本科目的教材內容（包括文學和哲學）廣泛,皆是取材自西方傳統的思想, 並著重於探討自文藝復興以來,西方思想中的人性倫理和政治生活的思想脈絡。本課程會處理的議題如下: 科學觀點所造成的轉變、人類事物不再受超自然和宗教想法的影響及一個有智慧和無統整性的宗教當局，逐漸成為生活的指標，並對人類生活所造成的正面或負面的影響。這門課的閱讀資料與課號21L001課程互補,課堂上的討論將著重於欣賞和分析足以代表現代世界的文化遺產。
我們的閱讀書單是從馬基維利（Machiavelli）的《君王論》(The Prince)開始,書中建議統治者,只要目的正當,可以不擇手段,而對領導者而言,「學習不行善」（learn how not to be good）是必要的。接著是摩爾（More）的《烏托邦》(Utopia),一個類似真實世界的「虛擬國度」,而基督教不曾出現過的世界。然後,我們會讀到一個發生在不知名地方的故事,即斯威夫特（Jonathan Swift）仿照摩爾的《烏托邦》所寫成的《格列佛遊記》(Gulliver's Travels)。接著是蒙田（Montaigne）的散文,散文這種文體是蒙田所發明的,而「自我意識」（self-consciousness）這種具現代意義的名詞據說也是由他所創。自我意識的意思是,忽略我們承繼或努力達到的社會身份，只要單純地作特殊的自我。把馬基維利的理論拿來驗證《李爾王》(莎士比亞被認為最重要的悲劇),可檢驗出基督教世界出現前,政治和道德威權的來源。進一步的閱讀還包括:霍布斯（Hobbes）的《利維坦》（Leviathan ）(1651年),很特殊地把人類描述成只會計算的機器,書中檢視這類政治和道德生活上的意義。盧梭（Rousseau）的《論人類不平等的起源和基礎》（On the Origins of Inequality）,改變了當代對人類本質的觀點,並且是法國大革命思想家的重要根源之一。華滋華斯（Wordsworth）的〈序曲〉（Prelude）,或許是第一篇完整的現代詩,也是在19世紀 「和自然環境間的正確關係，對人類的道德生活十分重要」這個觀點的主要源頭。在《道德底形上學之基礎》（The Metaphysical Foundation of Morals）一書裡,康德（Kant）替「單單理智就足以作為道德生活的準則」的理論做辯論。珍．奧斯汀的古典社會小說《傲慢與偏見》和巴爾札克（Balzac）的《高老頭》（Pere Goriot）則是不道德的世界裡的道德例子。最後的兩本書則是尼采的《道德系譜學》（Genealogy of Morals）,為邪惡(evil)這概念的正確性做延伸的爭論,而蕭伯納（George Bernard Shaw）的《芭芭拉少校》（Major Barbara）則是關於宗教信念和世俗相衝突的社會喜劇 。
This subject offers a broad survey of texts (both literary and philosophical) drawn from the Western tradition and selected to trace the growth of ideas about the nature of mankind's ethical and political life in the West since the renaissance. It will deal with the change in perspective imposed by scientific ideas, the general loss of a supernatural or religious perspective upon human events, and the effects for good or ill of the increasing authority of an intelligence uninformed by religion as a guide to life. The readings are roughly complementary to the readings in 21L001, and classroom discussion will stress appreciation and analysis of texts that came to represent the cultural heritage of the modern world.
Readings begin with excerpts from Machiavelli's The Prince, which advises the ruler that the end justifies the means and that it is necessary for leaders to "learn how not to be good." We follow with More's Utopia, an account of life in a "parallel world" to the real one, a world in which Christianity never happened. Later we read another book that take place "Nowhere", Jonathan Swift's re-imagining of More's text, Gulliver's Travels. More is succeeded by excerpts from the essays of Montaigne, who invented the form that we now call the "essay", and who, it is often said to be invented the modern sense of self-consciousness, that is, of simply being our own particular self, regardless of inherited or achieved social identities, in a changeful world. Machiavellianism is put to some examination in King Lear, arguably Shakespeare's central tragedy, which examines the sources of political and moral authority in a pre-Christian world. Further readings include: Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan (1651), an extraordinary account of human beings as nothing but calculating machines, which traces the implications this view for political and ethical life; Rousseau's On the Origins of Inequality which transformed current ideas about human nature and was an important source for the ideologues of the French Revolution; readings from Wordsworth's Prelude, perhaps the first thoroughly modern poem and the major source in the nineteenth century for the idea that a right relation to its natural environment was essential for humanity's ethical life; excerpts from Immanuel Kant's The Metaphysical Foundation of Morals, in which Kant argues the case that reason alone is sufficient as guide to the moral life; Jane Austen's classic social novel, Pride and Prejudice and Balzac's Père Goriot, which makes a case for a-morality in an immoral world. We conclude with two texts: Friedrich Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals, an extended argument against the validity of the concept "evil" and George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, a social comedy about the conflict between religious conviction and worldliness.
The subject meets twice a week for two one-and-a-half sessions. Each session begins with a lecture of varying length, but changes over early into general discussion. Active participation in discussion is essential to the life of the class and the force and cogency of students' remarks will have a marked influence on grades. Readings will total approximately seventy-five pages a week, sometimes more, sometimes less. Much of the grade will also depend upon the quality of the three written assignments required by the course, and spaced fairly evenly over the term: the papers will total twenty pages in entirety, two papers running to at least six pages each and a final paper running to at least eight pages. The papers will each deal with some aspect of the readings and discussion; topics may be invented by the students but an extensive list of suggested topics will be circulated two weeks in advance of each paper's due date for those students who require it. The first of these papers will be rewritten upon its return and resubmitted in a form complaint with corrections made by the instruction on the pages of the first version. The second paper may be treated in the same way, depending upon the instructor's judgment. The subject will also offer students opportunity for oral expression by reason of (a) its discussion format and (b) a division into groups of two or three students (depending upon enrollment), each of which will make two fifteen-minute presentations of materials conducive to the discussion of a given assignment, following the model of such presentations offered by the instructor at the outset of the term. The maximum number of students per section of this subject is 18, except in cases where there are no sections and where a writing fellow is attached to the subject, in which case the enrollment can rise to 25. There will be no final examination.