Reason in a Dark Time

Why Take This Course?

Headlines are dominated not simply with bad news, but potentially catastrophic news. It is not mere hyperbole to note that you will spend your adult lives confronting global challenges and tragedies whose scale goes well beyond that of former ages—from environmental degradation to inequality and poverty to mass migration to technological revolutions and labor disruptions. This creates a uniquely poignant existential burden. The key question this course will examine is: Given this context, how do we utilize our reason and other capacities to pursue both the good and the good life? How do we live well in a dark time? We will read a diverse array of philosophers attempting to answer just this question. Ultimately, this course hopes to inspire you to use reason as a means of promoting hope, and hope as a means of dynamically increasing our ability to live well in dark times.



6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Registration opens in MyAccess at 3 PM on Monday, November 30 for all seniors.


James Olsen is the Assistant Director for Programs for Graduate Students and Faculty at the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. He began work at CNDLS in the Fall of 2013 after completing his Ph.D. in philosophy at Georgetown University. He was initially exposed to the work of CNDLS as a graduate student while serving as an Engelhard Fellow. His current work involves helping to facilitate the Apprenticeship in Teaching program, working to design and lead workshops on pedagogy and course design, and otherwise support graduate students and faculty in developing their teaching abilities. Additionally, he provides support to a variety of other CNDLS programs.

James’ passion for teaching extends back to childhood and continues through his current position as an adjunct professor of philosophy in Georgetown’s Philosophy Department. His research focus includes areas in the philosophy of perception and phenomenology, as well as work in environmental ethics. He has lived abroad three times in the Middle East, most recently while teaching at Georgetown University in Qatar. These experiences have contributed to his interest in the ways that classrooms serve as a dynamic space of cross-cultural dialogue and how this dynamic can be constructively harnessed to facilitate learning.