Coffee with the Classics

Coffee with the Classics is a seminar for engaging foundational questions without the stress of grades or papers.  This informal seminar forum setting provides an opportunity to read and discuss some of the most influential and provocative thinkers of the ancient and modern Western Tradition.  During the 2014-2015 academic year, Penn undergraduates and faculty gathered to read such thinks as Plato, Cicero, Rousseau, Kant, and Nietzsche in order to address fundamental questions about morality, politics, and virtue. In 2015-2016, we read texts in the philosophy of nature, with an emphasis on the ancient and medieval worlds. Receiving insight offered by Greek philosophy from Thales to Aristotle, the book of Genesis, Augustine, Aquinas and others, we explored the questions, What is nature? Does it have a purpose? What is the relationship between humans and nature?

“He who has friends, has no friend.”  This observation, perhaps lament, was derived not out of the Facebook generation, but rather out of Greek antiquity.  In his foundational treatise on Ethics, Aristotle reflected on the value of personal friendship, and his conclusions have been continually absorbed and challenged over two millennia, addressing questions about human relationships that appear quintessentially modern. Students and a faculty guide will read and discuss brief but momentous texts on friendship.  Among the great thinkers featured include Aristotle, Cicero, Chaucer, Montaigne, Emerson, Thoreau, Keats, and others.

This module will be split into 3 sessions. They will take place on 1/25 | 2/1 | 2/8, every Wednesday from 6:00pm – 7:30pm, with Dinner and all texts are provided free of charge.  Express interest or ask questions to Elizabeth Feeney: elife@sas.upenn.edu.


Past Coffee with the Classic Modules: 2016-2017

CwtC I: During this feverish election season, the Coffee with the Classics seminar opened the 2016-2017 academic year with our first module, “Can Politics be Redeemed?”  The seminar bonded students together with faculty to explore the pattern and ultimate end of political life by sifting the most venerable authorities on the subject — Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Marx, Engels, Machiavelli, Rousseau, Winthrop, and Aquinas, none of whom were of one mind.  We will discuss brief texts over dinner freely, uncompelled by requirements or grades, for our own sakes and, perhaps, for the sake of the polis.

CwtC II: Beauty is in everything that surrounds us: art, the human body, nature, and music of all sorts of cadences and melodies.  Yet, there is also a beauty which comes to us through the intangible: beauty of intellect, of virtues, of the good.  What is the good and live to find the good life and true beauty?  In our Second Module, Beauty and the Good Life, we will continue exploring perennial questions, examining brief selections from the works of Plato, Plotinus, Schiller, Maritain, von Balthasar, and Hart.