Seneca on Higher Education in the Arts and Humanities by Professor Peter Kruschwitz

Seneca the Younger (4 B.C. – A.D. 65) was a famous Roman statesman and stoic philosopher. As the young Nero’s tutor, he at some point was de facto Rome’s Emperor by all but the title. His Epistulae Morales (‘Moral Letters’) constitute a major part of his philosophical work. The 108th epistle of that collection provides remarkably relevant food for thought for the Higher Education landscape. The following text is my (reasonably faithful) translation of the opening of Seneca’s epistle, without omissions or adaptations; the subtitles, however, are my own.

Reading List Enquiries

The topic, about which you enquire, is one of those, which deal with knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Yet, because it relevant, you rush and do not wish to wait for the books which I am busy to arrange, covering the whole area of moral philosophy. I will send them in due course, but let me write this in advance, how your very desire to learn, which I see burning in you, needs structure, lest it proves to be an obstacle. Continue reading →

Teaching and Learning in the School of Humanities. The Department of Philosophy showcases the First-Year Module ‘Reason and Argument’ (PP1RA) and the new Second-Year Module ‘Truth and Bullshit’ (PP2TBS): Interview held by Dr Rebecca Rist (School Director of Teaching and Learning) with Dr Nat Hansen (Department of Philosophy).

1.          How long has the Department of Philosophy offered the Part One ‘Reason and Argument’ module (PP1RA) and why have you decided also now to offer a new Part Two module ‘Truth and Bullshit’ (PP2TBS)?

The module ‘Reason and Argument’ was offered for the first time last year. It is a revised version of a long-standing skills-based course called ‘Critical Thinking’.  My colleague Professor Emma Borg redesigned the course for First Years to include a career component in line with the University of Reading’s push to include career advice and placement opportunities in curriculum design.  ‘Truth and Bullshit’ is based on a module that I taught at the University of Chicago that was called ‘Telling the Truth: Scepticism, Relativism and Bullshit’.  The course was developed as part of a Tave Teaching Fellowship–a competitive teaching award at the University of Chicago–and it subsequently also won an award for course design from Chicago’s Center for Teaching and Learning.   The idea behind the ‘Truth and Bullshit’ course is to introduce central topics in philosophy that will have broad appeal not just to students majoring in philosophy but also to joint-degree students across the School of Humanities and the University. And it’s a really fun class to teach!

Continue reading →