Steve Cohn†

Emeritus Professor of Sociology

B.A. Dartmouth College
Ph.D. Columbia University

  • Why I teach in Honors:

I started teaching in Honors almost by chance. I had recently returned to the University after a two-year stint as a policy analyst at The National Science Foundation. I had been awarded tenure, and I was looking for more challenges in my teaching. I was attracted by the, then, one-year introductory Honors sequence because of the quality of the students and because it contained a number of texts that I thought I ought to read, and, now tenured, would have the time to read.

Although I did not realize it at the time, I was entering a period of my life when the major questions of human existence, centered on the Socratic question “How should we live,” were beginning to matter to me intensely. In college I took a few courses containing material that raised these questions, and the questions did not interest me. At that time I thought there was no point in considering issues that could not be answered definitively, and I was very attracted by empirical research in the social sciences. These attitudes persisted for twenty years.

When I started teaching in Honors, I found that the texts spoke to me in a way I had not expected. I became fascinated by the questions they raised, and these questions have led me on a still continuing intellectual and spiritual journey. This journey has enormously enriched my life and, I hope, has helped me to become a better person.

Teaching in the first and second year sequences in Honors has been a privilege for me as it has allowed me to continuously discuss these questions with bright, thoughtful students whose ideas have frequently forced me to rethink my own positions and whom, perhaps, I have been able to help on their own journeys. A number of these students have become friends. I have also had the privilege of supervising the Honors theses of some outstanding students and serving on the thesis committees of many others and seeing the extraordinary intellectual growth that students are capable of when they feel deeply challenged by a problem and are determined to solve it.

  • Recent Honors lectures:

The Lucifer Effect, Philip Zimbardo (Hon 111)
Second Treatise on Civil Government, John Locke (Hon 211)
The Social Contract and Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Jean Jacques Rosseau (Hon 211)
Zimbardo, Durkheim, Weber (Hon 212)


† Deceased