TECHNOLOGIES OF THE SELF: FROM SOCRATES TO SELF-HELP
2018/2019, Semester 2
University Scholars Programme (University Scholars Programme)
Modular Credits: 4
N.B.: This schedule may be changed at any point. Please refer to the most up-to-date version throughout the semester.
Week 1: Introduction: Self-Cultivation in Ancient and Modern Times
Tuesday 15/01: Introduction
Thursday 17/01: Foucault, Hadot, and The Care of the Self
Pierre Hadot, "Spiritual Exercises" ( pp.)
Week 2: Monitoring Thoughts and Memorizing Principles
Letter to Menoeceus
On the Nature of Things
, III.830-1094 (9 pp
IV.1038-1287 (7 pp.)
Week 3: Self-Examination and Confession
Michel Foucault, “Technologies of the Self” (30 pp)
III.36-39 (2 pp.)
section 1 (3 pp.)
A Guide to the Boddhisattva’s Way of Life
(edited and translated by Kate Crosby and Andrew Skilton), “2. Confession of Faults” and “3. Adopting the Awakening Mind”, pp. 9-22 (13 pp.)
Matthew Kapstein, “Stoics and Boddhisattvas: Spiritual Exercise and Faith in Two Philosophical Traditions”, in
Philosophy as a Way of Life: Ancients and Moderns: Essays in Honor of Pierre Hadot
, pp. 99-115 = 16 pp.)
Week 4: Writing the Self: Foucault and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations
Tuesday 05/02: No class
Presentation: Pradeep on Marcus Aurelius
Michel Foucault, “Writing the Self” (14 pp.)
, Books II and III (11 pp.)
Week 5: Reading and Writing the Self: Chu Hsi and Wu Yubi
Presentation: Roxanne on Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucian Self-Cultivation
Chu Hsi, “On Reading”, from
Learning to Be a Sage
(edited and translated by Daniel K. Gardner), Ch. 4, pp. 128-143 (15 pp)
84 (2 pp.)
274b-278b (6 pp.)
Presentation: Jingyi on Wu Yubi
The Journal of Wu Yubi
(edited and translated by M. Theresa Kelleher), pp. 3-20 (17 pp.)
Week 6: Self-Examination and Self-Writing in the Digital Era
Tuesday 19/02: Self-Tracking as Self-Examination:
Presentation: Ianna on Self-Tracking as a Technology of the Self
Lupton, Deborah. "The Diverse Domains of Quantified Selves: Self-Tracking Modes and Dataveillance."
Economy and Society
45.1 (2016): 101-122 (= 21 pp.)
Thursday 21/02: Writing the Self on Social Media
Presentation: Kenneth on Writing the Self on Social Media
Sauter, Theresa. "‘What’s on your Mind? ’Writing on Facebook as a Tool for Self-Formation."
New Media & Society
16.5 (2014): 823-839 (16 pp.)
Bakardjieva, Maria, and Georgia Gaden. "Web 2.0 Technologies of the Self."
Philosophy & Technology
25.3 (2012): 399-413. (14 pp.)
Paper 1 due by Thursday 21/02 at 23:59 pm.
Week 7: The Self, the Other, and the World
Tuesday 05/03: The Expanding Circle (25 pp.)
Presentations: Terence on Joanna Macy and The Work that Reconnects; Yew Onn on Peter Singer and 'The Life You Can Save'
Elements of Ethics, Fragments, and Excerpts
(edited and translated by Ilaria Ramelli and David Konstan, pp. 91-93 (2 pp.)
Peter Singer, "The Drowning Child and the Expanding Circle (2 pp.)
Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone, “A Wider Sense of Self”,
Active Hope. How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy,
New World Library, 2012, chapter 5, 85-103 (18 pp.)
Thursday 07/03: The Cosmic Point of View (10 pp.)
Presentation: Ritwik on The Cosmic Point of View
In-class screening: Terence Malick, Sequence from Tree of Life:
Pierre Hadot, “The View from Above”,
Philosophy as a Way of Life,
ch. 9, pp. 238-248 (10 pp.)
Week 8: The Self in Time
Presentation: Samuel on Sorabji vs. Hadot on Living in the Present Moment
Pierre Hadot, “Only the Present is our Happiness: The Value of the Present Instant in Goethe and in Ancient Philosophy”,
Philosophy as a Way of Life
, ch. 8, pp. 217-35 (18 pp.;
focus on pp. 221-30
Richard Sorabji, “Exercises Concerned with Time and the Self”,
Emotion and Peace of Mind,
chapter 15, pp. 228-52 (24 pp.;
focus on pp. 228-240
Presentation: Akshay on "Should our Lives have a Narrative Structure?"
Richard Sorabji, “Plutarch: Narrative and a Whole Life” (8 pp.)
Jonardon Ganeri, "Philosophy as a Way of Life. Spiritual Exercises from the Buddha to Tagore" (16 pp.)
Video presentation due by Sunday 24/03
Week 9: Technologies of the Self in Education and the Workplace
Tuesday 19/03: Technologies of the Self in Educational Settings
Presentation: Chee Yang on Moral Education in Singapore
Robert Sternberg (2001), “Why Schools Should Teach for Wisdom: The Balance Theory of Wisdom in Educational Settings,”
Thursday 21/03: The Highly Effective Self
Presentation: Lilian on Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Introduction and Critiques
Stephen R. Covey, “Inside-Out”,
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
, pp. 23-53 (30 pp.)
Week 10: Ancient Technologies, Contemporary Revivals
Tuesday 26/03: Modern Stoicism
Presentation: Zi Wei on Modern Stoicism and its Critics
“The Decline of Stoicism” and “Stoicism Reconsidered”, Ch. 20-21 in
A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy,
pp. 209-249 (40 pp.)
Thursday 28/03: Neo-Neo-Confucianism
Presentation: Chee Him on Neo-Neo-Confucianism
Stephen Angle, "Engaging Practices",
Sagehood: The Contemporary Significance of Neo-Confucian Philosophy
Week 11: Technologies of the Body: Dieting, Lifestyle, and Makeover Culture
Presentation: Advay on Foucault on the Disciplined Body
Cressida Heyes. “Foucault Goes to Weight Watchers (Redux),
Self-Transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies.
Oxford University Press, 2007, pp. 63-88 (25 pp.)
Presentation: Daryl on "
Makeover TV: Close Reading of a Lifestyle TV Program "
Lifestyle Media and the Formation of the Self
. Springer, 2011
1. When Life is not Enough: Making More of the Self, pp. 25-46 (= 19 pp.) -->
if you're short on time, you can skim this chapter and read the summary on p.45
2. Makeover Culture: Becoming A Better Self, pp. 47-68 (= 21 pp.)
Week 12 The Belabored Self and the Practice of Freedom
Tuesday 09/04: The Belabored Self
Self-help, Inc.: Makeover Culture in American life
. Oxford University Press, 2005.
Ch. 5: At Work on the Self. The Making of the Belabored Self (pp. 139-174 = 35 pp.)
Thursday 11/04: The Practice of Freedom
Presentation: Chun San: Do Technologies of the Self Lead to Freedom? (read Micky McGee, "All You Can Be or Some Conclusions"; 20 pp)
Michel Foucault, “The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom” (21 pp.)
WEEK 13: No class (instructor conference)
Final project due by Tuesday 23/04 at 23:59 pm.
Attendance and participation (15%):
Students will be expected to attend every class, to carefully read the texts assigned for each class, to post 1-3 discussion questions about them to the IVLE forum, and to participate in class discussions and small-group activities.
Class facilitation (10%)
At the beginning of most classes, a pair of students will offer a 15-20 minute introduction to an aspect of the text we will discuss that day. They will be briefed at least one week beforehand about the topic they are expected to address.
The presenters will either bring a handout for their fellow students or upload a copy of their Powerpoint presentation to IVLE after class. They will email their handouts or slides to the instructor at least 48 hours ahead of the class in order to get timely feedback on their plans.
This component will be graded partly based on peer assessment.
Midterm paper (30%):
Students will have the option to write (a) a standard analytical paper (b) a philosophical letter in the manner of Epicurus or Seneca, or (c) a philosophical dialogue in the manner of Plato (max. 1500 words). Prompts for the assignment will be circulated at the beginning of week 3.
Final project (40%)
Students will have the option to do either a traditional research paper on a topic of their own choice (max. 2000 words) or a creative project, such as a short film, virtual exhibit, or multimedia project. Creative projects must include an analytical component such as an exhibition catalogue or critical commentary.
Video presentation (5%):
Students will try out an existing technology of the self or develop one themselves based on the texts we discussed and create a 5- minute video essay in which they reflect on their experiences. The assessment will be partly based on peer assessment.
Please note that all grades awarded during the semester are provisional and that the final grades for the module are subject to moderation by the board of examiners.
ACADEMIC HONESTY AND PLAGIARISM
All students must understand the meaning and consequences of cheating, plagiarism and other academic offences under the USP code of academic conduct, which can be consulted at
If you have any questions about whether a particular way of engaging with sources entails plagiarism, please consult me
you submit your paper.
POLICY ON LATE SUBMISSIONS OF ASSIGNMENTS
Late submissions of written work will be allowed only for documented reasons such as illness or family emergencies. If your assignment is late for any other reason, I will subtract half of a letter grade for each day it is late (e.g. an A- paper will receive a B+ if it is submitted one day late). I define "one day late" for a midnight deadline as anything that appears after 12:05.
To avoid late submissions due to computer problems, please back up your drafts and plan to submit your papers at least two hours before the deadline.
EMAIL AND CONTACT POLICY
If you have a brief question related to the class, you are welcome to email me at any time. I normally respond to email inquiries within one day during work hours.
For more complex questions, please email me to set up a 20-minute appointment and suggest a few times during regular work hours when you can meet. I will have a maximum of six 20-minute slots per week available.
Please note that, due to the size of the class, I will not be able to comment on drafts sent to me via email. If you have specific questions about an assignment for this module, please email me to set up a meeting.
In this module, we will study technologies of the self, practices that individuals adopt in order to transform themselves in light of their ideals. We will look at the origins of this concept in the study of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and discuss texts drawn from Western and Eastern traditions that recommend particular practices of self-transformation. Throughout the module, we will also consider whether ancient technologies of the self are still relevant today and to what extent contemporary selfimprovement approaches and forms of digital selffashioning are modern examples of technologies of the self or a qualitatively different phenomenon.
Workload Components : A-B-C-D-E
A: no. of lecture hours per week
B: no. of tutorial hours per week
C: no. of lab hours per week
D: no. of hours for projects, assignments, fieldwork etc per week
E: no. of hours for preparatory work by a student per week