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ESF 4: Education as Self-Fashioning: Learning to Change

Does education entail changing the self? How much? Why should I change my life? How do I discover that I need to change? Who can rightly tell me how to change? What difference does it make? These and related questions have been around for a long time, yet that makes them no easier to answer today than 2500 years ago. In the 5th century BCE, Socrates found that his answers--based on his own will to change--proved troublesome, and ultimately fatal. His follower, the philosopher Plato, transformed the Socratic exploration into idiosyncratic utopian visions that sought to change the conditions of life--and so make Socrates' fate unrepeatable. Plato's own followers, from Aristotle onward, found new ways to explain, enact, or evade change. Not until the end of antiquity, however, do we find, in Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), someone as explicitly and passionately committed to personal change as the early Greek thinker. Bookended by the major figures of the Athenian seeker and the North Afr more »
Does education entail changing the self? How much? Why should I change my life? How do I discover that I need to change? Who can rightly tell me how to change? What difference does it make? These and related questions have been around for a long time, yet that makes them no easier to answer today than 2500 years ago. In the 5th century BCE, Socrates found that his answers--based on his own will to change--proved troublesome, and ultimately fatal. His follower, the philosopher Plato, transformed the Socratic exploration into idiosyncratic utopian visions that sought to change the conditions of life--and so make Socrates' fate unrepeatable. Plato's own followers, from Aristotle onward, found new ways to explain, enact, or evade change. Not until the end of antiquity, however, do we find, in Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), someone as explicitly and passionately committed to personal change as the early Greek thinker. Bookended by the major figures of the Athenian seeker and the North African, this course will lead students to analyze and compare their own tentative answers with the ideas on self-fashioning that can be found in a range of ancient texts. Students will demonstrate their grasp of the material through a variety of exercises, including a research paper, discourse analyses, and responses in persona.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Autumn 2013 | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ER, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 4A: Education as Self-Fashioning: Learning to Change

Does education entail changing the self? How much? Why should I change my life? How do I discover that I need to change? Who can rightly tell me how to change? What difference does it make? These and related questions have been around for a long time, yet that makes them no easier to answer today than 2500 years ago. In the 5th century BCE, Socrates found that his answers--based on his own will to change--proved troublesome, and ultimately fatal. His follower, the philosopher Plato, transformed the Socratic exploration into idiosyncratic utopian visions that sought to change the conditions of life--and so make Socrates' fate unrepeatable. Plato's own followers, from Aristotle onward, found new ways to explain, enact, or evade change. Not until the end of antiquity, however, do we find, in Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), someone as explicitly and passionately committed to personal change as the early Greek thinker. Bookended by the major figures of the Athenian seeker and the North Afr more »
Does education entail changing the self? How much? Why should I change my life? How do I discover that I need to change? Who can rightly tell me how to change? What difference does it make? These and related questions have been around for a long time, yet that makes them no easier to answer today than 2500 years ago. In the 5th century BCE, Socrates found that his answers--based on his own will to change--proved troublesome, and ultimately fatal. His follower, the philosopher Plato, transformed the Socratic exploration into idiosyncratic utopian visions that sought to change the conditions of life--and so make Socrates' fate unrepeatable. Plato's own followers, from Aristotle onward, found new ways to explain, enact, or evade change. Not until the end of antiquity, however, do we find, in Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE), someone as explicitly and passionately committed to personal change as the early Greek thinker. Bookended by the major figures of the Athenian seeker and the North African, this course will lead students to analyze and compare their own tentative answers with the ideas on self-fashioning that can be found in a range of ancient texts. Students will demonstrate their grasp of the material through a variety of exercises, including a research paper, discourse analyses, and responses in persona.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Autumn 2013 | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ER, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 5: Education as Self-Fashioning: Thinking Like a Philosopher

The Ancient Greek aphorism ¿Know thyself¿ is a centerpiece of wisdom. But knowing one¿s own mind is not easy, in part because it is not a matter of simply looking inward to find one¿s proclivities and beliefs; it seems one must look outward to the issues and questions the world presents, and know what one thinks about them. Knowing oneself is in part a matter of knowing one¿s way around as a thinker, where that is a matter of knowing how to think about issues, when to trust one¿s judgment and when to withhold it. Fashioning or making oneself into a better (more acute, more sensitive, more judicious) reasoner is something philosophy as a discipline holds out as a promise. In this course, we will take up the first task of becoming better reasoners about a select handful of persistent problems; we will at the same time reflect on what it is that philosophical thinking is, and how it might shape us as thinkers.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Autumn 2013 | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ER, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 5A: Education as Self-Fashioning: Thinking Like a Philosopher

The Ancient Greek aphorism "Know thyself" is a centerpiece of wisdom. But knowing one's own mind is not easy, in part because it is not a matter of simply looking inward to find one's proclivities and beliefs; it seems one must look outward to the issues and questions the world presents, and know what one thinks about them. Knowing oneself is in part a matter of knowing one¿s way around as a thinker, where that is a matter of knowing how to think about issues, when to trust one's judgment and when to withhold it. Fashioning or making oneself into a better (more acute, more sensitive, more judicious) reasoner is something philosophy as a discipline holds out as a promise. In this course, we will take up the first task of becoming better reasoners about a select handful of persistent problems; we will at the same time reflect on what it is that philosophical thinking is, and how it might shape us as thinkers.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Autumn 2013 | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ER, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 6: Education as Self-Fashioning: The Wind of Freedom

Stanford's unofficial motto, "the wind of freedom blows," engraved in German on the university seal, invites us the ponder freedom in the context of education. What is the relation between freedom and the "liberal" arts? Does studying free your mind? Does free will even exist? If so, how does education help you develop its potential? This course will look at various authors -- from antiquity through the 20th century -- who have thought about the blessings, burdens, and obligations of human freedom. Beginning with Eve in the Garden of Eden, we will explore how exercising freedom in your personal choices and conduct not only determines your fate as an individual but carries with it a measure of responsibility for the world. We will place special emphasis on the implications of such responsibility in our own time.nFriday lectures will be held 9:30am-10:50am in Bishop Auditorium.
Terms: Aut | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ER, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 6A: Education as Self-Fashioning: The Wind of Freedom

Stanford's unofficial motto, "the wind of freedom blows," engraved in German on the university seal, invites us the ponder freedom in the context of education. What is the relation between freedom and the "liberal" arts? Does studying free your mind? Does free will even exist? If so, how does education help you develop its potential? This course will look at various authors -- from antiquity through the 20th century -- who have thought about the blessings, burdens, and obligations of human freedom. Beginning with Eve in the Garden of Eden, we will explore how exercising freedom in your personal choices and conduct not only determines your fate as an individual but carries with it a measure of responsibility for the world. We will place special emphasis on the implications of such responsibility in our own time.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Autumn 2017 | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ER, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 8: Education as Self-Fashioning: Recognizing the Self and Its Possibilities

Some philosophers have argued that we have privileged and direct access to our inner selves. If this were true, it would make self-knowledge perhaps the easiest sort of knowledge to obtain. But there are many considerations that mitigate against this view of self-knowledge. Consider, for example, the slave who is so oppressed that he fully accepts his slavery and cannot even imagine the possibility of freedom for himself. Such a slave fails to recognize his own capacity for freedom and autonomous self-governance. Though the slave is perhaps the extreme case, many people, it seems, fail to recognize the full range of possibilities open to them. In this course, we shall examine both some of the ways in which one¿s capacity for self-recognition may be distorted and undermined and the role of education in enabling a person to fully recognize the self and its possibilities. What constrains the range of possibilities we see as really open to us? Contrary to the Cartesian, we shall argue that more »
Some philosophers have argued that we have privileged and direct access to our inner selves. If this were true, it would make self-knowledge perhaps the easiest sort of knowledge to obtain. But there are many considerations that mitigate against this view of self-knowledge. Consider, for example, the slave who is so oppressed that he fully accepts his slavery and cannot even imagine the possibility of freedom for himself. Such a slave fails to recognize his own capacity for freedom and autonomous self-governance. Though the slave is perhaps the extreme case, many people, it seems, fail to recognize the full range of possibilities open to them. In this course, we shall examine both some of the ways in which one¿s capacity for self-recognition may be distorted and undermined and the role of education in enabling a person to fully recognize the self and its possibilities. What constrains the range of possibilities we see as really open to us? Contrary to the Cartesian, we shall argue that full self-recognition is an often a hard-won achievement. And we shall ask how education might function to give us a less constricted and more liberating sense of the self and its possibilities. We will consider such questions through the lens of philosophy, literature and psychology.nFriday lectures will be held 9:30am-10:50am in Bishop Auditorium.
Terms: Aut | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ER, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 8A: Education as Self-Fashioning: Recognizing the Self and Its Possibilities

Some philosophers have argued that we have privileged and direct access to our inner selves. If this were true, it would make self-knowledge perhaps the easiest sort of knowledge to obtain. But there are many considerations that mitigate against this view of self-knowledge. Consider, for example, the slave who is so oppressed that he fully accepts his slavery and cannot even imagine the possibility of freedom for himself. Such a slave fails to recognize his own capacity for freedom and autonomous self-governance. Though the slave is perhaps the extreme case, many people, it seems, fail to recognize the full range of possibilities open to them. In this course, we shall examine both some of the ways in which one¿s capacity for self-recognition may be distorted and undermined and the role of education in enabling a person to fully recognize the self and its possibilities. What constrains the range of possibilities we see as really open to us? Contrary to the Cartesian, we shall argue that full self-recognition is an often a hard-won achievement. And we shall ask how education might function to give us a less constricted and more liberating sense of the self and its possibilities. We will consider such questions through the lens of philosophy, literature and psychology.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Autumn 2017 | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ER, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 9: Education as Self-Fashioning: Chinese Traditions of the Self

In this class we explore thinking about the self and its cultivation that took root and flourished in China. Chinese civilization was centrally concerned with issues of the self, but it developed methods and ideals of cultivation that have no obvious parallel in the European tradition. We will be concerned primarily with two clusters of Chinese thought and expression. First, we will look at major philosophical traditions (Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism) to see how they structured thinking about education and self-cultivation. The three ¿schools¿ of thought staked out different ideals for the self that provided China with range and flexibility in concepts of personhood. Second, we will examine Chinese aesthetic traditions, especially those of qin music, calligraphy and painting, to understand how the arts were used as a platform for self-cultivation and to communicate the artist¿s essential nature to others. The course also gives attention to the gendering of concepts of the self and to the tradition of martial arts as self-discipline and self-strengthening. Students should emerge from the course with an understanding of how a major civilization located outside Western traditions developed its own answers to these questions of universal human concern.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Autumn 2016 | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)

ESF 9A: Education as Self-Fashioning: Chinese Traditions of the Self

In this class we explore thinking about the self and its cultivation that took root and flourished in China. Chinese civilization was centrally concerned with issues of the self, but it developed methods and ideals of cultivation that have no obvious parallel in the European tradition. We will be concerned primarily with two clusters of Chinese thought and expression. First, we will look at major philosophical traditions (Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism) to see how they structured thinking about education and self-cultivation. The three ¿schools¿ of thought staked out different ideals for the self that provided China with range and flexibility in concepts of personhood. Second, we will examine Chinese aesthetic traditions, especially those of qin music, calligraphy and painting, to understand how the arts were used as a platform for self-cultivation and to communicate the artist¿s essential nature to others. The course also gives attention to the gendering of concepts of the self and to the tradition of martial arts as self-discipline and self-strengthening. Students should emerge from the course with an understanding of how a major civilization located outside Western traditions developed its own answers to these questions of universal human concern.
Terms: not given this year, last offered Autumn 2016 | Units: 7 | UG Reqs: THINK, WAY-A-II, WAY-ED, Writing 1 | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
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