An interdepartmental program in International and Global Studies

Last updated: November 25, 2009 at 3:52 p.m.


Santayana put it well: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." To understand the significance of our beliefs and commitments—even to understand the significance of the questions and problems that beset us—we need to trace their sources and their history. Because ideas are expressed in social and political institutions as well as in philosophical, scientific, religious, and literary works, the program in the history of ideas (HOID) is distinguished by its multidisciplinary approach. Because political structures and institutions are themselves articulated in vigorous intellectual debates, we need to understand the ideas that have formed and that continue to form them. HOID proposes to provide students with the historical background of the issues and values that have shaped their interests. The program is intended to provide students with the skills and the knowledge, the guidance and the freedom to construct a focused and rigorous course of study, one that explores the historical transformation of a set of ideas and institutions across several traditional disciplines.

How to Become a Minor

In order to declare a minor, students should meet with the undergraduate advising head of the program, who will help them to plan a course of study tailored to their intellectual needs while meeting core and elective requirements.


Bernard Yack, Chair

David Engerman

Richard Gaskins
(American Studies)

Susan Lanser
(Comparative Literature; English and American Literature; Women's and Gender Studies)

Robin Feuer Miller
(German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literature)

David Powelstock
(German, Russian, and Asian Languages and Literature)

Michael Randall, Undergraduate Advising Head
(Romance Studies)

Eugene Sheppard
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

Requirements for the Minor

The minor has three requirements:

A. Two history of ideas seminars. Two such seminars will be offered each term. Topics and faculty for the seminars will change each year. The following seminars will be offered in the spring 2010 semester:

NEJS 154a (World without God: Theories of Secularization), Mr. Sheppard (Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

PHIL 122a (The History of Ethics), Ms. Moran (Philosophy)

B.  Three courses selected in consultation with the HOID undergraduate adviser, at least two of which will be taken in departments or programs beyond the student’s major(s). When joining the program, students will write a brief statement explaining the intellectual relationships that connect the subject matter of these three courses. Only one course from a student’s major—or one from each major, in the case of double majors—may be counted toward the total of five courses required for the minor.

C.  Students will present a substantial research paper or project to HOID faculty and students at a spring colloquium. This paper or project may develop out of work done in a history of ideas seminar, but it can also be drawn from independent research, such as a senior thesis or independent study, or from other work that students have done since coming to Brandeis. The colloquium is designed to give students the opportunity to engage with each other about their creative work at Brandeis.

Courses of Instruction

(1-99) Primarily for Undergraduate Students

HOID 98a Independent Study
Usually offered every year.

HOID 98b Independent Study
Usually offered every year.

History of Ideas Seminars

PHIL 122a History of Ethics
[ hum ]
Explores several major ethical traditions in the history of modern philosophy/ Examines the natural law theories of Hobbes and Grotius; moral sense theory; Kantianism; utilitarianism; and Nietzsche's response to these traditional moral theories. Usually offered every third year.
Ms. Moran