Widgets Magazine

OPINIONS

On the new humanities core

To the Editor:

“The riddle of existence is the college curriculum that was laid before the pharaohs, that was taught in the groves by Plato, that formed the trivium and quadrivium and is today laid before the freedmen’s sons by Atlanta University.” – W.E.B. Du Bois, “Of the Wings of Atalanta.”

We are pleased with the interest and uptake that the new humanities core is getting (“Humanities core arrives on campus,” Stanford Daily, 10/25). And we are committed to introducing Stanford students to foundational texts that underlie, stimulate and challenge our views of the human condition, justice and injustice and human frailty and possibility.

However, we want to make it clear that this project is not meant to be situated in a debate about the “West and the rest.” Although the European track has launched this year, three other tracks – East Asian, Middle East and Africa and its Diasporas – will be available in the fall of 2017.

Moreover, although our tracks are organized geographically, we realize that ideas and peoples move and mutually influence each other (whether through immigration, war, colonialism or global trade); that traditions, like populations, are diverse and contain multiple perspectives; and that certain questions appear in every tradition – questions such as, how are we to live together? What is a good life? What do we owe to one another?

These are questions that all of us have to answer. The humanities core is designed to provide students with a structured and guided pathway into the various answers that have been given that continue to inspire and confront us. It invites students to join the diverse, lasting conversations around these and other questions. By participating in these conversations, we hope that students will deepen and challenge their own commitments.

– Debra Satz
Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities and Arts
Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society and Professor of Philosophy

– Dan Edelstein
Chair, Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages
William H. Bonsall Professor of French