Welcome to SPACE, our adult continuing education program which offers interactive monthly courses for personal enrichment! Learn more here.

Philosophy Portal

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An Intensive Reading of the Tao Te Ching/Daode jing 道德經

"The Way that can be talked about is not the lasting Way": so begins this classic text of world literature and Chinese philosophical and religious thought. The Tao Te Ching has been read, interpreted, and applied in a variety of ways throughout Chinese and world history. We'll do a close reading as well as explore the larger commentarial tradition surrounding it, using it as a gateway to explore further dimensions of East Asian culture and to spark conversations within the class.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Christian and Pagan: Tertullian's Apologetic

How did early Christians respond to persecution? In this module, we will explore Tertullian's masterwork, The Apology. One of the first major Christian works composed in Latin, Tertullian drew upon his education in law and rhetoric to produce this supremely eloquent and passionate defence of Christianity in response to an outbreak of violence. Over four weeks, we will closely read The Apology, discussing its fascinating insights into the world of the early Christians and the challenges they faced.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Creative Writing: Aristotle's Poetics for Story-Tellers

What makes a good story? How can we make our characters feel like real people?

Using a combination of recorded lectures, in-class discussion and exercises, you will find out how to employ Aristotle’s precepts on character, theme and emotional catharsis to enrich your creative practice. You will also discover how Aristotle’s teleological understanding of causality can help you discover the final design of your creative work. This module will be a must for fiction authors, screenwriters and directors, RPG game masters, or anyone who wants to weave a dynamic tale!

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: Introduction to the Poetics
• Workshop 1: Your Narrative's Purpose
• Lecture 2: Character and Theme
• Workshop 2: Discovering Your Character and Theme
• Lecture 3: Structure
• Workshop 3: Unfolding Your Story's Structure
• Lecture 4: Catharsis
• Workshop 4: Sticking the Landing
Precepted by Julian Barr

C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves and Greek Philosophy

What is love? This is the question C.S. Lewis explored in his classic book, The Four Loves. Over four weeks, we will read and discuss The Four Loves as a class, exploring his four classifications and their philosophical underpinnings. Comparing and contrasting Lewis with short excerpts from Plato's Symposium and Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, we will explore the themes of affection, friendship, eros and charity.
Precepted by Julian Barr

Daoism: The School of the Way

In this class we will explore some of the major texts and movements within historical Daoism, especially Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Daoist alchemy and long-life practices. We will also examine how some of these Daoist concepts are incorporated by Ursula K. Le Guin into her speculative fiction.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Early Modern Europe (1500-1800): Philosophy and Literature

This module examines the cultural and philosophical phenomena which emerged during the Renaissance (e.g. humanism, utopianism, skepticism) (15th to early 17th century) and the Enlightenment (e.g. reason, individuality, satire, etc.) (17th to late 18th century); the changing attitudes to religion (the Reformation) and science (the Scientific Revolution) will also be tackled. Lastly, receptions of the Renaissance and Enlightenment in modern, popular culture will be explored.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Exploring The Analects 論語 of Confucius

In western internet memes, lots of sayings are attributed to Confucius. He did not say most of them. In this module we will engage in a slow reading and interpretation of The Analects , our primary source for Confucius's discourses and dialogues. Your preceptor will also situate this text in currents of historical thought from Warring States China and larger Confucian tradition. Once we are done, you will have gained many skills, including a decent ability to distinguish "Confucius" the meme-able quote machine from the Confucius of the Analects and Chinese historical tradition.
Precepted by Robert Steed

His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)
Precepted by Faith Acker and Gabriel Schenk

His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)
Precepted by Faith Acker and Gabriel Schenk

His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife

Sir Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is widely regarded as a modern classic, has been described by The New Statesman as “the most ambitious work since The Lord of the Rings,” and has been adapted onto stage, radio, and screen. The series is also deep and complex, drawing from a rich array of literary, philosophical, and theological ideas.

In this three-module series we will read, successively, the three novels in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, juxtaposing each with selected materials that will allow us to read Pullman’s work both on its own and in conversation with other works. Students can join one, two, or all three modules. There are no prerequisites.

• Module 1: His Dark Materials in Context: The Golden Compass (a.k.a. Northern Lights) (October 2023)

• Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context: The Subtle Knife (December 2023)

• Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context: The Amber Spyglass (January 2023)
Precepted by Faith Acker and Gabriel Schenk

Milton's Paradise Lost

John Milton’s seventeenth-century epic, Paradise Lost, provides a masterclass in worldbuilding. After an introduction to Milton, we will begin with Milton’s conception of Hell, which is not in the center of the earth, as Dante has it. We travel next from the depths of the Inferno to the heights of Heaven. After three sessions, we finally arrive in Paradise and meet our first parents, Adam and Eve, who are being stalked by the shapeshifting Satan. A storytelling episode in the center of the epic takes us back to Heaven to observe war between the angels of light and the angels of darkness. When we return to Paradise, however, it is only to watch it fall, and the final session wraps up the epic as we are shown Exile—life after Paradise lost.

Representing Utopia through the Ages

While the idea of establishing an ‘actual’ utopia has been disparaged since the first half of the twentieth century from socio-political perspectives (e.g. the failed age of ideology from 1917-1945), literary and related cultural narratives have a long history of imagining and representing utopia (also paradise, the golden age, etc.). These utopias often function to criticize the problematic social norms and climates of their times as well as providing progressive imaginings for a better future, often based on certain ideals or virtues. In this module, we go on a chronological tour of different representations of utopia, including: the paleolithic utopia of hunter-gatherers (e.g. as discussed in Harari’s Homo Sapiens) (before 10,000 BC), the Bronze Age utopia of Minoan Crete (4000-1400 BCE), Plato’s mythical island of Atlantis (ca 400 BC), the pastoral utopia of the Roman poet Virgil (ca 40 BC), the New World utopia of Sir Thomas More (1516), the Enlightened, reasoned utopia of Robinson Crusoe (1719), Tolkien’s fantasy utopia of Númenor (ca 1940), and more.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Stoicism and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius

This course will be structured as a guided reading of Aurelius' "Meditations". We will explore the life of Marcus Aurelius and then spend the bulk of the class reading/discussing his Meditations Books I-XII.

The goal of the course is to get the novice reading of ancient literature comfortable with the text and introduced to an exemplar of stoicism. For the more seasoned student it will serve to deepen their engagement with such an influential and deep thinker in the Western philosophical tradition.
Precepted by John Soden

Tolkien and the Classical World

Based on the preceptor's edited volume, Tolkien and the Classical World, this module takes students on a tour of the classical influences and ideas on the life, writings, and thought of English fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien, while also introducing seminal Greco-Roman texts to those without any classical background.
Precepted by Hamish Williams

Tolkien and the Romantics: Dark Romanticism and the Gothic Literary Tradition

The Gothic genre has inspired many creative minds to explore the darker realms of human psychology and the wider world, sparking fear, terror, horror and repulsion in its audience. J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth is as much a ruined Gothic wasteland as it is an idyllic utopia. From Shelob's cave and the hypnotic Mirkwood to the Paths of the Dead and the Barrow-Downs, this module will examine Tolkien's use of Dark Romantic and Gothic techniques that were used by writers such as Horace Walpole, Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, and E.T.A. Hoffman to strike terror in the heart of their readers.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The Funk of Forty Thousand Years: A Literary History of the Gothic
• Workshop 1: Chilly Echoes in Tolkien's Middle-earth
• Lecture 2: Bottomless Supernatural: Terror, Horror, Abject
• Workshop 2: Conjuring Creepy Creatures
• Lecture 3: The Weird, the Eerie, and the Dark Side of the Mind
• Workshop 3: Defamiliarising Middle-earth
• Lecture 4: Ruined Landscapes
• Workshop 4: What is left? Can the Gothic recover Middle-earth?

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Forging Myth and History

J.R.R. Tolkien famously 'found' his legendarium, translating and editing The Red Book of Westmarch for his twentieth century readers. This is not the first time an author has 'forged' a 'lost' literary history as James Macpherson's 'Ossian' documents from the 1760s started a craze for forgeries. Thomas Chatterton's Rowley and Turgot manuscripts similarly fed off the Ossian controversy while questioning what it really meant to 'forge' a document.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: The 1760s, the Age of Forgery
• Workshop 1: Which Red Book are we reading?
• Lecture 2: The Growth of Romantic Nationalism
• Workshop 2: The Book of Lost Tales: a mythology for which England?
• Lecture 3: Oral Traditions: Immortality and Youth
• Workshop 3: Vocalising Myth and History
• Lecture 4: Textual Traditions: Mortal Anxiety and Tangible History
• Workshop 4: Writing myth and history

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Tolkien and the Romantics: Nature and Ecology

J.R.R. Tolkien's revolutionary depictions of nature have inspired many to respect and cherish the environment. However, if we journeyed back two hundred years, we would discover that radical British Romantic authors were also challenging how readers perceived their surroundings! In this module, we will use ecology to explore the many parallels and contrasts between Tolkien's Arda and the Romantic's portrayals of nature big and small: mountains and meadows, woods and wildernesses, daffodils and dead marshes. This will include examining how characters react to the environment, nature's existence as separate from our own, and the broader concern of the Industrial Revolution's destructive potential.

The module will follow an 8-lesson structure as follows:
• Lecture 1: Visions of Nature
• Workshop 1: What do your Elf-eyes see?
• Lecture 2: All things Sublime and Beautiful
• Workshop 2: Sublime, Beautiful, or both at once?!
• Lecture 3: I want to see mountains!
• Workshop 3: One with our environment
• Lecture 4: Ecology without Humanity
• Workshop 4: What is actually out there beyond the Human sphere?

Note: The hybrid 8-lesson structure above is the new format for this module moving forward.
Precepted by Will Sherwood

Ubuntu: An Introduction to African Philosophy

Ubuntu has been described as Africa's greatest gift to the world; a philosophy that covers various aspects of humanity, human life—being human. In this module we will be discussing ubuntu as a concept that covers:
- moral philosophy
- human dignity
- human rights
- substantive equality
- human connection
... And, how ubuntu can help explain and address the current most pressing problems.

The module will help in making the philosophy understandable to all audiences, especially considering its uptake and misrepresentation in the media and various platforms. The module goes beyond the usual simplifications of the philosophy and gives an in-depth and yet understandable analysis of the practical concepts within the philosophy, including their usage in solving contemporary problems, from personal/intimate to structural problems.
Precepted by Ishmael Bhila

Video Game Studies

Inviting students to share their delight in, and deepen their appreciation of, video games, we will discuss examples of the art, music, gameplay, and story from a range of influential titles. We will introduce and experiment with some of the theoretical frameworks that have been applied to video games as media objects and cultural artifacts. But mostly, we will enjoy learning more about the medium and the games we already love. Aside from links and selections shared throughout the module, Gabrielle Zevin's novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow will be the only required reading.
Precepted by Wesley Schantz

Warring States Era Chinese Philosophy: Attaining Flow

Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, Mohism---these Chinese philosophical systems all have their foundational roots in the Warring States period of Chinese history (475–221 BCE), and as such share a set of common interests, even if their proposals for attaining those interests greatly differ. In this module we will cover the basic concerns of each of these systems, paying attention to their differences as well as their similarities, and perhaps most importantly, seeing how their proposals for the attainment of human flourishing may still have something to offer to contemporary people.
Precepted by Robert Steed

Zen History and Thought: An Overview

In this module we will examine the origins and development of Zen Buddhism from its roots in Mahayana and Daoist thought through its formative years in China and its spread to Korea and Japan. Among other topics, we should have time to cover the Patriarchs of Zen, the Five Houses of Zen, and major figures within the tradition. We will also gesture towards Zen's impact on East Asian arts and culture more generally.
Precepted by Robert Steed
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].