Great Ideas in Western Thought

Open to students entering grades 11 or 12 or freshman year of college in the fall
II - July 21–August 7, 2020
Days & Time:
Monday–Friday, 11:10 a.m.–1:00 p.m. and 3:10–5:00 p.m.
Michelle Chun

Course Description

This course offers a survey of key texts in the history of social, political, and moral thought, including selections from Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Mill, into the 21st Century. Through exposure to these texts, students learn to probe how we define and defend conceptions of human nature, justice, what is right and knowable, and various political and social ideas and realities.

Secondly, the course is designed to cultivate skills necessary for active citizenship. Students are required to discuss and debate texts and ideas and consider what makes an argument persuasive, both in speech and in writing, and to engage actively and constructively with fellow students.

Finally, participants are asked to reflect on the relationship between ancient and early modern texts and contemporary problems and attitudes, the power of ideas, and what we deem essential for educating students and citizens today.

Coursework is supplemented by field trips to the New York Historical Society, the Rare Books Library at Columbia University, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Michelle Chun

Michelle Chun is a political and legal theorist whose research focuses on democratic theory, American pragmatism, and jurisprudence. She also maintains research interests in American constitutional law and civil liberties, early modern liberalism and epistemology, and 20th Century continental political theory. She is currently revising her dissertation, "John Dewey and the Democratic Life of the Law," for publication. Michelle received her PhD in political science from Columbia, where she also completed an MA, MPhil, and a JD as a dual degree candidate; she holds an undergraduate degree in social studies from Harvard University.

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Specific course detail such as hours and instructors are subject to change at the discretion of the University. Not all instructors listed for a course teach all sections of that course.