The Proper Study of Mankind Is Man

COVID-19 update: We hope to hold Toronto Pursuits in July 2021 but are not formally opening registration yet. We will be updating our product pages as we have more information from the University of Toronto and the City of Toronto on indoor gatherings, and from the Canadian and US governments on border and travel updates. We do have a variety of online seminars running now, with new groups starting almost weekly. Thank you for your support!

This seminar is a humble attempt to answer one important question: What is the nature of a human being?

The answers to this question inform our politics, personal relations, religious beliefs, economic systems, history, science and what we see when we look in the mirror.

Our seminar conversations will explore three aspects of human nature: body, mind and soul. Given the breadth of our subject, it’s best that many voices be heard. Candidates for our comparative reading include short, pithy selections by many authors, across several disciplines, stretching from the ancient world to the modern day.

Poems by Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver and Langston Hughes
Philosophical snips by Jean-Paul Sartre, Hannah Arendt, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Simone de Beauvoir, David Hume, Martha Nussbaum, Aristotle and Karl Marx
Psychological writing by Carl Jung and William James
Opera lyrics from video performances of Otello and Rinaldo
Science essays by Charles Darwin and E.O. Wilson
Commentary by Mark Twain and Seneca

Let us tempt you with a bit of Aristotle: “Of all the living beings with which we are acquainted man alone partakes of the divine…”

What the individual readings lack in length, they more than make up for in depth. These thinkers, writers and artists offer up a truckload of important and complex ideas to consider and compare.

And now let me ask how you’d reply to King Lear:

Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owes the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha!… Thou are the thing itself. Unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art.

Read more in my blog post, “Three things extremely hard”.



Gary Schoepfel is a lover of beers, a Wagner enthusiast, kayaker, a reasonably good listener, husband of 45 years, faculty member at Harrison Middleton University, former VP of the Great Books Foundation, and longtime Classical Pursuits leader. He is passionately curious about Mankind and looks forward to this Proper Study.

Gary will distribute, via email, a compendium of the seminar readings.

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Toronto Pursuits 2020