PHIL 180 - FS: First-Year Seminar
Planned Offering: Each first-year seminar topic is approved by the Dean of the College and The Committee on Courses and Degrees. Applicability to FDRs and other requirements varies.
Topic for Fall 2010:
PHIL 180: FS: The Concept of Honor (3). First-year seminar. What is honor? It lies at the heart of Washington and Lee’s values, yet its hold on the wider American society is tenuous, and its meaning is unclear to many, not least to students struggling to comprehend a revered honor system. This course seeks to explore the concept of personal honor in historical, literary, and philosophical texts. We examine some key moments in this concept’s development from ancient Greece to our own times, exploring a variety of philosophical perplexities along the way. We read literary texts such as the Iliad, Gawain and the Green Knight, and To Kill a Mockingbird, some biography (Robert E. Lee) and autobiography (Frederick Douglass), and a philosophical manuscript entitled “Honor for Us”, and view a variety of films (such as The Good Shepherd, Troy, The Last Samurai, Glory)–each of which casts different light on honor. We also explore honor’s reach in our contemporary society, from the military to sports, from politics to religion. At the end of the course, we focus on Washington and Lee’s own honor system, in order to clarify and deepen our own sense of local personal honor. Students participate in seminar discussion on the texts and films and the issues they raise. The course’s central philosophical question is this: how can honor, born and reared in hierarchical, patriarchal, warrior societies, live or even thrive in a more egalitarian and peaceful home, such as Washington and Lee in the 21st century? (HU) Sessions
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