Sun, May 17 at 4 p.m. | 6 sessions, 75 minutes each
| $150 for 6 sessions
Courses: Participants will be able to engage on their own time with the pre-recorded lectures and curated materials (readings, podcast links, interviews, and film). These will be used as the fuel for the live Zoom discussions with the professor.
This is a six-part Olio seminar on the philosophy of history. While history is the study of the past, the philosophy of history is a study of how we study the past. Stated differently, the philosophy of history interrogates the historical imagination, and asks us to question why we believe the past is worthy of our attention. In my mind, it is literally the most fascinating question we can ask ourselves. This line of inquiry challenges us to question everything—from our political notions of “human rights,” to our identity, indeed, the very core of our moral essence. In sum, this sh*t is hardcore.
The seminar will take place on zoom with a small group to ensure lively discussion and intimate exchange of ideas. Enrollment includes a pdf of all the readings (which range in length from 25-80 pages, depending on the week). We will meet on Sunday afternoons, 4:00-6:00pm (or later…if we are feeling it) and participants are encouraged to attend every class. See the list of topics and readings below.
May 10th – Session 1: The Uses of History
During our first meeting, we will become with familiar with the general question and problematics in the philosophy of history. We will also discuss how each of us as individuals imagines ourselves as historical beings, existing at a certain place in time. We will be reading and discussing David Thelen’s “Memory and American History,” and a few excerpts from his book, The Presence of the Past: The Uses of History. Drawing from readings and discussion, each of us will begin constructing our own personal map of history.
May 17th – Session 2: The Dialectic(s)
What role do our ideas play in the unfolding of history? Do our very thoughts produce tangible change? Stated differently, is human consciousness itself, the sole vehicle for historical transformations? Our inherent conflicts the generative fuel for progress? Or, is it the material world—matter—the substance of change? This week we will take on the giants: Hegel and Marx. We will and read and discuss excerpts from Hegel’s Philosophy of History, as well Phenomenology of Mind. We will also read pages from Marx’s Capital, and see how Hegel’s ideas helped Marx articulate his own theory, historical materialism. This meeting will also include a dramatic group reading/performance of Marx’s letter to his father, in which he passionately expounds upon his Hegelian crush.
May 24th – Session 3: Evolutionism
Is history science? Or is science a historically constructed idea? This week we will turn our attention to the influence, and grave misuse of, Darwin’s theory of adaptation: Evolutionism. We will read from several different authors/thinkers, and see how post-Enlightenment concepts of the natural world, and humans’ place within it, produced catastrophic philosophies of history. Pages from the works of Herbert Spencer, Sigmund Freud, and (gulp) Steven Pinker will be our focus, as we interrogate the concept of progress. Drinking will be encouraged at this meeting.
May 31st – Session 4: History as Non-History: Foucault
What if history has no inherent relationship to the present, no pre-given lessons or inevitable consequences? What would be the value in studying history at all? Why should we concern ourselves with a past that is dead and gone? Because, Foucault, will explain, history is playground. We will be reading pages from The Archaeology of Knowledge, along with some interviews and lecture excerpts. We will also set aside time at this meeting to bow down and worship at the altar of Foucault. Really.
June 7th – Session 5: Afro-Pessimism
Hegel once proclaimed that Africa—yes, Africa—existed outside of history…Yes. He actually argued that. Our focus this week, will demonstrate the falsity of this absurd claim, as we turn our attention to Afro-pessimism, reading authors such as Franz Fanon, WEB Dubois, and Orlando Patterson.
June 14th – Session 6: Feminist Futurisms
Our final meeting we will devote our attention to theorists whose work is typically overlooked in the field of philosophy of history: women. Given that feminist theory often performs two functions—scholarly analysis and prescriptions for generating social change—much of the canon contains speculation about possible futures. And any future foretelling is necessarily rooted in ideas about the past. We will be reading pages from the work Gloria Anzaldua, Renya K. Ramirez, and Simone de Beauvoir. This final meeting we will also set aside time to share our personal maps of our own imagined past.
Jamie Warren has a Ph.D. in American History from Indiana University, and she is an Assistant Professor at BMCC-CUNY where she teaches American history, the history of women and gender, and women’s studies. Her research focuses on slavery in antebellum South with a particular focus on death, the body, and the philosophy of history.
Zoom link will be sent upon signup.
$150 for 6 sessions