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ISBN: 9780776629551

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The Elective Mind

Philosophy and the Undergraduate Degree


This book discusses the relevance of philosophy courses within the undergraduate curriculum as integral to the self-formation that is at the heart of a liberal education. The objective is to provide a historically layered view of what it can still mean to study for its own sake.

The elective university classroom is important because the course of study is chosen out of personal interest and enthusiasm, as opposed to being primarily governed by predetermined disciplinary objectives. It engages the student’s mind directly and freely, and counters the overly specialized minds favoured by the contemporary university as well as the commodification of its degrees.

The discussion builds on the distinction put forward by Raymond Williams between a dominant culture (in this case, university study as contributing to research and/or marketable degrees) and alternative and/or oppositional cultures that have both residual and emergent dimensions. The elective stream of university study is treated as alternative and oppositional to the dominant culture.

The elective university classroom is examined as a combination of a classroom, students, texts, and professors. Each element is explored in terms of its alternative/residual significance as illustrated through the history of philosophy: the classroom and students through the life and death of Socrates; texts through the origins of the university in medieval scholasticism; the professor in the Humboldtian reform of the university at the beginning of the nineteenth century in Berlin.


Réal Fillion

Réal Fillion has taught philosophy for almost 30 years and is Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Sudbury, part of the Laurentian University Federation. He is the author of Multicultural Dynamics and the Ends of History: Exploring Kant, Hegel, and Marx and Foucault and the Indefinite Work of Freedom, both also published by the University of Ottawa Press.
Chapter Title Abstract Contributors Pages Year Price


The introduction lays out the intent of the book, a long essay reflecting on the value of elective courses in university, specifically philosophy, as an opportunity for shared, social learning … 31 $3.10


The first section discusses how learning requires a willingness to seek out and be transformed by truth and that the elective classroom is a space where that can still happen. She explores how … 30 $3.00


The second section considers why and how the university classroom can provide a place for learning and transformation, as well as the role of texts in the classroom. 30 $3.00


The third section considers the role of professors in bringing an elective course and the curiosity, enthusiasm and desire for learning to life. 38 $3.80


The conclusion reflects on the current role of philisophy in the modern university. 12 $1.20