The ancient world has had an enduring influence on global culture and politics, for most of the major world religions crystallize before the 6th century CE. This course will examine the origins of major systems of belief around the world, with special attention to the political and cultural contexts in which they grew. In addition, the course will explore the origins of philosophical thinking in Greece and China, and consider the relationship between religious and philosophical ideas.
This is essentially a History of Ideas Course; as such, it allows for a deeper treatment of issues than a World History survey. While the course covers many individual topics, these topics fall into three broad groups:
Truth as based on the authority of the Divine
Truth as transparent to human reason
Truth as composite
Each group will take up a third of the semester. While students will examine the details of each individual system of thought, they will also encounter these broader categories as strategies in for the establishment of knowledge and the legitimization of authority in human history. In addition, the course has a distinct comparative character: students will explore the parallels between Mediterranean and Asian ideas in each of the three wider categories. Each third of the course will conclude with a Comparative Discussion that treats these parallels explicitly.
As a survey, the course is Competency based, it seeks to establish competency in the subject matter and in analytical reading and writing. However, the course also has an Inquiry component: students will be required to formulate comparative questions and explore the sources to answer those questions. The major papers in the course will all have some research component. Finally, the course will treat varied subject matter: religion, philosophy, political thought, geography, and art. It will also reqire students to confront different ways of knowing, different ways of establishing truth. In this sese it is genuinely integrative.