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CHID 207 A: Introduction To Intellectual History

Introduction to Intellectual History The Idea of Community

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
Location: 
CDH 110A
SLN: 
12471
Instructor:
Nick Barr pic
Nicolaas P. Barr

Syllabus Description:

Introduction to Intellectual History:

The Idea of Community in Western Thought

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In Keywords, the critic Raymond Williams suggests that what is most notable about the term community is that “unlike all other terms of social organization (state, nation, society, etc.) it seems never to be used unfavourably, and never to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term.” It is therefore unsurprising that community has figured prominently in Western thinking about our bonds to and relations with others, whether in political and social theory, religious thought, or the modern disciplines of sociology and psychology. However, the sense of proximity or closeness that often gives community its positive connotation also suggests a problematic dimension of the idea: in order to sustain itself, a community must define who is to be included in—and excluded from—its boundaries, definitions that are grounded in particular notions of reason, faith, tradition, or shared experience, among other possibilities.

This course will explore the idea of community through an historical and critical examination of the works of canonical figures in the Western intellectual tradition, as well as critical reflections from prominent theorists who have challenged this tradition from within. Rather than striving for comprehensiveness, we will focus on key turning points in the idea of community and the historical crises out of which they often arose. Throughout, we will consider how specific conceptions of truth have figured into attempts to define, construct, and contest community and its limits.

We will study not only the major contours of Western thought and its critique, but also develop the conceptual and methodological tools of the discipline of intellectual history. We will read closely and discuss primary texts and develop our interpretive and analytical skills through a variety of structured writing assignments. Lectures will provide historical and methodological frameworks through which these voices from the past can be engaged as partners in dialogue. Paradoxically, it is by situating these figures in their historical contexts that their concerns might be found to resonate with our own.

 

Additional Details:

Raymond Williams suggests that what is most notable about the term community is that, “unlike all other terms of social organization, (state, nation, society, etc.), it seems never to be used unfavorably, and never to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term.” It is therefore unsurprising that community has figured prominently in Western thinking about our bonds to and relations with others, whether in political and social theory, religious thought, or the modern disciplines of sociology and psychology.

However, this sense of proximity or closeness that often gives community its positive connotation also suggests a problematic dimension of the idea: In order to sustain itself, a community must define who is to be included in—and excluded from—its boundaries, definitions that are grounded in  particular notions of reason, faith, tradition, or shared experience, among other possibilities.

This course will explore the idea of community through an historical and critical examination of the works of canonical figures in the Western Intellectual tradition, as well as critical reflections from prominent theorists who have challenged this tradition from within.

 

Catalog Description: 
Ideas in historical context. Comparative and developmental analysis of Western conceptions of "community," from Plato to Freud. Offered: jointly with HSTCMP 207.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
October 5, 2016 - 9:11pm
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