Top 13

Fundamentals questions

Claire Zulkey

In 1983 the University introduced a major in the New Collegiate Division called fundamentals: issues and texts. Each fundamentals student must posit a “richly informed question or concern” that will guide the next few years of study (interested students are advised to apply by spring quarter of their first year to maximize their study time).

“Fundies” students strive to answer the big question with a junior paper and senior examination. Here are just some that have been asked, and possibly answered, by current students:

1. Can you be a good person without being compassionate?

2. Why do we read tragedy?

3. Is there a just suicide?

4. What is the Divine/Is God really dead?

5. Why are democracies dangerous?

6. Why do we want to belong?

7. What is a father?

8. What’s funny?

9. Why do we create?

10. What makes prose beautiful?

11. Where do stories come from?

12. Why do we create our memories?

13. Why is man so inclined to categorizations and systems?


"Picking my question was pretty easy," says fundamentals major Hannah Gitlin, class of 2016 (far right). "Answering it is, of course, the hard part." (Photography by Gordon Lew, AB’15, courtesy UChicago College)