This is a course that asks a lot of questions. And it questions all the answers. Ifyou are uncomfortable being asked questions (about your beliefs, your personal meaning) and reluctant to ask the tough questions of others, this may not be the course for you.
We will begin by establishing (as best as history tells us) how what we recognize as western reality came into existence, how the foundation was laid and when. The concepts will include: monotheism; original sin; heaven; hell; salvation, etc. After we establish how and when these and a host of other foundational features came into existence and created what we call judeo-Christian reality, we will contrast the reality created therein with other realities- Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Islam.
The we turn back to the West and explore writer and philosophers who reject the institutionally handed down judeo-Christian reality, and try to put something in its place (Humanism, Deism, Transcendentalism, Existentialism, Nihilism, Eurekans crystal worshippers, etc.) or find a kind of consolation in atheism or, and often most ignored, a noble kind of Aesthetic Humanism. This journey will lead us to what Pars Lagerkvist called the central question of the modern mind-How do we find meani ng in a meaningless world? We will spend some special time exploring your answers to this question. And, to be fair, at the end of the semester I'll give you my answer (which is the right answer, of course - hint: to err is human, to forgive, canine). AND I'll let you interrogate me, as I will have interrogated you during the semester.
Texts and Works: (assigned readings from)
The Old Testament (selections); Plato, Crito. Phaedo; India's "Vedic Hymns," "The kena-Upanishad" and "The Mahabharata" or the Bhagavad Gita; Cicero, "The Offices"; Lucreti us, "The Nature of Things"; the Gnostic texts (selections), The New Testament (selections), the "Nicaean Creed"; St. Augusti ne's City of God (selections); the Koran (selections); Erasmus, "The Praise of Folly", Pico della Mirandola "Of the Dignity of Man"; Nicolaus Copernicus, "The Revolutions of Heavenly Bodies"; Bruno, "Of the Infinite Universe and Innumerable Worlds"; Sir Francis Bacon, "Novum Organum:, Martin Luther, "Table Talk"; Thomas Paine, "The Age of Reason"; selections from Locke, d'Holbach, Dickinson, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, Anne Sexton, Edna St. Vincent Millaly; Herman Hesse, Siddhartha; Flannery O'Connor; selected stories; Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor"; Pars Lagervist, Barabbas; Camus, The Stranger; Sartre, No Exit; Nathaniel West, Miss Lonelyhearts; Denis Johnson, Jesus' Son; Raymond Carver, selected stories; Don Delillo, White Noise.
Requirements and Grading Policy
Five analytical essays (4-8 pages) 75%
Attendance required. Five point deduction from final average for every unexcused absence. Five point deduction from final average for three or more times late to class