Contemporary Civilization

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Contemporary Civilization, commonly referred to as CC, is part of the Columbia College Core Curriculum. It is officially entitled Introduction to Contemporary Civilization in the West.

Essentially a "Great Books" of philosophy class, it spans two semesters, and is usually taken sophomore year, although this is not necessarily a requirement, as commonly believed.


History in brief

On January 20, 1919, the college faculty resolved to merge the courses History A and Philosophy A into a new course called "Contemporary Civilization". The class began as a response to the First World War. Having cooperated with the military to produce a war issues course for student soldiers, they now set about creating a "peace issues" course that would "deal with the present". At first, then, CC had little to do with learning the "Great Books" of philosophy.

Originally, students read mostly secondary sources in standardized, hardcover course readers which included essays by many on the then-current faculty, among other prominent intellectuals. By the 1960s, in the wake of student unrest, the course evolved into a "Great Books" seminar, in the effort to broaden discussion and grant students a closer relationship to the texts and ideas being studied.

In order to supplement the CC curriculum, Dean Austin Quigley inaugurated the CC Coursewide Lecture in Fall of 1999.

CC - first semester lite

  • God created man, twice.
  • God gave the ten commandments, twice.
  • Make kings philosophers or philosophers kings.
  • Man is a political animal.
  • Jihad is exactly what you think it is.
  • The non-believers will be friends with the fire.
  • I am thinking therefore I am.
  • Christianity is corrupt. It needs modest reforms.
  • How to stay in power: it's appearances that count.
  • Life is brutish and short. So men form states with social contracts.
  • Actually, men cooperate by their very nature.

CC - second semester lite

  • What is Enlightenment? It's good.
  • Why do we have morals? Utility, experience, sympathy.
  • Countries get rich by specializing, not hoarding gold.
  • Society gives rise to inequality. Let's be cavemen once again.
  • Or we could have a social contract like those Genevans.
  • I can't let you do that. If I did, I'd have to let everyone else do it.
  • Independence, it's self-evident.
  • New laws after the exodus.
  • The French Revolution is ugly.
  • Give women more freedom so that they can better serve their men.
  • What's so great about America? Democracy.
  • People shouldn't follow Smith's self-interest, nor Hume's sympathy. They should show disinterested benevolence. There are better tools than whips and scourges to discourage crime; namely, peer pressure.
  • The Spirit drives world history.
  • No no no, the dialectic is the other way around! Ideology doesn't drive the material world. Instead, material conditions drive ideology. Revolution!
  • Blacks are oppressed; whites wage wars.
  • Might makes right.
  • Your human psyche is probably disturbed. You need a dose of psychoanalysis, delving into the darkest depths of your molested childhood.
  • Maybe we sort out civilization in the same way?
  • Three tales of poverty.
  • Let's consider justice before even being born.

Study guides

See Also

External links

Introduction to Contemporary Civilization: A Syllabus 1921

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