Coffee with the Classics

Collegium Institute Undergraduate Reading Group

Ever wonder whether universities make us better people? Can virtue be taught?  If so, are we obliged to practice it? In what sense are we moral beings?  Is it legitimate to impose morality on others?  How can a society be “free”?  What is Justice and how does that relate to my own happiness?

Ever wish you had a chance to step back and consider the big questions, the ones incredibly smart people have been struggling with for millennia, outside the pressures of grades and papers?  Did you think college would give you a chance to read Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Kant, and Nietzsche altogether, and to develop a sustained, coherent conversation about them?

Coffee with the Classics provides an opportunity to consider some foundational questions about education, morality, and politics in a laid back extracurricular forum. Students will read some of the most influential and provocative texts of the Western tradition and discuss them twice a month with some of Penn’s most exciting professors.  The seminar generally meets every other Wednesday evening for an hour and a half in Houston Hall.  Texts will be provided to admitted applicants free of charge.  Refreshments will be served.

To apply, please write a short letter of 150-250 words explaining why you would like to join our biweekly evening conversation.  Make the subject of the letter “Coffee with the Classics Application” and send it to Daniel Cheely of the Collegium Institute Student Association at Penn at  The first session is Wednesday, September 17, 7-8:30pm.  Space is limited.  To receive the texts in time, apply soon.  Deadline for Session 1 is September 8th.


Breakdown by Session:

I: Plato’s Dialogues and Republic
– Sept 17 (W): Plato’s Republic with Prof. Anne Hall (English)
– Oct 1 (W): Plato’s Laws with Prof. Susan Sauvé Meyer (Philosophy) and Prof. Anne Hall
– Oct 7 (T): Plato’s Apology and Meno with Prof. Hall
II: Cicero on Rhetoric, Politics, and Moral Education
– October 22 (W): Cicero’s De Officiis with Prof. Rita Copeland (Classics and Comparative Literature) and Prof. Hall
III. Aristotle and Aquinas on Ethics
– Nov 5 (W): Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics with Prof. Hall
– Nov 19 (W)**: Aquinas’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Ethics with Prof. John Mulhern (Classics, Government) and Prof. Anne Hall
All sessions meet at 7pm in Houston Hall 313 (Morris-Seitz Seminar Room).  Texts will be provided.  Coffee and Refreshments will be Served.
** Nov 19th Special Meeting Time: 6pm.