Angle Awarded NEH Grant to Fund Innovative Philosophy Teaching Institute

Olivia DrakeAugust 3, 20174min
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Stephen Angle
Stephen Angle

On Aug. 2, Stephen Angle, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy, together with colleagues at Notre Dame and Fordham, received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support a two-week NEH Summer Institute for college and university faculty focusing on the idea of teaching “Philosophy as a Way of Life.” Twenty-five faculty from around the country will be invited.

The award—worth $137,045—is part of the NEH’s recent $39.3 million in grants for 245 humanities projects across the country.

The “Reviving Philosophy as a Way of Life: A NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers” will be held at Wesleyan July 9-20, 2018.

Philosophy courses emphasizing the “way of life” model have begun to emerge spontaneously over the last five or six years at many American colleges (including Wesleyan, Fordham, Notre Dame and Harvard). Because the courses have focused on concrete questions about how to live well and how to flourish as a human being—questions that in many ways return philosophy to its roots—they have generated widespread enthusiasm among students.

“There is a plausible reason why students are so enthusiastic about these courses. Namely, ‘the way of life’ approach is grounded in our basic human desire to live well, and especially in our desire to identify approaches to living well that are grounded in reflection, careful reasoning, and tested experience,” Angle and his collaborators said. “For those without a religious affiliation, the interest is perhaps particularly keen, as alternatives to traditional religious ways of life are sought. But even for those with religious commitments, there is natural interest in uncovering insights into how to live well and how to achieve greater tranquility, freedom, or authenticity.”

“Reviving Philosophy as a Way of Life” will gather together philosophers who have taught “way of life” classes—including Wesleyan’s Tushar Irani, associate professor of philosophy, associate professor of letters—and allow them to share their insights, experiences, and pedagogical strategies with other professors looking to adopt this model in their classrooms. The institute also will introduce participants to selected “way of life” traditions, including Confucianism, Buddhism, Stoicism, Ancient Skepticism, Kantianism and Existentialism.

Participants will explore specific, concrete proposals that particular traditions and particular philosophers have suggested for living well. At the same time, because the institute will be by and for philosophers, it will critically examine the reasons and arguments behind these proposals.

The institute is co-directed by three senior faculty known for teaching groundbreaking “way of life” courses on their campuses. Meghan Sullivan, professor of philosophy at Notre Dame, teaches a God and the Good Life class, and Angle and Stephen Grimm, professor of philosophy at Fordham, both teach a Philosophy as a Way of Life class. Wesleyan, Fordham and Notre Dame hope to spur a movement in creative and immersive philosophy teaching.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.