My discipline of philosophy seeks to ask the question "what does it mean to live a good and humane life?" This course will utilize philosophic tools portrayed in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, Confucius' Analects and John Dewey's Human Nature and Conduct to explore contemporary political life..
The philosophic works emerge from three very different cultures at very different time periods, yet all are naturalistic in their exploration of the question for a flourishing and humane life.
Philosophical texts will be the core instruments used to explore, and those who take this class are expected to act as equal parts students and teachers.
Welcome to Arts and Humanities, a course which will be offered to students at the University of South Florida’s Honor College in the Fall of 2012 via live, face-to-face courses for credit but will also be offered any time, virtually, for no credit to anyone who wishes to take it by way of iTunes University and University of Reddit. The course content will remain constant between both variants. Only students taking the course live will have the face-to-face time with the instructor and their fellow students.
This introduction will also briefly explore each of Confucius, Aristotle and Dewey's biography.
- Human Nature
We should become more fully aware of human psychology as it actually is and embrace the components rather than railing against it in a hopeless attempt at changing that which is our very nature. When I say "human nature" I just mean those powers and abilities every human has by virtue of being human. Examples of this include memory, perception, habit formation, language acquisition, pleasure and pain, possessing emotions and desires, etc. The list isn't much longer,
- Intelligence and Knowledge
There are many ways to find answers. Some individuals light upon whichever answer appears to them first, while others seek authority figures to tell them what to do, yet others still seek tradition, and some few seek reason alone. I recommend the closest thing we have to an objective and intersubjective approach to solving problems: scientific reasoning. It is far from perfect (it is after all a human affair) but it is the most rigorous, calculated, unbiased affair we have. Even with all that said, science can still fail us; it is just the best we have.
- Habit and Conduct
Habits are an innate capability of human nature; it is our nature to be plastic in our capable behavioral patterns. We are, by nature, capable of acquiring skills, beliefs, languages and activities from those who come before us. We are also capable of novel behavior and formulating new habits when old ones fail us. However, old habits die hard and new habits are fickle in their infancy.
Be aware that our pleasures and pains are rarely had alone. We go through life affecting those around us and we can either bring them pain and suffering or attempt to alleviate pain and bring small rays of happiness into others' lives. We can only do this if we are actively aware and thinking about others, as others, and about their interests as much as we contemplate our own. This means neither the extreme of individualism nor the extreme of collectivism. It is all about balance once more.
Find the mean between too little and too much. An ancient Chinese proverb states that preventing a moment of anger can save a lifetime of pain. Avoid the extremes of too-little and too-much in moderating all passions and emotions. Emotions are natural and not in themselves either good or bad; how we act on them can make us good or bad.
We are creatures of habit, and we learn those habits first and foremost by mimicking our parents and teachers. Later, we come to be able to learn habits by way of self-learning. However, most continue to learn by mimicry throughout their life. A continued, whole-life commitment to the self cultivation of knowledge and learning in nearly all forms (but especially that knowledge that leads to fostering moderate habits.
Friends play an enormous role in one's life; they act as mirrors and mentors. We are more likely to emulate the actions and habits of those closest to us, so pick one’s friends wisely and very carefully.
Leading comes in many forms, not the least of which is being a role-model for others. In more overt forms, it means taking charge of a situation or actively seeking a solution to a problem while others sit idly by. In some small way in each of our lives, we face a challenge in which we must be a leader. It is in those times that we rise or fall. If one has sought the previous values, this will come effortlessly, but the burden of command is never light. Being a leader is not being an authoritarian, although they are not mutually exclusive. The first (leadership) can be done without overt control (as in the case of role-modeling) while the second (authority) relies upon force and coercion.
- Culture, Civilization and Society
We are social creatures. Each of us is acculturated, educated and by being capable of speech, are exemplars of individuals partaking in culture. Think of one's culture as the soil to a seed; if seeds could control the soil they lived in, they would strive for the best soil possible; do the same with one’s cultural environment.
It is not fair when only some benefit but others wither for no reason other than who their parents were. I don't advocate hand-outs, just ensuring that all receive the opportunity to strive for excellence. Right now, very few receive the opportunities and it is often based upon the wealth of their genetic progenitors rather than one's individual potential.
The goal for all of us is to live better, more sustainably, more ably, and ultimately more happily. I agree with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living; but that doesn't ensure that the examined life will be worth living. Likewise, even if one captures all the values I laid out here, it doesn't mean they will flourish. But I am personally of the belief that it is the only way one possibly can come to a state of cultural and intellectual excellence.
All previous chapters lead up to a single point of importance, living in such a way that all people, of all cultural backgrounds, can live sustainably, peaceably, healthily and well. Individuals must adapt to the changing environment, or human life faces a serious and burgeoning threat.
- Final Exam
The final exam is a group project. My face-to-face students will post their project once finals week is over, but I'll also have a version up for public editing available to anyone who took the course (including my face-to-face students).
Command of the English language, and open minded approach to discussions and a willingness to watch the free course videos via YouTube, read the course material available for sale via Google Docs and to only comment on information after having engaged the course material.
This class will start on August 27th, 2012 when the face-to-face version of this class begins at the University of South Florida.
Video lectures will be made available for free through YouTube.com.
Course content (digital textbook) will be made available through Google Docs until the ibook is complete.
Once the class begins, each www.reddit.com/r/telos thread will correspond with one week of the face-to-face version being taught live. All appropriate course content will be linked from within the thread for that week thus allowing interactivity for face-to-face and virtual students.
While virtual students may progress at their own rate, the students taking this course live will be doing one thread per week.
This course will be an experiment in higher education. Students taking the class live will be utilizing the same material as those taking it virtually. The material will largely be video micro-lectures provided by YouTube coupled with .pdfs and online readings provided by Google Docs. Discussions will take place in www.reddit.com/r/telos and it is expected that students will only post after having read and watched the material for that week.
I have a Ph.D. in philosophy and currently am a visiting assistant professor at the University of South Florida's Honors College.