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First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

Ideal Worlds

Instructor(s): Mao Chen, Foreign Language and Literature

What is the purpose of “ideal worlds” in our intellectual traditions?  All humans are capable of thinking about the world in ideal terms. This course will largely be concerned with the role of the ideal as a key to intellectual discovery across cultures.  The texts selected for the course range from classical to modern and therefore embrace some of the signal moments in intellectual history. During the semester we will explore this theme of ideal worlds and its influence in intellectual, social, political, and scientific spheres. The course will embrace Greek philosophy, Eastern ethics, the early modern novel, as well as political and scientific texts from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  The approach adopted will be broadly historical and will demonstrate in this way that the dominant conception of the ideal is not the same in every period or culture.  The difference between ancient and modern conceptions of the ideal, for instance, will be shown to inform one of the most significant changes in human history.

Course Offered