PHI 30 — America as a Philosophical Problem
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Sep 27—Dec 6
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Sep 29
Instructor(s): Frederick M. Dolan
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Aug 22, 8:30 am (PT)
A new political debate has recently been superimposed on the traditional opposition between left and right: a conflict between competing visions of American national identity. For some, the United States is a creedal nation in which citizenship is based on principles articulated in such documents as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. For others, America is a traditional European nation-state with membership based on shared territory, history, language, culture, religion, or ethnicity. This conflict has introduced a degree of hyperpolarization and tribalism that many believe is stretching our political system to the breaking point. How should we think about the question of identity? Are there important similarities and differences between personal and national identity? What makes you the same person you were 10 or 20 years ago, and what connects America now to the America of 100 and 200 years ago? Is national identity real or imaginary? Our readings will include foundational texts by John Winthrop, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Walt Whitman, and Frederick Douglass, among others, as well as philosophical essays on the nature of identity—numerical, substantial, psychological, and social or collective. Students will leave the course familiar with concepts and criteria required to think about American national identity in a philosophically productive way.
FREDERICK M. DOLAN
Frederick M. Dolan’s interests include political and moral philosophy, theories of interpretation, and aesthetics and the philosophy of art. He received a PhD from Princeton.
Professor of Rhetoric, Emeritus, UC Berkeley
Textbooks for this course:
(Required) Kramnick and Lowi, American Political Thought, 2nd Edition (ISBN 978-0-393-65590-2)