The Wisdoms of the World

Class List
Course Description
Students will submit
Schedule
Entry/Exit Survey


These pages were constructed with the help of the Philosophy 297, Wisdoms of the World, Class:
Buckley Patrick Anthony
Conrad Jason Howard
Doud Jamie Lynn
Edsell Mark Preston
Forejt Leigh Kelly
Ganoe, Loren
Herdman Charles
Kauffman Kevin James
Kollar Amanda Marie
Large Edwin A.
Leskanic Michael
Morgan Jason A1an
Rothrauff Rody Michael
Silvieus Summer Irene
Vaidya, Maya
Wellendorf Kevin John



Course Description

This class will meet in Hoyt Science Center 150 from 12:00-3:00 during the January term.
Note that the Paterson Computer lab. is available 9:00am to 10:00pm and the MacElree lab. is available 3:30 to 10:00pm

What is wisdom and can it be attained? This course will inspect various responses to these questions from several of the world's traditions. Philosophy is so called from the Greek words philo and sophos meaning the love or pursuit of wisdom. But Socrates was celebrated as the embodiment of the wisdom of the Greek philosophers, specifically because he denied his own wisdom. A group of books of the Old Testament are collectively known as Wisdom literature and give a particular insight into the Hebrew view of chokmah, practical prudence. The Islamic tradition, as well as having its own concept of wisdom (hikma), is a major source of the idea of the philosophia perennis, the enduring love of wisdom, which is thought to be at the heart of the world's religions. The tradition of prajña-paramita, the perfection of wisdom, is a fertile source of Buddhist insight into wisdom. The Hindu tradition of jñana-yoga, usually but not always translated 'the way of knowledge' provides a focus for the attempt to distinguish knowledge from wisdom. The Analects of Confucius and the Tao Te Ching are held to contain the distilled wisdom of Chinese sages and even in the contemporary West, Native American and other oral traditions are increasingly respected for their ability to embody a natural wisdom inexpressible in Western terms. So, what then is wisdom and who are the wise?

Brief lectures will be given on the above topics and the students will be asked to actively read short examples which define the attitudes to wisdom embodied in various traditions and cultures. Open discussions will follow. Students will be encouraged both to evaluate the contents of the readings and to attempt their own construction and articulation of wisdom in response. This articulation will be the focus of the written summaries. These summaries will be submitted, graded, reworked and resubmitted to give the maximum benefit both in skills and content retention. The best papers, sections of interest, and other materials will be posted in an HTML portfolio for the course. All students will contribute to the construction of this portfolio, from simple links to other sites, graphics, layouts, bibliographic information, and the contents of their papers.

As well as entry and exit surveys and written summaries as means of grading, students will also be invited to search the library and the Internet in their quest for alternative articulations of wisdom and its attainment. I have already identified several valuable sites for philosophy and religious studies materials but expect that student will uncover many more. This will, I hope, do more than just introduce students to the world of contemporary research using on-line techniques, digital search engines such as Alta Vista, WWW sites, and the use of FTP etc. It will also be an active model of the distinctions between information, knowledge, and wisdom: the data, its assimilation and its utilization.


Students will submit:
Summaries
websites, graphics, and layouts for the wisdoms webpage
proverbs/aphorisms on wisdom, for example:
"God grant me the serenity to accept what I cannot change, the courage to change what I can, and the wisdom to distinguish between the two."
Articles, books, stories, and other appropriate reading materials.
contributions to the discussion in class, on e-mail, and the R: drive (the restricted class directory on the college network).
All of these will be graded and considered as potential contributions to the webpages.


Schedule of Classes:

Monday 01/06
Introduction to the course. Entry survey. Greek philosophy - The love of wisdom. Socrates and Plato. The Trial of Socrates and the Allegory of the Cave.


Tuesday 01/07
Aristotle and Logic- the study of the methods and principles used to distinguish good (correct) from bad (incorrect) reasoning.


Wednesday 01/08
Hebrew Wisdom literature: Practical Prudence: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.


Thursday 01/09
Chinese wisdom. "When you know a thing, say that you know it. When you do not know a thing, say that you do not know it. That is wisdom." From the Analects of Confucius.


Friday 01/10
Week-end summary #1. Circa 1,000 words on what we have discussed this week. These week-end summaries will be corrected and graded, and will be resubmitted in corrected form at the end of the course for a final grade.


Monday 01/13

Jñana-yoga: the Hindu way of liberation through knowledge. The four yogas of the Bhagavad-Gita.


Tuesday 01/14
Prajña-paramita: the Buddhist perfection of wisdom.


Wednesday 01/15

Islam, sufism, and the philosophia perennis.


Thursday 01/16
Native American, oral, and mythic wisdoms.
Friday 01/17


Week-end summary #2. Circa 1,000 words on what we have discussed this week. These week-end summaries will be corrected and graded, and will be resubmitted in corrected form at the end of the course for a final grade.


Monday 01/20
Mediterranean gnosticism and mysticism: saving knowledge.


Tuesday 01/21
Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Fuller and the other Transcendentalists: authors of wisdom in the American tradition.


Wednesday 01/22
Modern Philosophy: From dualism to realization and the sociology of knowledge.


Friday 01/24
Week-end summary #3. Circa 1,000 words on what we have discussed this week. These week-end summaries will be corrected and graded, and will be resubmitted in corrected form at the end of the course for a final grade.


Monday 01/27
Wisdom and science: Capra, Heisenberg, the Tao of Physics. Geoffrey Chew, "all our concepts are approximations."


Tuesday 01/28
Post-modern wisdom: What is wise if reality isn't what it used to be?


Wednesday 01/29
Zen: Suzuki, Watts, Pirsig, the Beat poets. "We now imagine that when we have words and ideas we have all that can be said of our experience of reality." Suzuki, in Bonevac, 329.


Thursday 01/30
Modern Gnosticism, Harold Bloom's claim that gnosticism is the real American Religion, Hans Jonas in Segal. Popular media, singer/songwriters as wise (Bob Dylan for example: "look out kids, it's something you did. God knows when, but you're doing it again.") Mr. Natural and Calvin as contemporary manifestation of wisdom.


Friday 01/31
Exit survey. Student evaluations of the course. Final summary, circa 4,000 words incorporating corrected versions of the week-end summaries (due today or later?).


Entry/Exit Survey



Comments?

brennie@westminster.edu