Bard College Student Handbook

First-Year Seminar

The First-Year Seminar: “What Is Freedom? Dialogues Ancient and Modern” To raise the question “What is freedom?” could hardly be more necessary today. Why have so many people in so many times and places identified freedom as a self-evident value, yet excluded many around them from its benefits? How have different civilizations defined freedom at different times? What does freedom mean in a democracy, an empire, a totalitarian regime? How do we understand the difference between “freedom to” and “freedom from,” between rights and responsibilities? These are just some of the questions addressed in the First-Year Seminar. In the fall semester, we ask: “What is political freedom?” Texts include works by thinkers such as Plato, Gandhi, and Hannah Arendt. In the spring, we consider “What is personal freedom?” in the company of authors such as Aristotle, James Joyce, and Malcolm X. By studying these texts, discussing their ideas in small seminars, and writing critical papers on them, students establish a foundation for their learning experience at the College and acquire a shared basis for conversation with fellow students, faculty members, and the world beyond.