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.

Who Should Take These 

Freshmen take one Origins and Evolution of Modern Thought course each semester.


The Good Life

Professor William Winstead
HONR 1015:MV - 4 Credits
CRN: 21900
MW 1:00-2:15 PM
Writing Lab: HONR 1015:M30, M 2:30-3:20 PM, CRN: 22491

HONR 1015:MV4 - 4 Credits
CRN: 22053
MW 6:10-7:25 PM
Writing Lab: HONR 1015:M34, W 11:30-12:20 PM, CRN: 22495

Equivalent Course: UW 1020

Course Description: How may we flourish and excel 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, theologians, 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, Hebrew, Chinese, and Indian 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? What is natural? What is the divine? Throughout the semester, our discussions will be collective, critical, and open-ended. 


Professor Eyal Aviv
HONR 1015:MV1 - 4 Credits
CRN: 22050
TR 11:30-12:45 PM
Writing Lab: HONR 1015:M31, T 4:10-5:00 PM, CRN: 22492

HONR 1015:MV2 - 4 Credits
CRN: 27347
TR 1:00-2:15 PM
Writing Lab: HONR 1015:M32, T 5:00-5:50 PM, CRN: 22493

Equivalent Course: UW 1020

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, such as Plato, Aristotle, Confucian, Daoist and Zen Buddhist writers.


Professor Joseph Trullinger
HONR 1015:MV3 - 4 Credits
CRN: 22052
MW 11:30-12:45 PM
Writing Lab: HONR 1015:M33, W 1:00-1:50 PM, CRN: 22494

Equivalent Course: UW 1020

Course Description: What do you do with control once you have it? Everywhere we find examples of people straining to gain or keep control of situations, but we seldom stop to ask why they seek this in the first place. This seminar will foster such reflection through an intensive study of these questions as posed by the artists, historians, leaders, and thinkers of the ancient world. Who gets to be in control of your life, and why? Are we better off not being in control of nature? Does sharing control stabilize governments, or does democracy actually promote fickleness and corruption? What does it mean to have self-control, and is it worth having? What if there is no “self” to be controlled to begin with? By exploring classical conceptions of control, we will appreciate how modern thoughts evolve from ancient origins.

Ethics and Politics

Professor Craig French
HONR 1015:MV7 - 4 Credits
CRN: 27826
MW 10:00-11:15 AM
Writing Lab: HONR 1015:M37, M 3:00-3:50 PM, CRN: 27829

Equivalent Course: UW 1020

Course Description: What is the relationship between ethics and politics? None, the cynic might reply. And considering the state of modern politics, that's quite understandable. But ancient political philosophers thought the relationship between the two was far more complex. They tended to think that politics was a domain of ethical activity. They also thought that politics was the route through which citizens might learn to live ethical lives. We will explore these ideas - which are surely controversial by today's standards - by reading the works of Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius and Confucius. 


Professor Mark Ralkowski
HONR 1015:MV8 - 4 Credits
CRN: 23636
TR 10:00-11:15 AM
Writing Lab: HONR 1015:M38, F 3:00-3:50 PM, CRN: 23635

HONR 1015:MV9 - 4 Credits
CRN: 26457
TR 2:30-3:45 PM
Writing Lab: HONR 1015:MV9, F 4:10-5:00 PM, CRN: 26536

Equivalent Course: UW 1020

Course Description: What is happiness, and how can I live a life that will make me happy? How should I cope with the fact that I am going to suffer and die, along with everyone I love most? What is justice, and how can we reshape our institutions, as well as our own choices and lives, so that they better reflect it? Is love really such a good thing? Is art good or bad for us? Why is there anything at all, rather than nothing? These are among the earliest questions asked by human beings in the Middle East, Greece, China, and India. In this seminar we will read seminal texts from each of these traditions. Our syllabus will include the Hebrew Bible, Plato, Sophocles, Thucydides, Aristotle, Confucius, Lao Tzu, and the Buddha. And our discussions will cover issues in ethics, politics, psychology, aesthetics, religion, metaphysics, and epistemology. One of the primary goals of this seminar is to see that, in the ancient world, these concepts were studied as a way of life whose goals were wisdom and happiness. As Socrates once said, "We are studying no small matter, but how we ought to live."