Against traditional philosophical, political, and social Western assumptions that paint physical  labor as a form of injustice, misfortune, and the province of those who are caught in the lower realm of existence, this course seeks to understand the redemptive nature of physical labor that is contained in the intimate relationship with the earth. This course will look at the argument for “redemption through labor” philosophy put forward by the 20th century Zionist philosopher A.D. Gordon under which, in my childhood, I lived and worked in Israel. Such sense of redemption can also be found in Emerson who championed the “literature of the poor, the philosophy of the street, and the meaning of household life,” as well as the various lines of practice that developed from Tolstoy’s “back to nature” writings. The goal of the course is to allow the students to appreciate Gordon’s philosophy in its attempt to overcome the long Western assumption that human development or progress is necessarily analogous with an escape upwards – away from the interactive and “vulgar” nature of the physical world. The ideational objective of the course will be to explore the insightful ideas of Gordon, as well as to listen to some contemporary practitioners who found their “return to the ordinary” through work in education, agriculture, law, social work, medicine, and politics, organically redemptive and liberating. This course is writing intensive. Open to students in the third or fourth year of study.


4 sh


Open to students in the third or fourth year of study.

Course Types

Core Interdisciplinary Seminar

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