Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Study Abroad in July: American Philosophy, British Roots

American Philosophy, British Roots
Earn 3 credit hours for Philosophy
Dates:  July 12 - 23, 2016
For more details: or

To apply for this program, request pre-approval by clicking the "apply now" button above and then complete this application and return it to Dr. Phil Oliver.

Dates / Deadlines:
TermYearApp DeadlineDecision DateStart DateEnd Date
Summer201603/04/2016 **Varies07/12/201607/23/2016

** Indicates the Office of Education Abroad pre-approval deadline. Students will also need to meet the actual program application deadlines, which may be earlier. See the Getting Started page for more details.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Creative movement

Today marks the release of The Geography of GeniusEric Weiner's sequel to The Geography of Bliss. It is a moving geography, in the peripatetic sense.
Recently, researchers have begun to investigate scientifically the link between walking and creativity. In a recent study, Stanford University psychologists Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz divided participants into two groups: walkers and sitters. They then administered something called Guilford's Alternative Uses test, in which participants come up with alternative uses for everyday objects. It's designed to measure “divergent thinking,” an important component of creativity... The results, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, confirm that the ancient Greeks were onto something. Creativity levels were "consistently and significantly” higher for the walkers versus the sitters.
Weiner reported this morning, on npr, on Big History, which employs the Big Picture kind of thinking walkers tend to run into. It diverges from the old-school, facts-and-dates, dry-and-musty scholastic style of history that's soured so many, so sadly, to the recorded annals of human attainment that in their largest (but usually neglected) context are so gripping. [Transcript]

But, to the student who capped the story with his errant conclusion that Big History construes life as intrinsically meaningless - "It just makes you think that really everything will be meaningless soon" - no. Understanding human affairs as part of a much larger cosmic narrative has precisely the reverse implication. Dates and facts have a chance to mean something because they're linked to a cosmic calendar, our lives matter because they're links in a chain stretching remotely backward and forward. Big History restores continuity to the continuous human community.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The walking brain

Paul Salopek is taking a really long walk. His friend asks: “Aren’t you tired?”
She is referring to my project, the “Out of Eden Walk.” I’m a journalist. I’m three years into a seven-year (or eight-year — O.K., maybe nine-year) foot journey from Africa to South America. I’m reporting stories at boot level along the pathways of our species’ first Stone Age exploration of the Earth. What my friend actually means, though, is: “Aren’t you bored?”
...I take a step. And then another. Each is new. Each is a gamble. Each is a negotiation with the substantial world that occasions an immediate, irreversible and tangible reward: I do not fall. And I move forward. Or, should I fall, I must overcome the obstacle with the most primordial collaboration of all: between mind and body.
“The hunter is the alert man,” writes the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset. The hunter knows, Ortega y Gasset adds, that “the solution might spring from the least foreseeable spot on the great rotundity of the horizon.”
The walk is a hunt. It is a quality of alertness. There is something supple and deeply satisfying about this. Walking as a lifestyle is a moment-to-moment intellectual exercise that seems recollected, familiar. It electrifies the Stone Age brain that we all still carry with us: a restless brain, a brain that thirsts not just for change — our information age technology drenches us in novelty — but for tangible instead of symbolic progress. It is a brain that abhors routine. It is a brain that does not know boredom.
No, I’m not tired yet.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Study Abroad in England, July 2016

American Philosophy, British Roots: a walk across the pond
July 12-23, 2016

An on-site exploration of specific British locales associated with philosophers and writers in the modern peripatetic (“walking & thinking”), empiricist, pragmatic, and other philosophical and literary traditions who’ve influenced and been influenced by their counterparts in America.

Among the sites we'll see and tread upon: Darwin's Down House and Sandwalk...
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Henry James's Lamb House...
Image result for henry and william james at lamb house

John Locke's Oxford...
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Bertrand Russell's Cambridge...
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the Yorkshire Moors...
Image result for bronte sisters yorkshire england moors walks
and much more besides. Apply at OEA SUMMER PROGRAMS

For more info, contact Professors Oliver or Bombardi:, or at

  • Estimated program fee including lodging, daily breakfast, most ground transportation, excursions, and site visit admission fees $2,905. (Does not include airfare, other meals, tuition, insurance, EA fee, and miscellaneous personal expenses) -- Scholarships available
  • 3 credit course, PHIL 3350, no prerequisites, all welcome
  • All students must be pre-approved by the Office of Education Abroad prior to submitting a program application.
  • More info, readings, itinerary here.

Visit our booth at the MTSU Student Union on Nov.18 between 10-2

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


When I go out for a walk, there is so much that makes me happy to be alive. Breathing. Not thinking. Observing. I am grateful beyond measure to be part of it all. There are people, of course, heroic and heartbreaking, going about their business in splendid fashion.
There are the discarded items — chairs, sofas, tables, umbrellas, shoes — also heroic for having lived life in happy (or unhappy) homes.
There are trees. Glorious and consoling. Changing with the seasons. Reminders that all things change. And change again. There are flowers, birds, babies, buildings.
I love all of these. But above all, I am besotted by dogs. Maira Kalman
Take our dogs and ourselves, connected as we are by a tie more intimate than most ties in this world; and yet, outside of that tie of friendly fondness, how insensible, each of us, to all that makes life significant for the other!—we to the rapture of bones under hedges, or smells of trees and lamp-posts, they to the delights of literature and art. As you sit reading the most moving romance you ever fell upon, what sort of a judge is your fox-terrier of your behavior? With all his good will toward you, the nature of your conduct is absolutely excluded from his comprehension. To sit there like a senseless statue, when you might be taking him to walk and throwing sticks for him to catch! What queer disease is this that comes over you every day, of holding things and staring at them like that for hours together, paralyzed of motion and vacant of all conscious life?  William James

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Thoreau's mistake

A new take-down of the "hypocrite" Thoreau scores some strong points, through several selectively and unsympathetically cherry-picked criticisms. I stand by my admiration of the dawn riser who walks confidently through the world, but must confess agreement that Henry did not adequately acknowledge the value of living as well in society as in nature.
Perhaps the strangest, saddest thing about “Walden” is that it is a book about how to live that says next to nothing about how to live with other people. Socrates, too, examined his life—in the middle of the agora. Montaigne obsessed over himself down to the corns on his toes, but he did so with camaraderie and mirth. Whitman, Thoreau’s contemporary and fellow-transcendentalist, joined him in singing a song of himself, striving to be untamed, encouraging us to resist much and obey little. But he was generous (“Give alms to everyone that asks”), empathetic (“Whoever degrades another degrades me”), and comfortable with multitudes, his and otherwise. He would have responded to a shipwreck as he did to the Civil War, tending the wounded and sitting with the grieving and the dying.
Poor Thoreau. He, too, was the victim of a kind of shipwreck—for reasons of his own psychology, a castaway from the rest of humanity. Ultimately, it is impossible not to feel sorry for the author of “Walden,” who dedicated himself to establishing the bare necessities of life without ever realizing that the necessary is a low, dull bar; whose account of how to live reads less like an existential reckoning than like a poor man’s budget, with its calculations of how much to eat and sleep crowding out questions of why we are here and how we should treat one another; who lived alongside a pond, chronicled a trip down the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, and wrote about Cape Cod, all without recognizing that it is on watering holes and rivers and coastlines that human societies are built.

Granted, it is sometimes difficult to deal with society. Few things will thwart your plans to live deliberately faster than those messy, confounding surprises known as other people. Likewise, few things will thwart your absolute autonomy faster than governance, and not only when the government is unjust; every law is a parameter, a constraint on what we might otherwise do. Teen-agers, too, strain and squirm against any checks on their liberty. But the mature position, and the one at the heart of the American democracy, seeks a balance between the individual and the society. Thoreau lived out that complicated balance; the pity is that he forsook it, together with all fellow-feeling, in “Walden.” And yet we made a classic of the book, and a moral paragon of its author—a man whose deepest desire and signature act was to turn his back on the rest of us. Kathryn Schulz, The New Yorker

Boston Review (@BostonReview)
Henry David Thoreau was not an enemy of civic life (contrary to Kathryn Schulz's recent @NewYorker piece)

New Republic (@NewRepublic)
Henry David Thoreau's radical optimism:

New Republic (@NewRepublic)
It's time for everyone to stop hating on Henry David Thoreau.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wallace Stevens

It's his birthday.
Stevens walked two miles to and from work every day, and that was when he wrote most of his poetry. “I write best when I can concentrate,” he said, “and do that best while walking.” He would carry slips of paper in his pockets, and jot down notes, which he would later give to his secretary to type up for him. WA... Searching for WS
Not a bad way to sell insurance.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Talk about Walking

What a delightful Almanac poem today!
Where am I going? I’m going
out, out for a walk. I don’t
know where except outside.
Outside argument, out beyond
wallpapered walls, outside
wherever it is where nobody
ever imagines. Beyond where
computers circumvent emotion,
where somebody shorted specs
for rivets for airframes on
today’s flights. I’m taking off
on my own two feet. I’m going
to clear my head, to watch
mares’-tails instead of TV,
to listen to trees and silence,
to see if I can still breathe.
I’m going to be alone with
myself, to feel how it feels
to embrace what my feet
tell my head, what wind says
in my good ear. I mean to let
myself be embraced, to let go
feeling so centripetally old.
Do I know where I’m going?
I don’t. How long or far
I have no idea. No map. I
said I was going to take
a walk. When I’ll be back
I’m not going to say.

"Talk about Walking” by Philip Booth from Lifelines: Selected Poems 1950-1999 (Viking Press). Reprinted with permission.


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