We often take “labor” and “work” as synonyms, describing an often-difficult process that’s required to “get by” in life, or even to “make our living.” Yet there’s also a strong contrast between the demanding-yet-fulfilling “work” and drudgery, as well as other complicated dances between labor and leisure, work and recreation, action and contemplation, “liberal” and “servile” pursuits. These complications have been viewed very differently across the centuries. In this installment of “How Did We Get Here?” we explored this and then some! Access resources here!
In this installment of “How Did We Get Here?” with philosopher Ed Glowienka we considered something we all want, but can’t agree on how to get: freedom. We explored the shift between classical and Enlightenment notions of political freedom and looked at how reactions to this shift inform modern conservative and liberal values. Along the way, we did a bunch of other stuff, too, and hopefully gained a deeper appreciation of why we value freedom and of the philosophical positions underlying contemporary debates. Access photos & more here!
Most of us have the basic intuition that, because the truth “always is what it is”then there shouldn’t really be different “kinds” of knowing: we either know, or we don’t know, and that’s that. Knowledge, like truth, should be objective and invariable. Yet many of us also have another intuition: sometimes, there really does seem to be “something different” about knowing, or about acquiring knowledge, in different ways. In this workshop we applied some traditional tools, along with our own careful analytic skill, to see what we could salvage from both intuitions. We identified, as best we can, what each intuition gets right, as well as how they fit together in a coherent way. Critically, we learned to appreciate the difference between knowing, as an activity that we do, and knowledge, as a thing that we have. Access resources here!
In his Handbook, the Stoic philosopher Epictetus tells us that “the appropriate actions for us to do are usually measured out for us by our relations.” Epictetus suggests that we can see how to act fittingly in any given situation, based on how we are related to the other people involved, whether as family members, friends, fellow citizens, enemies, or in whatever other way. In this reading & discussion, we used some extended quotations from Simplicius’ commentary as a springboard for reflecting on friendship, and on the appropriate actions that arise from our relationships more generally. Access resources here!
In this installment of “How Did We Get Here?”, we considered the intellectual history of “planet” with mathematician, physicist, and astrophysicist Kelly Cline. We started with the ancient Greeks, moved to Copernicus, and then sashayed into the 20th century. Along the way we learned about how scientific words and their definitions serve as a specific lens through which we can view the world. By scientifically defining words so that they most closely match real categories that exist in physical reality, this makes it easier for us to understand, investigate, and make sense of the universe. As such, this installment of HDWGH and the evolution of how we understand and use the word planet gave us important insights into the nature of science and the foundations of our modern civilization. Access photos & more here.
In this philosophy workshop led by student scholar fellow Julianna Breit, we explored our roles in empathy, questioning the aim of empathetic interactions, and analyzing what empathy looks like when it’s done well. After looking at the aesthetic foundations of empathy, we considered the interplay between savoring the other’s emotion and mitigating our own emotional overload. Access resources & photos here!
In this installment of “How Did We Get Here?”, we considered the idea of “species,” from Plato and Aristotle, through the Middle Ages, to Charles Darwin (of course!), and down to the present. Along the way, we gained some insights into the role of ideas and abstraction in western scientific thought, reflect on the search for stability in a changing world, and cultivated a deeper appreciation for the ways that we, and our predecessors, strive to classify and categorize — both in the natural world, and in human society and culture. Access resources & photos here.