Fall 2008

Erôs and Insight


Joel M. Upton (Section 01)
Arthur G. Zajonc (Section 01)


What would it be like to experience yourself, those around you, and the world through deliberate and disciplined contemplation? This seminar will define and then explore through specific exercises contemplative knowing as attentiveness, openness and the act of sustaining contradiction. By this means we will seek common ground between the seemingly opposed realities of art and science, erôs and insight. During the first half of the course we will use brief readings from Thoreau, Simone Weil and others to discover the nature of contemplative engagement. We will then work with material drawn from science (Kepler, Oliver Sacks, Einstein, Barbara McClintock) and the arts (Rembrandt, Goethe, Mondrian, Ryoan-ji in Kyoto) that exemplify such engagement and can lead to contemplative insight. In the second part of the course we turn to the question of love, and seek its deep relationship to contemplation and knowing. In this exploration we will be guided by the writings of Marguerite Porete, the troubadours, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Thomas Merton. We will conclude by re-imagining together Plato’s famous Symposium on the question of love. Fall semester. Professor Upton. Professor Zajonc.