One of the great privileges of my life has been the opportunity to teach History of Ideas at The College at Southeastern. Under the leadership of noted author and philosopher James K. Dew, the college requires its undergraduate students to take four courses in the History of Ideas.
The first History of Ideas course is a lecture-style grand tour of the rise and development of “thought,” of the way certain ideas have shaped our world, especially in the West. I teach this course and I lead the students to evaluate various ideas and ideologies in light of their logical coherence, empirical adequacy, and existential viability. But we also evaluate them from a distinctly Christian perspective, in light of Scripture and the Christian tradition.
During the course, I require my students—almost all of them freshmen—to create a “History of Ideas Timeline,” a sort of visual tour of the history of ideas. This year, several of those students did such a good job that I decided to post their timelines here on my website.
The first timeline is composed by Trinity Branch, utilizing timeline software by Knightlab.com.
The second timeline is composed by Kiale Trenholme-Pihl, utilizing software by timeglider.com.
The third timeline is composed by Dawoon Chung, presented via a PDF document.
The timeline assignment serves as a sort of overarching mental framework that will help the students as they take reading three readings seminars in the history of ideas. In those seminars, we read great books from the ancient, medieval, and modern periods, including books written by:
- Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Kant, Hegel, and Marx.
- Theologians such as Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin.
- Literary figures such as Homer, Virgil, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare, and Dubois.
- Historians such as Herodotus and Thucydides.
For readers who wish to be introduced to the History of Ideas, a very helpful one-stop introduction is Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to Books You’ve Always Wanted to Read, edited by Os Guinness and Louise Cowan. A more in-depth narrative introduction is The Passion of the Western Mind: Understanding the Ideas that Have Shaped our World View, by Richard Tarnas. The former is written from a distinctively Christian perspective, while the latter is not.