Circus and Philosophy

How is juggling like being a good person? What can the trapeze tell us about truth? What does circus have to do with the self?

In 2017, I started a novel project of combing physical movement, performance, and the circus arts with philosophical study with the creation of my course PHI 193 Circus and Philosophy. Intended for the philosophical novice who is also cirque-curious, this course uses circus as a springboard for philosophical inquiry.

This innovative course is ​FULLY participatory. Students don’t just learn about the circus, they learn how to circus. Each full week is divided into two classes: one in which students learn a specific circus skill, such as aerial arts, juggling, or acro-balancing, and another in which students investigate various philosophical topics in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and more.

Don’t know how to juggle? Don’t know who Descartes is or what he said? No worries. No background in either circus arts or philosophy is required. A sense of wonder, a healthy curiosity about the world, and an appetite for adventure are strongly encouraged.

Recently, a large gym space for this class has been funded for structural upgrades to accommodate multiple aerial apparatuses and circus equipment, allowing students greater room for movement and artistic exploration, and opening up the possibility for interdisciplinary participation in the circus arts and philosophy. This class will next run fall 2020.

You can read a bit more about the class here.

You can read some of the topics we’ve covered (to be updated each run of the class) HERE.