History classes in school have always felt sterile and monotonous to me. I am not one who would voluntarily enrol into one. My primary interest is in the sciences and that is what I look forward to studying at SaiU.
Liberty, Power, and Right (LPR) was offered as an elective in the second semester of the first year. When I signed up for it little did I know that it was a lesson in history and the evolution of some of our beliefs. But this was no traditional history class. Rather than focus on the dates, places, and other bullet points required to pass an exam as was my experience with history classes in school, this elective focused on understanding the culture and politics of particular times in history. LPR viewed history and culture through the eyes of philosophers who lived during the time. Trying to understand the history and political beliefs behind a work while keeping in mind the social biases of the authors in question has been an interesting, even if challenging exercise.
We read Plato, Aristotle, and Machiavelli (among others). I came away with a deeper understanding of the political ideologies and societal norms that shaped the worldviews of these philosophers, as well as the worldviews that they helped shape through their works. Interestingly, many of the issues that they were concerned with, remain relevant to this day. Take for example, the discussion on whether a ruler or governing authority ought to be virtuous and moral or pragmatic and cunning. This age-old debate is still alive even though the world has changed dramatically since the times of Plato and Aristotle and Socrates. Examining Plato’s The Republic and Machiavelli’s The Prince from the perspective of the ideologies of the authors was edifying. It has made me conscious of the ways in which one’s ideologies come through in one’s work, even if no effort was made to reflect them.
LPR has given me greater insight into the layers of decision-making involved in politics of the past, which has, in turn, awakened me to the layers in the politics of our time. It has exposed me to the complexities of current global issues and helped with at least one other foundation course – Global Challenges, which was a nuanced study of the ongoing conflicts around the world.
Has LPR made me love history enough to change course? Not quite. My interest remains firmly fixed in the sciences. I doubt I’ll pursue a career in history or political science. However, I appreciate the opportunity I’ve had to study LPR. As an avid reader, from now on I’ll be viewing the historical and political works that I choose to read through a more critical, detail-oriented lens.