet, although the paired “Old and New Testaments” are often read together (as “The Holy Bible”), the trilogy as a whole (which might be termed “The Holy Trible”) rarely is. This course will be devoted to the close reading and literary analysis of coordinated selections from all three of the major Abrahamic scriptures in an effort to better understand each of the works in its own right and in its relationships to the other two as well as the “Abrahamic scriptural trilogy” as a whole. No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required. All readings and discussions will be in English. ◊ More →


“We Must Not Be Afraid To Be Free”: The Trials of George Anastaplo

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

George Anastaplo (1925-2014) has long been a legend for his decade-long Cold War fight against the State of Illinois’s refusal to admit the young World-War-II veteran to the practice of law on the basis of Anastaplo’s assertion of fundamental rights he believed enshrined in the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence. This course will combine a study of Anastaplo’s case (from its obscure 1950 Chicago beginning through its famous 1961 U.S. Supreme Court culmination) with a study of Anastaplo’s views on American fundamental rights.  Readings will include key documents from the case at its various stages as well as selections from Anastaplo’s scholarly works on the U.S. Constitution (plus relevant historical documents), and will be supplemented by an audio recording of Anastaplo’s pro se oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court and the film Judgment at Nuremburg. This course is open to all.
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(Cinematic) Visions of Christ

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > UNDERGRADUATE [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Although the very first depictions of Jesus were textual, pictorial representations of him were not far behind. At the turn of the 20th century, Jesus rose on the silver screen, first as simple recordings of theatrical “passion plays” and then as full-blown features depicting a wide variety of “Jesuses”. This course introduces students to the range of textual and cinematic depictions of Jesus by a close examination of a number of canonical and non-canonical gospels as well as of a number of major “Jesus movies”. ◊ More →


Abraham in Ancient Texts

COURSES > LIFELONG

Although many people today think of Genesis as our primary (or only) source of “information” about Abraham, this is not the case.  On the contrary, a range of ancient authors wrote about Abraham from a range of perspectives.  Indeed, a few ancient authors even wrote as if they were Abraham.  This course will examine a range of these ancient Abrahams by reading excerpts a number of texts from the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions (including: Genesis, The Book of Jubilees, The Testament of Abraham, Antiquities of the Jews by Josephus, essays by Philo of Alexandria, Romans, Galatians, the Koran, and Tales of the Prophets) in order to better appreciate both “the many faces of Abraham” and the various uses to which Abraham has been put.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →


An Introduction to Sigmund Freud

COURSES > LIFELONG

As one of the great turn-of-the-century thinkers, Sigmund Freud’s development of psychoanalytic theory and practice forever changed the way people – even people who disagreed with him – looked at the human mind.  This course will provide an introduction to Freud’s life and views through a careful reading and discussion of three of his works: An Autobiographical Study, The Interpretation of Dreams (selections), and Moses and MonotheismNo prior experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →


Apologies of Socrates and Gospels of Jesus

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > CONGREGATION | COURSES > ONLINE
[→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

The lives and deaths of Socrates and Jesus had some remarkable parallels. Both were charismatic teachers claiming to be on divine missions. Both were executed by the ruling elites they challenged. And both were vindicated in the writings of their disciples. This course will explore these and other parallels by reading and discussing two Apologies (Defenses) of Socrates, one by Xenophon and one by Plato, and a number of gospels, some that made it into the New Testament and some that didn’t. In addition to examining the teachings of each figure, we will consider how each one’s calling and legacy is portrayed in the various accounts. The two Apologies of Socrates will be supplemented by selected other dialogues by Xenophon and Plato related to the death of Socrates. ◊ More →


Arts of Affluence [1]: Wealth and the American Dream

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

For better or worse, one version of the American Dream has long equated “success” with “material wealth”. This course will explore that equation through the close reading and discussion of important fiction and non-fiction works from America’s Gilded Age and the consideration of two films on wealth in America (Citizen Kane by Orson Welles and Born Rich by Jamie Johnson). Texts will include: Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick, Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby as well as Andrew Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth”, and Thorsten Veblen’s The Theory of the Leisure Class. ◊ More →


Arts of Affluence [2]: (Passive) Investing on Wall Street

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

Modern financial research suggests that investing success is generally unrelated to investing skill — and therefore that the best way to “win” the investing “game” is not to “play” it at all. This course will examine the “passive investing thesis” through the close reading and discussion of contemporary investing classics alongside a consideration of Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities and Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. Texts will include: Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor, Burton Malkiel’s A Random Walk Down Wall Street and William Bernstein’s The Four Pillars of Investing. ◊ More →


Arts of Affluence [3]: Families and Inheritance (Planning)

COURSES > LIFELONG

Family legacies often have unintended consequences. Through the close reading and discussion of fiction and non-fiction works and the consideration of two films,  this course will explore the types and consequences of family legacies and consider the ways in which such legacies can be designed to help and not hurt. Texts will include: Hughes’s Family Wealth, Hausner and Freeman’s The Legacy Family, Williams and Preisser’s Philanthropy, Heirs and Values and Condon and Condon’s Beyond the Grave as well as Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons, Tennessee Williams’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and William Shakespeare’s King Lear. ◊ More →


Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults: YEAR 1

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Founded in 1946, the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults is a structured, four-year, non-credit curriculum in which students read and discuss the classics of the Western traditions under the guidance of experienced staff instructors. Readings span ancient Greece and ancient Israel to modern Europe and America and include works of philosophy, drama, fiction, poetry, politics, and history. These works present a variety of perspectives on enduring human questions, such as: What is justice and how can we best achieve it? What does it mean to live a good human life? What is truth, does it exist, and how do we find it? ◊ More →


Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults: YEAR 2

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Founded in 1946, the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults is a structured, four-year, non-credit curriculum in which students read and discuss the classics of the Western traditions under the guidance of experienced staff instructors. Readings span ancient Greece and ancient Israel to modern Europe and America and include works of philosophy, drama, fiction, poetry, politics, and history. These works present a variety of perspectives on enduring human questions, such as: What is justice and how can we best achieve it? What does it mean to live a good human life? What is truth, does it exist, and how do we find it? ◊ More →


Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults: YEAR 3

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Founded in 1946, the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults is a structured, four-year, non-credit curriculum in which students read and discuss the classics of the Western traditions under the guidance of experienced staff instructors. Readings span ancient Greece and ancient Israel to modern Europe and America and include works of philosophy, drama, fiction, poetry, politics, and history. These works present a variety of perspectives on enduring human questions, such as: What is justice and how can we best achieve it? What does it mean to live a good human life? What is truth, does it exist, and how do we find it? ◊ More →


Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults: YEAR 4

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Founded in 1946, the University of Chicago’s Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults is a structured, four-year, non-credit curriculum in which students read and discuss the classics of the Western traditions under the guidance of experienced staff instructors. Readings span ancient Greece and ancient Israel to modern Europe and America and include works of philosophy, drama, fiction, poetry, politics, and history. These works present a variety of perspectives on enduring human questions, such as: What is justice and how can we best achieve it? What does it mean to live a good human life? What is truth, does it exist, and how do we find it? ◊ More →


Before The Audacity of Hope: Selected African-American Classics

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Although issues of race and slavery have long been a prominent subject of American writing, the classic works of African-American authors are often unknown beyond the African-American community. This course will examine a selection of such classics in order to understand the works themselves, the canon of which they form a part and their relationship to comparable Euro-American works. Texts will include: David Walker’s Appeal, Frederick Douglass’s autobiographical Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery, W.E.B. DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk, and the writings of Martin Luther King Jr. ◊ More →


Co-Evolution of Christianity and (Rabbinic) Judaism

COURSES > LIFELONG

Although “Christianity” is often thought of as a younger religion than “Judaism”, Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity actually co-evolved from a common Second Temple starting point and thus stand to one another as “sisters” rather than as “mother-and-daughter”.  This course will trace the parallel development of these two Abrahamic religions through an examination of a selection of primary and secondary texts in order to better understand each in its own right and in relation to the other, as well as their relationship to their common precursor.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →


Could It Happen Here? Now? Dystopian Novels for Our Time

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

In a time when many believe that contemporary events are unfolding in ways that bode ill for the future, the dystopian classics of youth are the focus of renewed interest as possible guides to “what might happen”. This course will be devoted to a careful, mature consideration of four such classics as we seek both to understand each text as a literary work originating in its own time and place and to glean possible insights into our own time and place. The texts are: Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here; George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four; and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. ◊ More →


Dead Sea Scrolls

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > CONGREGATION [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Although discovered in the late 1940s, the Dead Sea Scrolls — a collection of Judaic texts dating from roughly 200 BCE to 100 CE — have only recently become fully available to scholars and the public.  In this course, we will explore these ancient documents both by reading a selection of them (as well as secondary texts that put them in context) and by comparing them to traditional biblical texts from the same era.  In addition to seeking an appreciation of the scrolls themselves, we will also seek greater understanding of various strands of thought current at the dawn of both rabbinic Judaism and early Christianity.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →


Delivered from Destruction: The Bible’s Exodus and Virgil’s Aeneid

COURSES > LIFELONG

Origin or foundation epics are common to many cultures. In this course we will examine two such epics side-by-side: the Exodus epic (Exodus-Joshua) from the Bible, in which the Israelites are transformed from slaves in Egypt into masters in Canaan, and Virgil’s Aeneid, in which the vanquished at Troy are transformed into the victors at (what will become) Rome. Through careful consideration of both stories we will seek to better understand each epic in its own right as well as what the two stories have in common and what makes each story unique. ◊ More →


Divine Epics [1]: Hebrew Bible, Iliad, and Qur’an

COURSES > LIFELONG

This course is a rare opportunity to compare three foundational texts that are usually read independently or in pairs, yielding surprising insights into the texts and ourselves. Reading the Hebrew Bible with the Iliad illuminates the polytheistic elements of the Bible and the ways modern readers are conditioned to misread it as a purely monotheistic work. Reading the Qur’an alongside the Hebrew Bible illuminates the Biblical foundations of the Qur’an and the reasons many readers of the Bible assume the Qur’an “got it all wrong.” Through close, coordinated readings participants will understand three divine epics in a new light. ◊ More →


Divine Epics [2]: Homer and the Bible

COURSES > LIFELONG

This course is a rare opportunity to compare four foundational texts that are usually read independently or in pairs, yielding surprising insights into the texts and ourselves. Beyond extending an existing story, sequels comment upon, reinterpret, and at times even repudiate the events and values of the original. This course examines the Odyssey as a sequel to the Iliad and the New Testament as a sequel to the Hebrew Bible in an effort to understand the later works both as independent works and in terms of their vital relationship to their predecessors. ◊ More →


Divine Epics [3]: The Qur’an and The Aeneid

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Both the Aeneid and the Qur’an can be viewed as the culmination of divine trilogies — the Aeneid completes the story begun in the Iliad and Odyssey, and the Qur’an follows the Hebrew Bible and New Testament (or, more precisely: the Torah and the Gospel).  This course will examine these “sequels,” both as independent works and in terms of their relationships to their precursors.  In addition, we will also compare and contrast Virgil’s account of the “Trojan exodus” of Aeneas, which culminates in the foundation of Rome, with the Exodus from Egypt, which culminates in the foundation of Israel. ◊ More →


Does Humanity Have a Death Wish? Sigmund Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

Although most famously known for his “erotic” theories that postulated a fundamental human drive for sex, reproduction and the continuation of life itself, during the period between the two world wars Sigmund Freud began to consider whether or not humanity also had a fundamental drive for self-destruction — a drive that was exacerbated by the conditions of modern, civilized life. After a brief introduction to Freud’s seminal theory of the human mind, this course will focus on a close reading and discussion of one of Freud’s last books, Civilization and Its Discontents, paying particular attention to Freud’s claim that “the fateful question for the human species seems to me to be whether [they] will succeed in mastering the disturbance of their communal life by the human instinct of aggression and self-destruction.” ◊ More →


East Meets West: Islam

COURSES > LIFELONG

No description available. ◊ More →


Forming Christianity: Selected Texts of Early Christianity

COURSES > LIFELONG

Although “Christianity” is often thought to have been part of God’s plan from the beginning of time, the historical emergence of religions centered on Jesus Christ looks in hindsight to have been anything but foreordained.  On the contrary, the emergence of “Christian Judaism” and its transformation into “Jewish Christianity” and beyond entailed several hundred years of creative and contentious development by a number of schools of proto-Christian thought.  In this course, we will examine the formation of what we know today as Christianity through a close reading of early Christian texts — some of which made it into the victors’ New Testament and some of which did not. ◊ More →


Freud on the Human Condition

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Although Freud has been primarily known for his theories of individual psychology, Freud himself never saw his work in such narrow terms. Rather, Freud constantly strove to develop a comprehensive theory of the human condition by using his psychology to explain fundamental features of human evolution, history and modern social life. In this course, we will approach Freud’s worldview, which often equated children, neurotics, “primitives” and proto-humans, through some of his lesser-read works which put his psychological theories in a larger context. ◊ More →


Hubris and Empire: Livy on the Early History of Rome

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

The Roman Empire is frequently evoked as a cautionary tale for modern America. Rising from humble beginnings, Rome dominated the western world for over 600 years before falling to barbarian hordes and its own dysfunction. As a Republic, Rome developed institutions based on law and justice that were used by the Founding Fathers of the United States as models for their own government, but which may also have contained the seeds of their own destruction. In this course we will read and discuss the first five books of Livy’s history, Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City), often known in English as The History of Rome. These books begin with the semi-mythical founding of Rome by Romulus and chronicle the early development Republic. Through his discussion of early Rome, Livy also gives us a commentary on the contemporary upheavals that he witnessed during his own lifetime as Rome moved from Republic to Empire under Julius and Augustus Caesar. ◊ More →


In the Face of Adversity: Homer’s Odyssey and the Bible’s Job

COURSES > LIFELONG

No description available. ◊ More →


Jesus for Jews (and Others)

COURSES > LIFELONG

Although the figure of Jesus has permeated Western culture for nearly 2,000 years, many Jews and other non-Christians find the figure of Jesus a problematic one, difficult to study and comprehend. As a result, many of the great Western works that presuppose a sympathetic understanding of Jesus remain opaque. This course provides a sympathetic introduction to the figure of Jesus as well as an exploration of some of the challenges that Jews in particular often face in dealing with Christianity’s appropriation of one of Israel’s greatest sons. Readings from the Bible will be supplemented by Chaim Potok’s My Name is Asher Lev and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. ◊ More →


Lost Books of the New Testament

COURSES > LIFELONG

Although 27 books were included in the fourth century anthology known as the New Testament, early Christians produced a great many more books considered sacred by various communities.  Among these other books were additional gospels, acts of the apostles, epistles and apocalypses.  In this course, we will read and discuss a selection of the surviving “lost books” that did not make it into the Bible (as well as several of the canonical books that did) in order to get a sense of the works themselves, the similarities and differences among them and between them and the canonical works, and of the process that led to the creation of the Christian canon. ◊ More →


Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed

COURSES > LIFELONG

Perhaps the greatest medieval Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed is a scholastic attempt to reconcile the “revelation” of the Torah and the “reason” of Aristotelian philosophy.  This class will be devoted to reading the Guide in an attempt to gain insight in the both Maimonides’ perspective and the general issues he raises. ◊ More →


Manifestations of the Kabbalah: The Zohar

COURSES > LIFELONG

Along with the Bible and the Talmud, The Zohar was one of the pillars of medieval Judaism.  Unlike those earlier works, however, The Zohar (or “The Splendor”) purports to provide a mystical path to God.  This class will read and discuss portions of The Zohar, in order to both learn about Kabbalah and about the connections between this and the other pillars of Judaism.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →


Nag Hammadi Library

COURSES > LIFELONG

Sometimes described as the “Dead Sea Scrolls of Christianity”, the Nag Hammadi Library is a collection of primarily Gnostic Christian texts produced early in the Christian era and re-discovered in 1945 near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. In this course we will read extensive selections of these texts (with the help of secondary sources that put them in context) in an effort to understand and appreciate a puzzling “heretical” form of early Christianity, both in its own right and in relation to orthodox Christianity.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →


One-Day Hebrew Bible

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

This seminar is an opportunity to consider the Hebrew Bible in a relaxed yet focused environment. What exactly is this work and where did it come from? Who wrote it? What are the main ideas contained in it? This one-day course will discuss these and other questions through a hands-on introduction to, and an overview of, one of the cornerstones of Western civilization and the “Abrahamic religions.” No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required, although completion of the advance readings is expected. The reading assignment will be posted online at least one month before the seminar date. ◊ More →


One-Day New Testament

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

This seminar is an opportunity to consider the New Testament in a relaxed yet focused environment. What exactly is this work and where did it come from? Who wrote it? What are the main ideas contained in it? This one-day course will discuss these and other questions through a hands-on introduction to, and an overview of, one of the cornerstones of Western civilization and the “Abrahamic religions.” No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required, although completion of the advance readings is expected. The reading assignment will be posted online at least one month before the seminar date. ◊ More →


One-Day Qur’an

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

This seminar is an opportunity to consider the Qur’an in a relaxed yet focused environment. What exactly is this work and where did it come from? Who wrote it? What are the main ideas contained in it? This one-day course will discuss these and other questions through a hands-on introduction to, and an overview of, one of the cornerstones of Western civilization and the “Abrahamic religions.” No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required, although completion of the advance readings is expected. The reading assignment will be posted online at least one month before the seminar date. ◊ More →


One-Day Three Traditions

COURSES > LIFELONG

This daylong seminar is a short, intensive exploration of the common and contrasting themes of the three Abrahamic scriptures: the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and the Qur’an. Selections from these works, which are rarely read together, will be read by participants before the seminar begins. Then specific passages will be compared, contrasted, and discussed, allowing participants to discover the different views of important subjects in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The result is an exploration of key concepts such as “justice,” “mercy,” and “true religion,” and an understanding of critical similarities and differences among these three bodies of literature.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required, although completion of the advance readings is expected. The reading assignment will be posted online at least one month before the seminar date. ◊ More →


Pirsig’s Progress: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as a Modern Spiritual Journey

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

Since its publication in 1974, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (ZAMM) has been widely hailed as a modern classic as well as a work that defies conventional characterization. Part novel, part diary, part manifesto, ZAMM relates the thoughts and experiences of a philosophically-oriented unnamed middle-aged narrator as he progresses along a number of simultaneous personal journeys, all of which facilitate an overarching spiritual journey toward wholeness and wellness. Overall, though, ZAMM appears to be a special kind of “Chautauqua” designed to induce analogous journeys in readers. This course will undertake the ZAMM journey through close reading and discussion of this modern masterpiece along with related Platonic dialogues that lurk in the background. ◊ More →


Qur’an

COURSES > LIFELONG

Considered the record of the revealed word of God to Muhammad through the angel Gabriel, the Quran is the third great scripture of the Semitic tradition and the foundation of all forms of Islam.  In this course we will read the Quran (as well as supplementary readings) to gain an initial understanding of the book, its perspectives on important concepts such as the nature of god and man, divine judgment, prophecy and history, the ideal society, the proper relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, jihad (“holy war” or “exertion”) and more.  No prior knowledge or experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →


Shakespeare and His Others: Comparisons across Time and Space

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

Reading Shakespeare’s plays in the context of similar plays by other great (and not-so-great) playwrights allows one to better appreciate the genius of both Shakespeare and his “others”.  In this course we will look at four pairs of plays in order to examine the similarities and differences in each pairing as we seek to understand the plays themselves in particular and “Shakespeare” in general.  After beginning with The Merchant of Venice and the contemporaneous The Jew of Malta by Christopher Marlowe, we will consider Romeo and Juliet in conjunction with Nizami’s rendering of the medieval Arabian/Persian love story of Layla and Majnun and Antony and Cleopatra in conjunction with Kalidasa’s medieval Indian play The Recognition of Sakuntala.  We will conclude with a close reading of Hamlet alongside Tom Stoppard’s modern Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. ◊ More →


Shakespeare’s “Letter to the Ephesians”: The Comedy of Errors as a “Christianized” (Not “Plagiarized”) Pagan Play

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

Perhaps because it is one of Shakespeare’s earliest and “lightest” plays, The Comedy of Errors has long been understood primarily as little more than an Elizabethan re-telling of an ancient Roman farce, The Brothers Meneachumus by Plautus. By reading Shakespeare’s work in conjunction with Plautus’s and also Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, however, this course will explore the possibility that Shakespeare not only modernized Plautus’s play but also (and more importantly) Christianized it, thereby giving The Comedy of Errors a much deeper significance than is generally realized. ◊ More →


Socrates Who Does (Not) Know: Gorgias, Charmides, Laches, Lysis

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

Although Socrates has become iconic for “knowing that he doesn’t know”, only some of Plato’s dialogues actually cast Socrates in this light.  Other dialogues portray a Socrates who seems to know a great deal about a great deal (including love, politics, virtue and the afterlife).  In this course we will examine important dialogues of both types.  On the one hand we will read and discuss “aporetic” or “inconclusive” dialogues about the nature of temperance (Charmides), courage (Laches) and friendship (Lysis).  On the other we will consider Plato’s great Gorgias in which Socrates practically preaches for one particular notion of the good life. ◊ More →


Sweet Homer, Chicago: A Summer Reading of the Iliad

COURSES > LIFELONG

Homer’s Iliad has inspired audiences for nearly 3,000 years. This course will provide students with a rigorous but relaxed opportunity to study this seminal epic through close reading and discussion. Students will better understand the work itself, the culture that produced it, and the Iliad’s role as the “starting point” for all that came after. ◊ More →


Taking Judaism to the Gentiles: Josephus, Philo and Paul

COURSES > LIFELONG

At the end of the Second Temple period, Judaism was well on its way to becoming the dominant religion of the Roman Empire as Jews, “half-Jews”, and “God-fearers” worshipped the God of Israel in various ways and to various degrees.  Thus, like Hellenism before it, Judaism was (mentally) conquering its (political) conquerors.  In this course we will read selections from the works of three Hellenized Jews who lived around the time of Jesus and who were instrumental in “taking Judaism to the Gentiles” — and thus paving the way for the later rise and triumph of Christianity: (1) Josephus, a priest-general turned historian-apologist who participated in the Jewish revolt against Rome; (2) Philo of Alexandria, a leading figure in one of the leading communities of the Jewish Diaspora who attempted to reconcile Jewish religion and Greek philosophy; and (3) Paul (also known as Saul) who — despite often being thought of as a “Christian” — arguably lived and died thinking of himself as a Jew engaged in propagating what he understood to be the full, final flowering of Judaism. ◊ More →


Talmud

COURSES > LIFELONG

This course will provide a brief introduction to one of the most important — and yet one of the least accessible and least read — texts of the Jewish tradition.  After a brief overview of the origin and history of this monumental work, the course will focus on reading and discussing a few important sections and considering their connection with the Hebrew Bible.  No background knowledge of any kind is required. ◊ More →


The Nature of Knowledge: Plato’s Theaetetus and Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

In an age of “alternative facts”, it is perhaps worthwhile to revisit the foundational texts that have helped establish a longstanding conviction that some “facts” are more equal than others. This course will be devoted to a close consideration of two such texts: Plato’s ancient dialogue Theaetetus and Descartes’s modern monologue Meditations on First Philosophy. In the first, Socrates and his interlocutors examine three different notions of knowledge (and Socrates proclaims himself a “midwife of the soul”). In the second, Descartes claims to demonstrate the indisputable truth of (a) the existence of God and of (b) the existence of the immortal human soul — not to mention of (c) the existence of himself (because he thinks). In addition to seeking to understand each text on its own terms, we will compare and contrast them as alternative approaches to “certain knowledge”.
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The Trial and Death of Socrates

COURSES > LIFELONG | COURSES > ONLINE

The trial and death of Socrates is perhaps one of the most (in)famous events of philosophical martyrdom in Western history. As such it bears and repays close and repeated study in order to understand exactly who and what Socrates was, what happened to him, and what (if any) lessons the ancient event holds for our time. With such goals in mind, this course is devoted to a close reading and discussion of the four Platonic dialogues that revolve directly around the momentous events: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, and Phaedo. ◊ More →


Tragedy and Comedy of Shakespeare: Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice

COURSES > LIFELONG

As perhaps the greatest dramatist in the English language, Shakespeare was noted for both his tragedies (plays with unhappy endings) and his comedies (plays with happy endings. In this course we will carefully read and discuss one of each in an effort to understand each play in its own right as well as what made Shakespeare “Shakespeare” in general. The tragedy selection will be Hamlet (perhaps one of Shakespeare’s best-known plays) and The Merchant of Venice (perhaps one of his most misunderstood ones). No prior experience of any kind is required. ◊ More →


Why They Hate Us: Cinematic Visions of ‘The Other Side’

COURSES > LIFELONG [→ ONLINE ARCHIVE MATERIAL]

“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!”
– Robert Burns, “To a Louse” (1786)

Since September 11, one of the pressing questions of our time has been: why do “they” (Arabs? Muslims? Terrorists?) hate “us” (America? The West? Infidels?). Is it because they hate our freedoms? Or because they want to share our freedoms and hate our policies? Or something else? Through a careful consideration of 6 films (some made by “us”, some made by “them”) supplemented by selected readings (including al Qaeda communiqués), we will seek, in Robert Burns’s words, “to see oursels as ithers see us”. ◊ More →


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