What is Intellectual Traditions?

In Intellectual Traditions (IT) courses, Honors students explore enduring questions at the heart of the human experience. They learn how to identify some of the origins of our ideas and values in works from different eras and various cultures, and to recognize the diversity of perspectives on what it means to be human.

IT is not a survey course or a lecture-only course. The classes are conducted as seminars in which students learn to do careful readings of primary texts, to participate in collaborative inquiry, and to develop evidence-based positions.

Traditionally IT courses have been chronologically organized: e.g. The Ancient World, The Development of the Common Era, and The Modern World. Honors now also offers IT courses (2810) that explore a variety of broad themes, such as gender, magic, history of science, identity, and the existence of networks through the ages.

Why is IT Important for a Student’s Education?

Through IT courses, students develop:

  • independent reasoning and skepticism
  • the capacity to make informed decisions about complex, interdisciplinary problems
  • strategies to approach and engage unfamiliar, often difficult texts and ideas
  • creative and nimble thinking

The focus of IT is not on the significance of individual texts themselves, but on the essential humanistic questions they raise: what does it mean to be human? how free are humans to act? how do we come to truth? what constitutes moral behavior? is war justifiable? In addition to texts that have exerted significant historical influence, IT brings underrepresented voices, including non-Western, non-canonical texts, into the humanistic conversation. Supplementing, challenging, or offering alternatives to traditional Western narratives, these voices contribute to a more complex and profound understanding of humans and the values that inform the communities they construct: political, social, moral, and religious.

The core of the Honors Liberal Arts and Sciences curriculum, IT courses stimulate students to be intellectually adventurous outside of mere careerism, and encourage them to situate their college experience in a larger context. Looking closely, thinking critically, and writing persuasively are skills that help students not only in their academic careers but in their larger roles as community members and citizens.

IT Courses

  • HONOR 2101: The Ancient World (beginnings to 100 CE)
  • HONOR 2102: The Development of the Common Era (100 to 1600 CE)
  • HONOR 2103: The Modern World (1600 to present)
  • HONOR 2104: Cross-Cultural Dialogues
  • HONOR 2105-2107: Reacting to the Past (Role-playing classes covering the same periods as the chronological IT sequence.)
  • HONOR 2108: Twentieth-Century Intellectual Movements
  • HONOR 2109: IT through an Ecological Lens
  • HONOR 2810: Thematic IT (variable topics)