HUM 295  ON BEING HUMAN: Personal Ethics and Social Harmony

This interdisciplinary Honors Seminar examines several notable philosophers and belief systems across time and cultures, to discuss relevant questions at the heart of being human: 

What does it mean to be human? 

What constitutes a flourishing life? 

How can we best achieve a flourishing life?

How can we maintain harmony when personal and political values are in conflict? 




1. Ancient Egyptian concept of Ma’at

2. Book II of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics 

3. The Analects of Confucius: excerpts from Robert Eno’s online translation 

4. Sophocles’ Antigone (trans. George Theodoridis)

5. Seneca’s “On Peace of Mind”

6. Excerpts from Michel de Montaigne’s Essays and Monstesquieu’s Persian Letters 

7. Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) legend: “Hodadenon or the Last One Left and the Chestnut Tree” 


1. Antigone 

2. Interview with contemporary American philosopher Martha Nussbaum 

3. “Can Confucianism Save the World?” (symposium)


Week 1: Introduction to ethics philosophy

Week 2: Ancient Egyptian concept of Ma’at

Week 3: Ancient Greece, Artistotle and the Mean (Book II of Nicomachean Ethics)

Week 4: Sophocles’ and Anouilh’s Antigone

Week 5: Ancient Roman Stoicism, Seneca

Week 6: Ancient China and Confucianism

Week 7: Renaissance authors Montaigne and Montesquieu on custom and cultural diversity

Week 8: Native American oral literature reflective of ethical-social values

Week 9: Contemporary American philosopher Martha Nussbaum on cultivating humanity

Week 10: Oral Presentations and discussion

Week 11: Oral Presentations and discussion

Week 12: Oral Presentations and discussion

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