The Human Compass

The Institute of Art and Ideas


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In a world ruled by profits and productivity, the moral values that previously guided us on how to live are being replaced by the motives of the market. But with environmental destruction and rising inequality our need to ethical guidance is more urgent than ever. Do we need to revive the role of the inner voice of conscience? Could attunement to our human compass guide us towards the good life, even when it directs us to challenge the basic conventions of society?

Novelist and philosopher Janne Teller argues for the revitalisation of individual conscience in the face of the contemporary world.

In this course, Janne Teller will argue that:

An ethical human compass is inherent to all human beings.
Capitalism, technology and globalisation are skewing this compass.
Sensual experience is under attack, undermining our ability to empathise.
Literature is central to rediscovering empathy.
Kant’s categorical imperative should serve as guide for action.
Only through compassion and humanity an ethical community might be possible.

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What you'll learn on the course

Human compass

Course programme

  • Part One: Lost in the WorldWhere have we gone wrong in the modern world? Teller argues that under capitalism and globalisation we have lost our sense of morality.
  • Part Two: The Road AheadWithout shared moral laws how can we discriminate right from wrong? Teller shows how we can cultivate our inner human compass.

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About the Instructor
  • Janne Teller

    Janne Teller is a celebrated novelist and essayist, having previously worked as a macroeconomist for the United Nations and the European Union. Despite being initially banned, her novel Nothing has won numerous awards in various languages. Teller’s work is often aimed at young adults, and belongs to the existentialist tradition. As well as dealing with contemporary philosophical issues, her work covers political themes from the challenges of refugees to the dangers of mass surveillance.