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Epic Questions II: Mind, Meaning and Morality

Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Postmark Deadline: March 4, 2013

A four-week institute for thirty high school teachers on topics central to philosophical inquiry.

Project director Mitchell Green (University of Virginia) observes that formal instruction in philosophy at the high school level is rare in American schools (unlike in Europe), but students and their teachers still happen upon philosophical questions in a range of topics and texts such as "human rights as appealed to by the American Founders, or freedom of will as contemplated by Hamlet." This institute responds to the interest many teachers have in remedying their lack of formal training in the field of philosophy. In daily meetings, the institute takes on a series of topics including logic and critical thinking; metaphysics (free will and personal identity); epistemology; philosophy of mind (self-knowledge, consciousness, and mind-body distinctions); aesthetics, including the possibility of gaining knowledge from fiction and the relation of emotion to art; ethics (traditional and contemporary approaches); political philosophy (theories of rights, political obligation, and justice); and bioethics. Readings include Professor Green's Engaging Philosophy: A Brief Introduction, David Lewis' "Are We Free to Break Laws?", Tim Crane's "The Mind-Body Problem," Rene Descartes' Meditations on First Philosophy, and Iris Murdoch's "The Novelist as Metaphysician." Virginia's Corcoran Department of Philosophy, which "prides itself" on collegiality, stimulating debate, and attention to teaching, enlists professors John Arras, Rebecca Stangl, and Trenton Merricks. They are joined by lead faculty member Jennifer Gurley (Le Moyne College) and visiting scholars Alisa Carse (Georgetown University) and Mara Harrell (Carnegie Mellon University). After choosing the participants, the director builds a profile of their interests, around which the syllabus for the program is finalized. Following the institute, participants are able to continue exchanging information on a wiki that is part of an established program, High-Phi, to support philosophy in the schools.

Faculty: John Arras, Alisa Carse, Jennifer Gurley, Mara Harrell, Trenton Merricks, and Rebecca Stangl

Dates: July 8— August 2 (4 weeks)
Director(s): Mitchell Green, University of Virginia
Grantee Institutions: University of Virginia
Location: Charlottesville, VA

About NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes for School Teachers

Each year the NEH’s Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study a variety of humanities topics in NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. An NEH Summer Seminar for school teachers enables sixteen participants to explore a topic or set of readings with an expert scholar. The core material of the seminar need not relate directly to the school curriculum; the principal goal of the seminar is to engage teachers in the scholarly enterprise and to expand and deepen their understanding of the humanities through reading, discussion, writing, and reflection.

Amount of Award

NEH Summer Scholars are awarded fixed stipends to help cover travel costs, books and other research expenses, and living expenses. Stipend amounts are based on the length of the NEH Summer Seminar or Institute: $2,100 (2 weeks), $2,700 (3 weeks), $3,300 (4 weeks), $3,900 (5 weeks), or $4,500 (6 weeks).


Full-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens. Librarians and school administrators may also be eligible.

You may request information about as many projects as you like, but you may apply to no more than two NEH Summer Programs (seminars, institutes, or Landmarks workshops) and you may attend only one. Eligibility criteria differ significantly between NEH Summer Seminars and Institutes and NEH Landmarks Workshops.

Please note: Up to two seminar spaces and three institute spaces are available for current graduate students, who intend to pursue careers in K-12 teaching.

How to Apply

For more information and application instructions, please visit the program website listed above.