Paris: Formation of Knowledge

Interior view of the monument

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The College’s new Winter quarter Formation of Knowledge sequence in Paris is offered in partnership with the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge.

    The Institute on the Formation of Knowledge (IFK) was founded in 2015 with the mission of uniting scholars from a variety of fields to study the process of knowledge formation and transmittal from antiquity to the present day and, in correlation, to explore how this history shapes the modern world. IFK faculty members are committed to investigating all aspects of the processes by which cultures claim to know what they know. Where are the boundaries between knowledge and belief? What techniques do cultures deploy to encode and verify information, and how do technological developments impinge on these areas? What awareness do societies show regarding what is contingent about their deepest commitments? These questions may be put historically and cross-culturally. They also need urgently to be posed about those who work in notionally rational modern institutions, such as the university and the lab.

    At the core of this program is the three-course KNOW sequence (cross-listed with a variety of departments), compressed into the nine weeks of Winter quarter. Program participants also take a French language course, which runs at a normal pace through the quarter and is designed to help students connect with French (and Parisian) culture.

    In addition to classroom instruction, the program features a number of excursions to sites of considerable historic and cultural interest both within and in the vicinity of Paris.

    The following courses will be taught in the Winter 2025 program:

    • Haun Saussy: Paris in the 1670s: Quantities and Qualities   
      KNOW 28100   
      The decade of the 1670s saw an astonishing convergence of brilliant people in Paris. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Christian Huygens, Nicolas Malebranche, Antoine Arnauld, and others met and debated mathematical concepts, logic, engineering (calculating machines in particular), microscopy, theology, and world peace. Some of these were also in contact with Baruch Spinoza by letter. In the salons, men and women, nobles and bourgeois, clerics and secular people conversed about matters of general interest (that is, not likely to involve politics or religion): art, history, and aesthetics. Taking Leibniz, a newcomer to the city, as our center of consciousness, we will explore the connections among art, literature, diplomacy, the investigation of antiquity, mathematics, and philosophy, seeking connections most energetically where they are not obvious. One of Leibniz’s Paris discoveries, the integral calculus, will furnish a proposed common metaphor to cover these activities. Readings will include: Madame de Lafayette, La Princesse de Clèves; Charles Perrault, Contes de ma mère l’Oye; materials from the “quarrel over Alceste”; d’Aubignac, Conjectures académiques ou Discours sur Homère; Leibniz, mathematical papers, “De summa rerum,” and Theodicée.
    • Anastasia Giannakidou: Language, Truth and Rhetoric   
      KNOW 28810, LING 28810   
      Language is a powerful tool for communication that operates through various channels including private and public forms of communication such as mass and social media, political, literary, and scientific discourses. It is generally accepted that the way speakers choose to describe something reveals their stance toward truth as well as their rhetorical intention about the message. Successful communication requires maximum efficiency, and as speakers choose their words, audiences recognize the intentions behind them and form veridicality judgments (e.g., judgments about the truthfulness or falsehood of the content conveyed). Veridicality judgments are based on knowledge, beliefs, experiences, and ideology (i.e., a set of fixed and non-negotiable beliefs). Non-negotiable beliefs can distort the veridicality judgment and potentially damage the relation to truth. The class includes some classical readings from Plato’s Cratylus, Gorgias and Aristotle’s Rhetoric, as well as more contemporary readings (Giannakidou and Mari 2021, A linguistic framework for knowledge, belief and veridicality judgment). We also discuss ideological distortion in psychological language as it appears in the phenomenon of concept creep (Haslam 2016), where meaning is extended in warranted or unwarranted ways to manipulate emotion.
    • Dario Maestripieri: Scientific and Humanistic Contributions to Knowledge Formation   
      KNOW 28015, HIPS 27015, CHDV 27015   
      In this course, we explore whether the sciences and the humanities can make complementary contributions to the formation of knowledge, thus leading to the integration and unification of human knowledge. In the first part of the course we take a historical approach to the issue; we discuss how art and science were considered complementary for much of the 18th and 19th century, how they became separate (‘the two cultures’) in the middle of the 20th century with the compartmentalization of academic disciplines, and how some attempts have recently been made at a reunification under the concept of ‘consilience’. In the second part of the course, we focus on conceptual issues such as the cognitive value of literature, the role of ideas in knowledge formation in science and literature, the role of creativity in scientific and literary production, and how scientific and philosophical ideas have been incorporated into literary fiction in the genre known as ‘the novel of ideas’.

    All participants also take a French language course.

    Headquarters for the College’s study abroad programs in Paris is the University of Chicago Center in Paris, the University’s research and teaching arm in Europe. Situated in the thirteenth arrondissement, the Center in Paris is part of an ambitious intellectual project along the river Seine, including the Bibliothèque Nationale and a new home for Université Paris Cité. The Center in Paris features classrooms, offices for faculty and graduate students, computer facilities, a small library, and an apartment for the faculty director. For participants in Chicago’s programs, the Center in Paris provides a focus for academic activities, a central meeting place, and a continuing Chicago “presence” within one of the major capitals of Europe.

    Students in the Formation of Knowledge program are housed in a residence hall within the Cité Internationale Universitaire (Cité). The Cité, a park-like residential complex in the fourteenth arrondissement, is the international student campus in Paris, though French students also live there. Students reside in single rooms with a private bath and have access to Cité facilities, including a library, theater, laundry, and athletic facilities. Students will have access to common kitchens in the residence halls and can purchase inexpensive meals at the Cité’s restaurant universitaire.

    It is important to recognize the cultural context of student housing in France and understand that the amenities of dormitory facilities may vary. Although some of these differences may take some getting used to, remember that cultural differences extend to all aspects of your experience abroad. Having realistic expectations for your term in Paris will help you approach the study abroad experience with a positive attitude.

    Participants in the Paris: Formation of Knowledge program remain registered as full-time students in the College. They receive one credit for each of the four courses offered through the program. The non-language courses have been pre-approved for use in their respective programs of study. The use of any of these courses in another program of study is subject to the approval of the undergraduate chair of the respective department. All courses are usable, without further approval, as general electives. The language course will normally count as an elective. Course titles, units of credit, and grades are placed on the College transcript.

    Study abroad students pay regular College tuition, a program fee, and a nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee. The tuition and program fee are paid in conformity with the home campus payment schedule, and the nonrefundable study abroad administrative fee is submitted when accepting a place in a program. Precise figures for the Formation of Knowledge program during the 2024–2025 year are listed below:

    Winter tuition: as set by the Bursar’s Office

    Study abroad administrative fee: $675

    Paris Formation of Knowledge program fee: $5,960

    Program fee includes:

    Out-of-pocket expenses include:

    • round-trip airfare to and from the program site
    • passport/visa fees
    • transportation on site
    • meals
    • course materials
    • personal entertainment and travel
    • communications (including cell phone usage)
    • health insurance and upfront payments for care
    • other miscellaneous expenses  

    Previous program participants report spending in the range of $200 to $250 per week on meals and incidentals while on the program, though frugal students may spend less, and others could spend much more. Bear in mind that the cost of living in Paris is relatively high and that, while it is possible to live frugally, it is also possible to run short of money if you are unwary. It is therefore essential that you budget your funds prudently, apportioning your resources so that they last for the duration of the program. If you are planning to travel before or after the program or on weekends, you should budget accordingly.

    Study abroad students retain their financial aid eligibility. For more information about financial aid resources, please see our Tuition, Fees, and Funding section.

    The Formation of Knowledge program in Paris is open to University of Chicago undergraduate students only. Applications from outside the University are not accepted.

    The program is designed for undergraduates in good academic and disciplinary standing who are beyond their first year in the College. While the program stipulates no minimum grade-point average, an applicant’s transcript should demonstrate that they are a serious student who will make the most of this opportunity. Because the program courses (aside from the French class) are taught in English, there is no language prerequisite, although students are encouraged to take French on campus before the program begins.

    Each application is examined on the basis of the student’s scholastic record and personal statement. If you are interested in applying for this program please fill out the online application.

    To discuss the Formation of Knowledge program in Paris and the possibility of participating, please contact Damaris Crocker De Ruiter.