The Paideia Seminar


What does it mean to be a Humanist?


Paideia returns for another year of intercollegiate discussion to explore: What does it mean to be a Humanist?  Together we will explore varieties of humanism — including models from antiquity, the Renaissance, the Christian Tradition, secular humanism, scientific humanism, trans humanism, and anti-humanists — in order to compare competing accounts and evaluate which are compelling.   Over the course of a year, we hope to bring some clarity and precision to a term that has been, for most of the last 5 centuries, almost universally embraced though without any stable meaning.

This monthly seminar is an intercollegiate community of Penn, Villanova, Swarthmore, Eastern, Bryn Mawr, and Haverford students who together address the question, How can the Humanities actually humanize us? through the lens of various topics and approaches.

This year, Paideia will explore will explore these questions about “humanism” through a series of dinner seminars and excursions focusing on various versions and reiterations of humanism through time.

Our final session, will take place Friday, April 20 at the University of Pennsylvania, with Professor Etienne Benson (UPenn) on Environmental humanism and anti-humanism.  

To register for the program, please contact Elizabeth Feeney at (

Previous Seminar Topics this Year

September 15th: Renaissance Humanism, with Prof. Eva Del Soldato (UPenn) on Petrarch, the “grandfather of humanism” and the influence of the Italian Renaissance thinkers.

October 20th: Italian Humanism, with Prof. Mark Shiffman (Villanova) on the humanism of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola, his historical context in relation to the development of the university, and Machiavelli’s response.

November 10th: Seneca and Humanism, with Prof. William Turpin (Swarthmore) on Seneca, Stoicism, and the role of exempla in our lives.

January 26th: Humanism, Feminism, and Second-Person Ethics, with Prof. Amy Richards (Eastern) on the work of Simone Weil and the role of the personal, impersonal, and rights language.

February 16th: Transhumanism & Futurism: A Humanism for the Digital Age?, with Prof. Mark Shiffman (Villanova) on the transhumanist movement and its critics.

March 16th: The Erasmus Option, an Agora Institute Lecture featuring Gregory Wolfe relating to Christian Humanism.