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In search of Principles for a Life Philosophy: Lessons from Art, History and Economics (19CBA75002)

General information






S semester

ECTS Credits:


Teaching Staff:

Group Teacher Department Language
Marc Vilanova Pichot Ciencias Sociales ENG
Ferran Macipe Catalán Ciencias Sociales ENG


A desire for personal improvement from a humanistic point of view.

Previous Knowledge

None is required.

Workload distribution

A weekly reading of about 40 minutes, followed by a brief thread online regarding the student's first impression on the reading (to be further discussed in class).

A final essay to be turned in within 10 days after the end of the course

Course Learning Objectives

The purpose of this course is to provide students with a time and a space for humanistic growth and learning. It is our belief that humanistic learning leads also to the improvement of professional capabilities. More cultivated human beings make better managers, professors, researchers, etc.

The specific learning objectives of the course are:
. to learn to extract useful lessons from ideas and experiences
. to encourage our desire to read and to expand our humanistic knowledge
. to cultivate our appreciation for literature and art
. to broaden our historical awareness


1. Introduction. Crises and bubbles under Capitalism

2. Counterculture through the ages

3. Measuring economic well-being and social progress

4. Einstein's mistakes

5. Solving unemployment: The handshake approach

6. The Age of cooperation

7. The birth of cinema and the art of Charles Chaplin

8. The US vs. China: Financial dispute over the yuan

9. Explorers

Relation between Activities and Contents

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Class participation                  
Threads on the readings                  
Final essay: "A Letter to Myself"                  


A variety of subjects will be explained and discussed, both as a source of knowledge in themselves and, more importantly, as a springboard for another level of learning: to reflect on a set of principles with which to navigate successfully through life's dilemmas and uncertainties.

Each session will be devoted to a specific topic of artistic, economic or historical importance. The focus of the lecture will be to explain the context, causes, consequences, artistic movement to which it belongs or economic theory that explains it. Next, moving from large to small and from general to personal, a discussion will ensue to try to extract, with everyone's insight, a lesson or a principle enlightening and useful enough for us to want to remember and include in our "life philosophy". The discussions will be enriched with the ideas obtained from a reading assignment: a short story by some of Literature's classic writers (Flaubert, Tolstoi, Twain, Poe, Tagore, Mansfield, Dostoievski, Cortázar, etc).

Each participant will be able to draw his or her own conclusions, but an important part of the course will be the discussions to try to agree on a common list of principles that we consider useful for living a fulfilling life. The discussions will be very open and will adhere to only one requirement: that all thoughts and proposals are guided by a desire for self-improvement



Description %
Class participation 35
Threads on the readings 35
Final essay: "A Letter to Myself" 30

Assessment criteria

The evaluation system is designed to assess students' commitment to the course, through a) depth and effort in individual assignments and b) contribution to a class atmosphere in which both doubt and reflection are shared.


. Akerlof G. and Shiller R., Animal Spirits, Princeton University Press, 2009
. Assa J., "Financialization and its Consequences?, Finance Reesearch, January 2012
. Barber B., Consumed, Norton & Company, 2007
. Bowles, Edwards and Roosevelt, Understanding Capitalism, Oxford University, 2005
. Boyd, Hu and Jagannathan, "The Stock Market's Reaction to Unemployment News?, Journal of Finance, April 2005
. Christensen, Marx and Stevenson, "The Tools of Cooperation and Change?, Harvard Business Review, October 2006
. Diamond J., Arms, Germs and Steel, Vintage Bools, 2006
. Goffman K., Counterculture Through the Ages, Villard Books, 2005
. Hausmann, Hidalgo et al., Atlas of Economic Complexity,, 2011
. Johnson S., "The Quiet Coup?, The Atlantic, May 2009
. Keynes J.M., The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Harvest, 1936
. Macionis J., Sociology, Pearson, 13th edition, 2009
. Ohanian H.C, Eintein's Mistakes, Norton & Company, 2009
. Reich R., Supercapitalism, Vintage, 2008
. Roach S., "Global Rebalancing: the US-China Dimension, The Globalist, 2010
. Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi, Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress,, September 2009
. Waldman S., The Information Needs of Communities, FCC, July 2011

Literature excerpts read in class:
. Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, Simone de Beauvoir
. Selected Poems, Emily Dickinson
. Flaubert in Egypt, Gustave Flaubert
. Bouvard et Pécuchet, Gustave Flaubert
. The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters, G. Flaubert and George Sand
. Steppenwolf, Hermann Hesse
. Diaries, Frank Kafka
. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
. Apology: On the Death of Socrates, Plato
. Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
. The Confessions, Jean-Jacques Rousseau
. The Words, Jean-Paul Sartre
. A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy, Laurence Sterne
. Walden, H.D. Thoreau
. A Confession, Lev Tolstoi
. The Light Shines in Darkness, Lev Tolstoi
. Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman
. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Wolf
. Joseph Fouché, Stephan Zweig
. Decisive Moments in History, ¿The Battle for the South Pole¿, Stephan Zweig

Filmography used in class:
. L'arrivée d'un train en gare de la Ciotat, Lumière brothers (1896)
. L'Age d'Or, Luís Buñuel (1930)
. The Circus, Charles Chaplin (1928)
. City Lights, Charles Chaplin (1931)
. The Great Dictator, Charles Chaplin (1939)
. Notorious, Alfred Hitchcock (1946)
. The Third Man, Carol Reed (1949)
. Touch of Evil, Orson Welles (1958)
. Le Samourai, Jean-Pierre Melville (1967)
. 2001: A Space Odissey, Stanley Kubrick (1968)
. One Flew Over Cuckoo's Nest, Milos Forman (1975)
. Network, Sidney Lumet (1976)
. Manhattan, Woody Allen (1979)
. Blade Runner, Ridley Scott (1982)
. Thin Red Line, Terrence Malick (1998)
. Dogville, Lars Von Trier (2003)
. The Boss of it All, Lars Von Trier (2006)

Painting references used in class:
. Lucia, Minerva and Europa Anguissola Playing Chess, Sofonisba Anguissola (1555)
. Self- Portrait, Sofonisba Anguissola (1556)
. Infanta Catalina Micaela, Sofonisba Anguissola or El Greco (1580)
. selected street art, Banksy
. House at l'Estaque, Georges Braque (1908)
. The Parable of the Sower, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1557)
. Narcissus, Caravaggio (1597-99)
. Saint Matthew, Caravaggio (1602)
. The Cellist, Marc Chagall (1939)
. Still Life, Paul Cézanne (1879-82)
. Apples and Oranges, Paul Cézanne (1889)
. Man with a Pipe, Gustave Courbet (1849)
. A Burial at Ornans, Gustave Courbet (1850)
. The Wounded Man, Gustave Courbet (1854)
. The Artist¿s Studio, Gustave Courbet (1855)
. The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci (1495-98)
. The Death of Socrates, Jacques-Louis David (1787)
. The Song of Love, Giorgio di Chirico (1914)
. Nude Descending a Staircase, Marcel Duchamp (1912)
. Fountain, Marcel Duchamp (1917)
. Mirabeau Answering Dreux-Brézé, Alexandre Fragonard (1830)
. Interior With Hand Mirror (Self-Portrait), Lucian Freud (1967)
. Reflection (Self-Portrait), Lucian Freud (1985)
. Queen Elizabeth II, Lucian Freud (2001)
. Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, Lucian Freud (1995)
. Saint-Rémy - Road with Cypress and Star, Vincent Van Gogh (1890)
. The Sower, Vincent Van Gogh (1888)
. Group on a Balcony, Goya (1810-15)
. Ferdinand VII of Spain, Goya (1814)
. The Shootings of May 3rd 1808, Goya (1814)
. Self-Portrait, Goya (1815)
. The Giant, Goya (1818)
. Saturn Devouring His Son, Goya (1819-23)
. The Repentent Magdalene, El Greco (1577)
. Early Sunday Morning, Edward Hopper (1930)
. Nighthawks, Edward Hopper (1942)
. Cossacks, Wassilly Kandinsky (1912)
. Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Gustav Klimt (1907)
. Gran Vía, Antonio López (1974-81)
. Madrid desde Torres Blancas, Antonio López (1976-82)
. Attempting the Impossible, René Magritte (1928)
. The Treachery of Images, René Magritte (1929)
. La Clairvoyance, Rene Magritte (1936)
. Black Square, Kazimir Malevic (1915)
. Execution of Maximilian of Mexico, Edouard Manet (1868)
. The Balcony, Edouard Manet (1868-69)
. Monet Working on His Boat, Edouard Manet (1874)
. Interior with a Bowl with Red Fish, Henri Matisse (1914)
. The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo (1508-12)
. The Dying Slave, Michelangelo (1513)
. The Sower, Jean-François Millet (1850)
. Impression, Sunrise, Claude Monet (1872)
. The Scream, Edvard Munch (1893)
. Love and Pain, Edvard Munch (1893-94)
. The Prophet, Emil Nolde (1912)
. Girl With Pigeon, Pablo Picasso (1901)
. Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler, Pablo Picasso (1910)
. Dove With Green Peas, Pablo Picasso (1912)
. Self-Portrait Facing Death, Pablo Picasso (1972)
. Autumn Rhythm, Jackson Pollock (1950)
. One (number 31, 1950), Jackson Pollock (1950)
. Easter and Totem, Jackson Pollock (1953)
. Search, Jackson Pollock (1955)
. Self-Portrait as a Young Man, Rembrandt (1628)
. Bathsheba, Rembrandt (1654)
. Self-Portrait at an Easel, Rembrandt (1669)
. Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, Pierre August Renoir (1876)
. Chained Prometheus, Peter Paul Rubens (1612)
. Saturn Devouring His Son, Peter Paul Rubens (1636)
. Rain Steam and Speed. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1844)
. The water-seller of Seville, Velázquez (1620)
. Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, Jan Vermeer (1659)
. View of Delft, Jan Vermeer (1661)
. cave paintings in Lascaux (France) and Altamira (Spain)

Timetable and sections

Group Teacher Department
Marc Vilanova Pichot Ciencias Sociales
Ferran Macipe Catalán Ciencias Sociales