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

Philosophy Portal

An Intensive Reading of the Tao Te Ching (Daode jing)

"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.

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.

His Dark Materials in Context [3 Module Series] Series

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 1: The Golden Compass / Northern Lights
Module 2: His Dark Materials in Context 2: The Subtle Knife
Module 3: His Dark Materials in Context 3: The Amber Spyglass
Precepted by Faith Acker and Gabriel Schenk.

Literature and Justice

"Justice" is a huge, abstract, and highly debated topic. In this course, we'll use a widely varied selection of literary texts as discussion-starters about the nature, meanings, scope, limits, applications, and demands of justice. We'll perform close readings of pieces from ancient philosophy, contemporary short stories, poetry across the ages, and more. We'll hear from voices out of various cultures, listening with attentive sympathy and openness to having our ideas challenged and expanded. And we might end with some discussion of the practical application of what we learn.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

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.
Precepted by Jeremy Larson.

Participation, Creation, and Poetry: Barfield's Saving the Appearances and Poetic Diction

Owen Barfield, one of C.S. Lewis's closest friends and a core member of the Inklings, was one of the most original thinkers of the 20th century (although he did not think of himself as such). Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry sets forth the core theory of ongoing and evolving participation in creation which forms the core of Barfield's thought. Poetic Diction, a work that influenced not only Lewis but Tolkien as well, applies Barfield's theory to language in particular. In this module we will first read Saving the Appearances and then use that work as a basis for understanding Poetic Diction.
Precepted by Clayton McReynolds.

Philosophy in a World of Chaos: Voltaire’s Candide, or Optimism

Why do bad things happen to good people? How can we know which is the best philosophy to live by in a world of chaos? This course shows how Voltaire’s raucous comic novella answers those questions. Join the young Candide on a series of misadventures that includes war, shipwreck, earthquake, religious persecution, dismemberment, amorous monkeys, New World discovery, royal dethronement, and the French. Along the way, he experiences love and loss, acquires a group of misfit companions, and encounters a host of competing philosophies – each trying to explain how the world got the way it is and how to make living there bearable. Though primary emphasis will be placed on the novel, we will also look at short excerpts both from Voltaire’s philosophical writing relevant to the novel and from Leonard Bernstein’s musical dramatization of the work.
Precepted by Liam Daley.

The Contours of Consciousness: A Study of Owen Barfield's Romanticism Comes of Age

In this class, we will tackle one essay per session from Owen Barfield's important collection of essays "Romanticism Comes of Age." For those who have read some of Barfield's better known works--such as "Poetic Diction" or "Saving the Appearances" these essays offer an opportunity to deepen and broaden their understanding of Barfield's ideas through more specific and focused studies. For those unfamiliar with Barfield's work, the essays also function well as an entry point into Barfieldean thought (and I will provide ample clarifying context where necessary).

The subjects of the essays range from literary analysis to psycho-spiritual exploration, but they are all bound together by a concern with the evolution of consciousness as a vitally important (indeed life-saving) aspect of the past, present, and future of humanity.
Precepted by Clayton McReynolds.

The Seven Deadly Stories

The Seven Deadly sins--lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride--may result in eternal damnation, but they also make jolly good stories. We'll take a look at one work of literature each class that explores, describes, deplores, warns against, or otherwise engages with one of these deadly sins, and we'll talk about whether we detect a universal moral impulse underneath the varied texts we read.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.

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.

William Butler Yeats: The Magical Modernist

W. B. Yeats is arguably the greatest English-language poet of the Twentieth Century, yet the majority of his work is little known today outside of academia. He was also a playwright, novelist, author of a psycho-spiritual history of thought, Irish patriot, occult master, and creator of a religious/philosophical mythology. His beautiful, mystical, difficult works span (and indeed, define) at least three phases of late-19th- and early-to-mid-20th-century literature, providing an inescapable influence on authors of his time and thereafter. This module provides an overview of his poetry, from his early "Celtic twilight" phase through his modernist explorations to his late, great final works. We'll also glance at his drama and literary networks. Along the way, we'll explore a little bit about his life, social context, politics, spiritual explorations, and practical magic.
Precepted by Sørina Higgins.
If you have any questions about the SPACE program, please reach out to [email protected].