In Seminar you read, reflect on, and discuss great books from the world’s various philosophical, spiritual, and literary traditions. 

The Seminar serves as a gateway to the college academic experience. Guided by experienced DRBU faculty, you will cultivate close reading, critical thinking, and effective communication skills in a supportive classroom environment. You will learn to ask the questions that are important to you, and to explore the questions that are important to others.

This summer we are offering three distinct tracks, each centered around a philosophical question:

What is Reality?

The Matrix, the Metaverse, and other modern forays into virtual environments have all brought to our cultural consciousness a question that lies at the heart of human experience: what is the nature of reality? Is it what we perceive through our senses? Or what we are able to conceive? Is it totally beyond our knowledge? The French thinker René Descartes wrestled with the possibility of radical skepticism; Indian yogis strove to free themselves from a veil of illusions; and the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, having dreamt that he was a butterfly, wondered whether he was not really a butterfly dreaming it was Zhuangzi. In this course, we will examine perspectives on reality from various time periods and cultures—and if we lose ourselves a little in the process, maybe we’ll be surprised at what we gain.

Example Readings:

  • Selected writings by Zhuangzi
  • The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
  • Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes
  • On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense by Friedrich Nietzsche
  • The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma

What is Truth?

Contemporary commentators claim we are living in a “post-truth” era—but what is the meaning of this claim? When we say we seek the truth, what are we seeking? The histories of human thought and culture are far from univocal in their formulations of truth. Is it timeless or determined by place and time? Does it come from within or without—or does it transcend such distinctions? Is something valuable or important just because it is true? In this course, we will examine various notions of truth and its source as well as our relationship to what we trust, in the hopes of coming to a better understanding of what we mean by truth.

Example Readings:

  • The Dao De Jing by Lao Zi 
  • The Symposium by Plato
  • Selected Poems by Emily Dickinson 
  • The Upanishads
  • The Origin of the Work of Art by Martin Heidegger

What is Freedom?

Give me liberty or give me death! Freedom is a foundational value of the modern Western world. We take it for granted that freedom is our natural state, and is restricted only by historical precedent and unjust policies and practices. But what does it mean to be truly free? Does it mean possessing the agency to exert one’s will, to act, speak, and think without restraint? How do we know when we are free? Does freedom exist solely in our relationship to other beings or to society as a whole, or is there a freedom that exists in our relationship to ourselves? In this course we will examine the evolution of the concept of freedom, as well as its treatment in various discourses, with the aim of better understanding what it means to be free.

Example Readings:

  • Yoga Sutras by Patanjali 
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf 
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
  • Ten Foot Square Hut by Kamo no Chomei
  • Existential is a Humanism by Jean-Paul Sartre