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GS101-2: Freedom and Authority

Freedom and Authority explores the evolving conceptions of self, society and their interrelation in the Western tradition, asking how this tradition both succeeds and fails in helping us meet the challenges of contemporary life. The first block focuses on ancient ideas (Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian), while the second block tackles important political thinkers and novelists from the Enlightenment to today. Readings cover the philosophic (Kant), literary (Dostoevsky), dramatic (Euripides), religious (Augustine), historical (Tacitus) and political (Mill). The emphasis throughout is on the careful reading and analysis of texts, which we complement with the study of the visual and thematic language of several classic films that touch on major ideas from the course. By studying acknowledged classics from the western tradition whose significance transcends their local time and place, we seek a deeper understanding of what freedom has meant at different times in order to better gauge what ideas should be preserved or modified in our own efforts to define and expand freedom today.