HISTORY OF IDEAS
Learning outcomes of the course unit
The discipline of History of Ideas studies the philosophical and scientific thought and its connections in the historical, political and even artistic fields. Its research is mainly carried out by reading and analysing classic texts of Western thought. The aim is reaching a full understanding and evaluation of the texts, also referring on critical literature. In other words, History of Ideas is a philosophical subject on an interdisciplinary basis, and it allows to discover the connections between different fields. So it contributes to the achievement of independence of judgment and also provides the conceptual tools to consider and evaluate the complex contemporary issues. The aims of the course include a critical approach to philosophical concepts and to the texts, to be able to explain the content of them and discuss them, and ultimately to strengthen the ability to learn .
None specific competence required. It is required some general knowledge of the major historical events and philosophical movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Course contents summary
History of Ideas (M-Fil/06) 6 cfu
Title of the course: American philosophical and political thought, from Trascendentalism to Imperialism.
The course provides an introductory part to the History of Idea and a specific part on the philosophical-practical idea in the history of United States, from the end of the Civil War to First and Second World War and the Cold War. We will study Trascendentalism by Emerson and Thoreau and its influence on culture, then Pragmatism by Peirce, James and Dewey, and the links between American literature, philosophy and historiography. The course will study the Great Depression and the New Deal philosophical praxis, and McCarthysm. And it will analyse the philosophical and political ideas in the history of the United States to understand the attitudes and choices of our day and the possible transformations.
- N. Urbinati, Individualismo democratico. Emerson, Dewey e la cultura politica americana, Roma, Donzelli 2009 (all the book), or V. Parrington, Storia della cultura americana, Torino, Einaudi 1977, vol. II, pp. 475-542; vol. III, pp. 9-21, 33-39, 84-125, 152-166, 245-299, 367-383, 403-407, 413-423, 449-457, 485-490, 506-526.
- A. de Tocqueville, La democrazia in America, Milano, BUR 2010, pp. 230-232, 242-244, 257-259, 267-268, 314-319, 336-356, 423-426, 457-462, 469-470, 517-518, 543-544, 547-549, 549-552.
- H.D. Thoreau, Walden ovvero Vita nei boschi, Torino, Einaudi 2015 (100 pages at your choice).
- O. Bergamini, Storia degli Stati Uniti, Roma-Bari, Laterza 2010 (pp. 93-205)
- Pages on Emerson, Thoreau, Peirce, William James e Dewey in A. La Vergata - F. Trabattoni, Filosofia e cultura, Firenze, La Nuova Italia 2011, voll. 3a and 3b.
More readings (one text chosen from the following):
- W. James, L'equivalente morale della guerra e altri scritti, Pisa, Ets 2016 (pp. 5-107 e 149-158).
- J. Dewey, Esperienza e natura, Milano, Mursia 2014
- E. Zolla, Le origini del trascendentalismo, Roma, Storia e Letteratura 1963 (150 pages only)
- G. Borgognone, Il pensiero americano del Novecento tra capitalismo, liberalismo e democrazia, Torino, UTET Università 2015 (chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10).
Recommended readings (not required):
- H.D. Thoreau, Disobbedienza civile, Milano, La Vita Felice 2007.
- A. Piva, E succhiare il midollo della vita – Da H.D. Thoreau a J. London: La solitudine della natura selvaggia come strada per l'illuminazione, Modena, Narcissus 2014.
Frontal lessons. Lecture and discussion of texts. Furthermore it will be shown a film illustrating historical aspects of the course. Special emphasis will be given to in-class reading of, and commenting on, original texts, in order for students to familiarise with different kinds of philosophical language, style, and argument.
Assessment methods and criteria
Final oral examination. It will be judged the level of learning, the ability to discuss the contents of the course and the critical analysis of the texts, and lexical competences. In other words, the examination will verify the critical ability to analyse philosophical ideas and their critical interpretations. Finally the student will also be expected to demonstrate that it has reached an adequate understanding of the texts and literary criticism, and a certain ability of judgment, in order to provide a satisfactory overview of their qualities as learning, communication and connection of the philosophical concepts, in a given historical, philosophical, political, or scientific context
Some more materials will be provided during the course, including the screening of a film.