The Focus

Does your world, the modern world, have a plan? Many thinkers believe it does and that the plan was laid down during a dynamic period during the 17th and 18th centuries in Europe, a period called the Enlightenment. In this seminar, we examine the emergence of the Enlightenment in Britain and how its evolution gave birth to the modern world.  We pay particular attention to the Enlightenment's great themes of scientific and technological progress, improved living standards, accountable government, individual human rights, and the revolutionary role of arts and culture in social progress. During our travel tour of London and Cambridge University, we visit sites associated with the Enlightenment and meet with representatives of institutions that continue to promote the values of the Enlightenment in a modern context.

The seminar works only if you engage deeply with the powerful readings you encounter, think about them long and hard, and come to the seminar table prepared to engage in vibrant conversations. The questions we discuss are living questions, as alive today as they were in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The point is not to come to the seminar sessions with the right answers. The point is to come to the table with a deep understanding of the questions themselves and why they have enduring importance.  After all, thinkers in our civilization have been debating these questions for many hundreds of years. Of course, you certainly will frame provisional answers to the questions – and you'll bring those answers to the seminar table and share them with your fellow students. They'll do the same – and that will lead to some of the most stimulating conversations you've ever had!

© Terry Grundy 2018