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Fall 2021 Junior Fellowship: Philosophy as a Way of Life

What does it mean to understand philosophy as an activity, as a way of life? This fellowship is open to undergraduate students at Stanford University.

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Fall 2021 Junior Fellowship: Philosophy as a Way of Life
Fall 2021 Junior Fellowship: Philosophy as a Way of Life

Time & Location

Oct 20, 2021, 5:00 PM – 6:15 PM PDT

Zephyr Institute, 560 College Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA

About the Event

Many describe philosophy as a subject for research and study: one academic field amongst many that contributes to the greater acquisition of human knowledge. Others describe philosophy as a kind of technique, a set of skills. Gaining these skills pays dividends by encouraging critical thinking in one’s professional or political life.

While these definitions have some merit, they obscure an older, more classical view. The classical tradition contends that philosophy, the pursuit of wisdom, is the best human activity. Hence philosophy is supposed to transform the way we live. In the 20th century, several important philosophers grew increasingly concerned that the ascent of philosophy as an academic discipline, or as a technique at the service of other professions, had damaged our understanding of what philosophy should be. Countering modern trends, these philosophers sought to recover the classical understanding and apply its insights to the changed circumstances of modernity. The fall term fellowship will study several of these cases, exploring the question of what the activity of philosophy should be.

What does it mean to understand philosophy as an activity, as a way of life? What are the requisite habits and practices of self-discipline required to free the mind to concentrate on the pursuit of wisdom? Can we transmit these habits and practices in an institution such as the school or university? How should we understand the “liberal” in “liberal education”? We shall also consider to what extent philosophy applies to or arises out of immediate, practical concerns. Should intellectual learning be aimed at usefulness, relevance, or political change? How can the concern for political and social justice distract or even corrupt the love of learning?

This seminar will discuss these issues through selections drawn from Aristotle, Pierre Hadot, Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, and Leo Strauss. The seminar concludes with a masterclass on the pleasures of the intellectual life, led by Zena Hitz. Zena Hitz teaches at St John’s College and is the author of Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of an Intellectual Life.


5:00 - 6:15 p.m. Wednesdays, October 6th, 13th, 20th, November 3rd: Dinner and Seminar, led by Nathan Pinkoski

5:00 - 7:00 p.m. Wednesday November 10th: Dinner and Masterclass, led by Zena Hitz


Applications are open to undergraduate students at Stanford University. We are interested in students who are not just fascinated by the texts and ideas under discussion, but are also invested in being part of a community of ideas and meeting new interlocutors. To apply you must be available to attend all five dates.


Fellows will receive a $300 stipend, distributed at the end of the quarter. The condition for receiving this stipend is to attend all the sessions.

The deadline for applications to the Fall Term Fellowship is Monday September 20th. Successful Applicants will be notified on September 22nd.

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