The Examined Life

Postgraduate Liberal Arts Lecture Series
University of Winchester
2018-19 – semester 2

Mondays 5.30pm SAB 001

This semester we continue our lecture series. But this semester’s lectures are very different in style and content, and I think, in difficulty, from the previous ones. These will be much more philosophical, and I think they require a different kind of concentration and commitment and work than last semester’s lectures (no films, no you tube, not even many pictures!).

I have taken up the theme of The Examined Life, from Socrates, who at his trial famously said that the unexamined life is not worth living. But is it still worth living today? And even if it is, what kinds of opportunities are currently open to us for living such a life?

To explore these questions, I will take us on a tour of parts of the Western tradition, rehearsing in part a particular reading of Hegelian philosophy. We will visit the ancient world to see how the examined life appeared in the ideas of Know Thyself and in First Principles. We will look at the development of Western reason up to the European Enlightenment, exploring some Kant in doing so. Then we will look at the fate of this conception of reason post Enlightenment, taking in the dialectic of enlightenment and various post-foundational perspectives. The whole story is then subjected to the critique of Jean Hyppolite, who was influential for Derrida, Deleuze and Foucault.

Underpinning our work in the lectures will be the clash of two ideas of logic: a logic of mastery, and its cultures of property and enlightenment which dominate the tradition, and a logic of education which lies suppressed within it. The implications of the logic of mastery will appear in most weeks. Within the logic of education is the necessity of presupposition. This we will look at, appropriately perhaps, in our first lecture as the question of how to begin something – anything – including a series of lectures, and what presupposition has to do with this. Our introduction to immediacy and mediation here will then enable these two ideas to be our constant companions in the remaining lectures.

At the end of the semester are listed two lectures which are ambitious to say the least: a rewriting of Plato’s cave, and a new Republic. If these lectures survive the next 10 weeks then we may end the semester with them … but at the moment their grip on life is tentative at best…


The lectures run on Mondays again, this time at 5.30, beginning on Monday 14th January, in SAB 001  for weeks 1-12. Attendance, as always, is voluntary.


List of titles:

Beginning with beginning

Beginning with life and death

First Principles

Know Thyself (Socrates to St Augustine)

Immediacy and mediation; the story of western reason

The logic of enlightenment reason

The fate of enlightenment reason


Private property subjectivity

Logic of education

The new cave

The new Republic