Online Classes

This autumn’s online class, “How Should We Live? Answers from the Ancient World” (see below) is already underway and closed to new students. I plan to offer a new series of courses in January. Register your interest or reach out with questions.

How Should We Live?

Answers from the ancient world

David Egan has a DPhil in Philosophy from the University of Oxford and has taught philosophy and the humanities at Oxford, the University of Chicago, McMaster University, and Hunter College (CUNY).


I show up to every class in utter awe. Professor Egan is a true scholar who radiates enthusiasm for the subject material. He makes incredibly complex philosophy digestible and even more interesting through his articulate and animated lecture skills. Undoubtedly my favorite professor and its a true honor to be able to get to work with someone so gifted.

– A student from Hunter College (CUNY)

Professor Egan has been the best professor I’ve met at the university so far. He is very efficient with how he uses class time and I feel like we covered a lot of ground while still working closely with each text. During discussions, he challenged the class to think about the text in unfamiliar ways by asking careful questions.

– A student from the University of Chicago

Honestly the best course that I’ve taken in undergrad. Forced me to question things in my life that needed addressing.

– A student from McMaster University

Professor Egan is an amazing instructor who takes the time to listen and discuss ideas and thoughts with his students in a meaningful and constructive way. He shows a strong desire to make sure his students not only succeed but grow and love the material.

– A student from the University of Chicago

Professor Egan might be among the best, if not the best, professors I have had. He is remarkably gifted at making enormously difficult concepts and arguments cogent, accessible, and exciting.

– A student from Hunter College (CUNY)

A ten-week online course on the philosophy and wisdom of the ancient world

The middle centuries of the first millennium BCE were a time of radical upheaval in civilizations across Eurasia. Philosophers and sages from Greece to China challenged traditional modes of thought and worked to imagine radically new ways that individuals and society might flourish. We, too, find ourselves in a time of upheaval—politically, environmentally, and now coping with the shock of a global pandemic. In this course, we will read some of those ancient texts with modern eyes and ask whether the answers those thinkers found might fruitfully apply to some of the questions we face today. We will consider texts and authors from ancient Greece (Plato, Aristotle, Sextus Empiricus, Diogenes of Sinope), India (the Upaniṣads and the Buddha), and China (Confucius and Zhuangzi) that ask probing questions about what it means to be human and how we can find peace and happiness in a turbulent world.

Course Schedule

Course material for registered participants (password protected)

We will meet on ten consecutive Wednesdays (plus a first organizational meeting). There are two class meeting times:

• 11am Pacific/2pm Eastern/7pm UK
• 6pm Pacific/9pm Eastern

Each class is one hour long and will be supplemented by a video lecture made available in advance.

Week 0 (Sept. 23): Organizational meeting

Week 1 (Sept. 30): “The unexamined life is not worth living”: Plato’s Apology

Week 2 (Oct. 7): The characteristic activity of human beings: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

Week 3 (Oct. 14): The highest human good: Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

Week 4 (Oct. 21): Suspending judgment and finding peace: Sextus Empiricus’s Outlines of Pyrrhonism

Week 5 (Oct. 28): Quarrelling monkeys and butterfly dreams: Zhuangzi’s “On Equalizing Things”

Week 6 (Nov. 4): Finding the true self: the Katha Upaniṣad

Week 7 (Nov. 11): Finding there’s no self: the Buddha’s Anattalakkhaṇa Sutta

Week 8 (Nov. 18): Suffering, its origin, its cessation, and the Path: the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

Week 9 (Nov. 25): Cultivating human nature: the Confucian ideal of the gentleman

Week 10 (Dec. 2): Cultivating natural humans: Zhuangzi, Diogenes the Cynic, and the repudiation of cultural convention