I've been putting together a new MA course which will be available as part of the philosophy MA programmes at Royal Holloway: 'Cultivation of the Self'. I paste below a description, core reading, and week-by-week schedule.
In the late twentieth century, Anglophone and Francophone philosophy witnessed parallel trends in ethics, both drawing on aspects of ancient philosophy, focused on self-cultivation. The idea that ethics ought to be about the cultivation of a certain character rather than individual moral acts is now a well-established theme in both traditions. In the Anglophone context, ‘virtue ethics’ turned to Aristotle for inspiration, while in France Foucault’s ‘care of the self’ drew on Hellenistic and Greco-Roman practices. This course will examine both of these traditions, exploring common ground and differences, as well as criticisms that have been levelled against both.
Weeks 1-4 will focus on the Anglophone tradition. Perceived problems with modern moral philosophy (1. Anscombe) led to a return to Aristotle in search of an alternative model focused on virtue (2. MacIntyre). This led to the rise of what is now known as ‘virtue ethics’ (3. Foot). In more recent years the debate has moved forwards, paying greater attention to the eudaimonistic context in which ancient discussions of virtue took place (4. Russell).
Weeks 5-10 will examine the Francophone tradition, where the motivations were quite different, inspired on the one hand by trying to grasp the existential features of ancient philosophy (5. Hadot) and on the other by trying to comprehend the development of modern conceptions of the subject (6. Foucault). In this tradition much attention has been paid to specific techniques and practices drawn from Greco-Roman philosophy (7-8. Foucault). There has also been critical discussion of the motivations for engaging in this ‘aesthetics of existence’ (9. Hadot), as well as attempts to defend it as part of a positive political strategy (10. Foucault).
Core Reading (* = most important)
*Crisp, R., and Slote, M., eds, Virtue Ethics (Oxford, 1997)
Foucault, M., The Care of the Self (Penguin, 1988)
*Foucault, M., Ethics, Essential Works 1 (Penguin, 1997)
*Hadot, P., Philosophy as a Way of Life (Blackwell, 1995)
MacIntyre, A., After Virtue (Duckworth, 1981)
Nussbuam, M., The Therapy of Desire (Princeton, 1994)
Russell, D., Happiness for Humans (Oxford, 2013)