The Agora (about this website)

Stanford’s official motto, “the wind of freedom blows,” engraved in German on the university seal, invites us to ponder freedom in the context of education. What is the relation between freedom and the “liberal” arts? Does study of the past liberate the future’s potential? Is free speech more than a legally protected right? Is it also the fruit of a disciplined cultivation of the virtues that allow republics, with their public spheres of action and self-governance, to thrive through the free exchange of informed opinions with appeal to the law of reason? How does the exercise of freedom in one’s personal choices determine one’s fate as an individual and one’s responsibilities as a citizen – a citizen of one’s community, of one’s nation, and of the world?
the stanford sealThese are some of the questions that were pursued in a course at Stanford University in the Fall Quarter of 2013. “The Wind of Freedom” was offered through the Education as Self-Fashioning program (ESF), which is part of Stanford’s Thinking Matters Program for Freshmen. The course was taught by Robert Pogue Harrison, Rosina Pierotti Professor in Italian Literature, and Inga Pierson, Lecturer in Thinking Matters. This website makes available to the public the remarkable collection of multi-media essays written by the students in the Wind of Freedom course. The essays deal with freedom from one point of view or another, whether they treat civil disobedience, free will, human rights, public speaking, liberal education, feminism, American Transcendentalism, French existentialism, or Immanuel Kant’s theory of Enlightenment. For more information, or for questions about the website, please write to

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