HUM 160   The Landscape of Knowledge

Leon Botstein              

. . W . .

7:00  - 9:00 pm

RKC 103


This two-credit course, designed primarily for first-semester first-year students, will meet once a week. It is based on an experiment that carries the amusing name of The Floating University. The idea for the course emerged from frustration with the failure of colleges and universities to introduce entering students to a variety of subjects before they choose their fields of concentration. To rectify this problem, a group of people from outside academic institutions have challenged a select group of colleges and universities to offer a straightforward introduction to the range of subjects, issues, and methods at the forefront of research and speculation that now concern scholars, scientists, and writers. Even though students may not decide to concentrate in a particular subject, they will be able to identify its value and contribution to their chosen field of study and the world at large.

The course will consist of seventeen lectures, each on a discrete subject, especially prepared for the purposes of this course. The lecturers, who represent the best in their fields, will include, among others, Leon Botstein (Bard) on art, Paul Bloom (Yale) on psychology, Saul Levmore (University of Chicago) on economics, Steven Pinker (Harvard) on linguistics, Tamar Gendler (Yale) on the philosophy of politics and economics, David Helfand (Columbia) on cosmology, Joel Cohen (Rockefeller and Columbia) on demography, Rebecca Goldstein (Harvard) on epistemology, Shawn Achor (Harvard) on happiness, John Gaddis (Yale) on history, Michio Kaku (CUNY) on physics, Assaf Zeevi (Columbia) on statistics, Doug Melton (Harvard) on biomedical research, and Lawrence Summers (Harvard) on education.

Before each class, students will be required to listen to the lecture online, read assigned texts, and be prepared to participate in a robust group discussion led by a guest expert drawn primarily from those who teach at Bard. There will be one paper, and a midterm and final in-class essay examination. Although the course is best suited for first-semester students, others interested in enrolling should contact either Peter Gadsby or Leon Botstein. The course is designed to supplement a full 12 or 16 credit load.



What is Religion?

In spite of repeated announcements of its demise, religion remains a vibrant and powerful force in the modern world.  Whether one considers oneself religious or not, religious literacy is a basic requirement for citizens of a modern society.  This is all the more true in a global context where religion often stands in as a marker for significant cultural differences.  In these workshops, which will be offered throughout the academic year, students will encounter various living religious traditions.  While each workshop will be devoted to a different religious tradition and will be taught by its own instructor, they will all follow a parallel structure, with attention given to both the theory and the practice of the tradition and with an examination at the end of the session. Each one-credit module will meet for on Mondays and Thursdays for three and a half weeks. Students may choose to enroll in just one module, or they may take several modules.  A student who successfully completes four modules will satisfy the Rethinking Difference requirement.



HUM 135 KS   What is Tibetan Buddhism?

Kristin Scheible

M .  . Th .

6:00 – 7:20 pm

OLIN 102


1 credit  Whether as an image of the Dalai Lama gracing the cover of Newsweek or recent scenes of maroon-robed monks protesting the Olympic torch relay, Tibetan Buddhism has become a visible tradition even outside of Tibet.  But what are the defining features, beliefs, and practices of this tradition?  In this workshop we will address the following orienting questions: What is the central story and history of Tibetan Buddhism?  What are Tibetan Buddhism’s core teachings and philosophies? What are its rituals and the ways the tradition finds expression? This class will meet September 5 – 29th.



HUM 135 BC   What is Fundamentalism?

Bruce Chilton

M .  . Th .

6:00 – 7:20 pm

OLIN 102


1 credit   Fundamentalism is one of the most misunderstood of religious phenomena, frequently confused with literalism in general, or with traditional or militant forms of faith. Those intellectual mistakes frequently lead to bad social policy. Understanding the phenomenon is the beginning of wisdom.          Fundamentals came to be asserted in the United States during the nineteenth century as part of a homegrown philosophical response to two basic religious challenges. The first challenge was an historical reading of the New Testament, which was felt to undermine dogma; the second was a scientific reading of the universe, which was felt to undermine faith. Seeing how American intellectuals, especially at Princeton University, responded to those challenges will open Fundamentalism up to our understanding.  This class will meet October 3 – 27th.