The purpose of education is to develop a satisfying conception of life, along with the capacities needed to pursue that life in a rewarding way—or so Montaigne suggests in his essay on education: “Let [the student] be asked for an account not merely of the words of his lesson, but of its sense and substance, and judge the profit he has made by the testimony not of his memory, but of his life.” In Education as Self-Fashioning, we explore this idea from many different perspectives.
The ESF Mission
We consider writings about education by intellectuals working in various fields, with the aim of articulating the ways that education can be used to structure one’s thinking, one’s self, and ultimately one’s life as a whole. In addition, we engage actively in the types of thinking promoted through these different conceptions of education for life, so as to try those lives on for ourselves. Students can thereby begin in earnest their exploration of the vast domain of possibilities opened up by a Stanford liberal education.
In this course, you will think carefully and reflectively about what education is really for, and what role you want a liberal education to play in your life at Stanford and beyond. This is a chance to shape your educational aspirations in dialogue with fellow students and an exciting group of faculty from across a wide range of disciplines—from the humanities and social sciences through the natural sciences. Despite the different ways of thinking they develop, each of these fields shares in the common pursuit of an education that serves life, and they enrich our lives precisely through the distinctive shapes they impart to our thinking. Each seminar in the program focuses on some particular ways of thinking, related to the discipline(s) of its faculty leader(s), but we will also be learning from one another across seminars, through events that bring all program participants together for common discussion.