Origins and Evolution of Modern Thought

This two-semester course immerses students in an exploration of significant exemplars, milestones and developments of human thought from ancient to modern times.

The fall semester (HONR 1015) engages students in an exploration of foundational thought and texts of the ancient world. This fall semester also fulfills university UW 1020 requirements.

The spring semester (HONR 1016) builds on the encounter with foundational ancient thinkers and texts provided in the fall course by engaging students in the exploration of key developments and trajectories in human thought and inquiry to modern times.

First year students take one Origins and Evolution of Modern Thought course each semester. 

Fall 2024 Courses

The Good Life

Professor William Winstead

HONR 1015:MV - 4 Credits

CRN: 81260

MW 1:00PM - 2:15PM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M30, M 2:30PM - 3:30PM (CRN: 81605)


HONR 1015:MV1 - 4 Credits

CRN: 81345

MW 6:10PM - 7:25PM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M31, W 2:30PM - 3:20PM (CRN: 81606)


  • UW 1020
  • CCAS: Philosophy major/minor course PHIL 2111

Course Description: How may we flourish in a complex and ever-changing world? What constitutes a good life in the fullest sense? Does an authentic life depend principally upon virtue, reason, or happiness? What role should pleasure, desire, and love play in a life well lived? The question of “the good life” and its achievement is the principle theme of antiquity in both the Western and Eastern traditions. Philosophers, poets, historians, and political leaders contribute richly to the debate, often with sharply conflicting solutions to the perennial problem of realizing an authentic, meaningful existence. Our readings this semester will come from both Eastern and Western traditions, and include texts from the Greek (Sophocles, Thucydides, Plato), Chinese (Confucius, Lao-Tzu, Zhuangzi), and Indian (Buddha) traditions. Our discussions will be guided by fundamental questions: How ought I live? What is good (and, equally, what is bad or evil)? What is human nature? What is justice or a just community? What is knowledge or wisdom? Throughout the semester, our discussions will be collective, critical, and open-ended.


Professor Eyal Aviv 

HONR 1015:MV2 - 4 Credits

CRN: 86337

TR 6:10PM - 7:25PM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M32, R 5:00PM - 5:50PM (CRN: 86510)


  • UW 1020
  • CCAS: Philosophy major/minor course PHIL 2111

Course Description: Ancient thinkers followed the command of the oracle of Delphi "know thyself!" They saw life as a path of self discovery and believed that living right would result in a state of Eudaemonia (Well-Being). During this fall semester, we will explore the oracle's ancient call. We will reflect upon the different visions of Well-Being, on the conditions that create them, on a society that fosters such life and how one should contribute to such a society. We will do so through engaging with some of the most fascinating Western and non-Western thinkers and writers in ancient world history, from the Hellenistic, Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist schools, among others.


Professor Joseph Trullinger

HONR 1015:MV3 - 4 Credits

CRN: 87445

MW 10:00AM - 11:15AM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M33, M 8:30AM - 9:20AM (CRN: 84239)


HONR 1015:MV4 - 4 Credits

CRN: 81346

MW 11:30AM - 12:45PM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M34, W 8:30AM - 9:20AM (CRN: 81607)


HONR 1015:MV5 - 4 Credits

CRN: 84815

TR 9:30AM - 10:45AM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M35, T 8:30AM - 9:20AM (CRN:84814)


  • UW 1020
  • CCAS: Philosophy major/minor course PHIL 2111

Course Description: Subcomandante Marcos once wrote, “love follows its own path and is always a transgressor of the law.” Love in this sense seems fundamentally free, or at least wild and untamable; but if it is always beyond the law, then that would imply some law by which it has to be an outlaw. Love’s paradoxical character—as both unruly and having its own rules, as both bitter and sweet, as both a universal force and yet directed at specific people—forms the theme we trace through philosophical and poetic classics of ancient China and Greece. We will ponder the nature of love as it pertains to family structures, interfamilial conflict, gender roles, queer longing, emotional vulnerability, and our place in nature.


Professor Michael McCourt

HONR 1015:MV6 - 4 Credits

CRN: 85611

TR 11:15AM - 12:30PM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M36, F 9:00AM - 9:50AM (CRN: 85610)


HONR 1015:MV8 - 4 Credits

CRN: 82131

TR 1:00PM - 2:15PM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M38, F 10:00AM - 10:50AM (CRN: 82130)


HONR 1015:MV9 - 4 Credits

CRN: 83159

TR 2:45PM - 4:00PM

Discussion Section: HONR 1015:M39, F 11:00AM - 11:50AM (CRN: 83193)


  • UW 1020
  • CCAS: Philosophy major/minor course PHIL 2111

Course Description: We want to learn what is true about ourselves and our world and also to be truthful to others. Two can disagree, sometimes inviting talk of "his truth versus mine." However, believing truly seems to be a lower standard than believing truly for good reason, an observation that is incompatible with a relativistic view on which there are as many truths as people. It remains to be said what makes a reason a good one, and what makes a person rational and wise. Certainty seems desirable. But, as many of our ancient authors observe, it is often difficult if not impossible to know for sure which of your beliefs are true, since your experiences could be misleading. And there may be truths that we cannot state or fully grasp. Truth and related notions like knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are the immediate focus of this class, but with the further aim of discussing the role of these phenomena in happy human lives and societies. We will ask questions such as the following. What is truth? Why do we believe what we believe? Is it sometimes useful to believe something false? Is it sometimes best for a state to lie to its citizens? How are truth and knowledge involved in a happy and virtuous human life? Is doubt compatible with (or maybe even necessary for) happiness? Our discussion of these questions will be guided by authors who wrote between roughly 2700 and 1900 years ago in Classical Chinese, Ancient Greek, Latin, Pali, and Sanskrit.