Photo by Beverly Illich
Illich Seminar and Course Description

Some have said that a most important initial act for persons today is to ask good questions. We are often tempted, when listening to someone or reading an article or book, to think: This person is not asking the right question. We've come to believe, however, that the issue is not one of rightness or wrongness, but of what is good, beautiful, truthful.

Through many articles, books, talks and conversations, Ivan Illich dedicated himself to asking good questions. At times, he characterized his efforts as challenging modern certainties. For example, is medicine, whether allopathic or some variety of alternative, a good? Is to live as homo economicus a blessing or a curse?

The action itself assumes that the person today is still human an assumption appearing increasingly less tenable as all people in the modern sectors of society are categorized, treated, modeled, constructed as non-human by the service professionals responsible for their well being. We propose to examine selected essays of Illich in light of the questions he posed as to realistic possibilities of service and responsibility in such a society.

Three persons will direct the project:

Peter Bohn, Lee Hoinacki, Alex Wood

The seminar takes place over a period of three to four days at Deep Springs College, between Sept 15th and Oct 15th (exact dates to be determined).


Day one: “Introduction to the Life and Work of Ivan Illich”. Lee Hoinacki, Peter Bohn, and Alex Wood. The seminar offered for the entire Deep Springs community will provide an overview of the biography of Ivan Illich as well as a discussion of the central themes of his published work. This is intended as a non-credit activity.

Day two to four: For those seeking in depth reading and discussion of some key concepts of Illich’s work, a series of presentations and discussions will be conducted in the remaining period of the seminar. It is proposed the entire seminar be offered for one academic credit.

Requirements for the seminar consist of reading the following essays by Illich:

- "Health As One's Own Responsibility"; - "Needs"; - "Disabling Professions"; - "The Three Dimensions of Social Choice;" - “Disabling Market Intensity.”

In addition the essay "Reflections on Health” by Lee Hoinacki will also be required.

Further suggested reading of Illich follows:

- "Gender;" - “In the Mirror of the Past” - “Shadow Work”

Those seeking credit must prepare a paper, a reflection on the seminar, to be at least ten pages long. Alex Wood, Lee Hoinacki and Peter Bohn will read and comment upon the papers.

The project directors will make available to students the essays and books listed above and will be available via email to answer questions students may have about the reading both before and after their visit to Deep Springs.


Born in Vienna in 1926, Illich grew up in south-central Europe. He studied theology, philosophy, history and natural science, and held several degrees. During the 1950s, he worked as a parish priest among Puerto Ricans in New York City, and was then appointed vice-rector of the Catholic University in Ponce, Puerto Rico. In the late 1950s, he founded a center for cross- cultural communication at the university.

In 1961, he established new centers in Cuernavaca, Mexico, and Petropolis, Brazil. He withdrew from the direction of the Brazilian Center in 1967, and closed the Mexican one in 1976. In the late 1970s, he divided his time between Mexico, the United States and Germany. In the United States, he taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Penn State University for a short period each year. In Germany, he taught at various universities, and for a dozen years before his death in 2002 taught one semester each year at the University of Bremen.

Illich's radical anarchist views first became widely known through a set of four books published during the early 1970s: Deschooling Society (1971), Tools for Conviviality (1973), Energy and Equity (1974), and Medical Nemesis (1976). Tools is the most general statement of Illich's ideas on industrial society. The other three volumes expand on examples sketched there in order to critique what he calls "radical monopoly" and "counterproductivity" found in the technologies of education, energy production and consumption, and the medical system. This critique applies equally to both the so-called developed and the developing worlds, but in different ways to each.

Two subsequent collections of occasional pieces -Toward A History of Needs (1978) and Shadow Work (1981) - stress the distorting influence on society and culture of the economics of scarcity, or the presumption that economies function to remedy scarcities rather than to share goods. Shadow Work also initiates a project in the historical archeology of ideas that takes its first full-bodied shape in Gender (1982), an attempt to recover social experiences of female/male complementarity. Here, Illich establishes the conditions for the emergence of a modern economic regime. H2O and the Waters of Forgetfulness (1985) extends this project into a history of "stuff."

ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind, written with Barry Sanders (1988) carries Illich's work forward into the area of literacy, as does another book, In the Vineyard of the Text (1993). In the Mirror of the Past (1992) is a collection of essays and talks from the 1980s, linking his concerns with economics, education, history, and the new ideological meaning of "life." Another volume of essays is now being prepared.

Illich himself was a polymath who spoke several languages fluently, and who wrote in three (English, German, and Spanish). His work has been translated into more than fifteen others. One can interpret all of Illich's books in terms of apophatic theology.

After his death on December 2, 2002, obituaries appeared in many countries. For example, Jerry Brown noted that: "With acute clarity and sense of irony, he undermined, in all that he wrote, the uncontested certitudes of modern society" (Utne Reader). The Guardian of London stated that Illich was "one of the world's great thinkers, a polymath whose output covered vast terrains." Thierry Paquot, in Le Monde (Paris), wrote that "There is no doubt about his influence, however hard it may be to evaluate, as can be seen from the popularity of his ideas and the references to his work in bibliographies." ABOUT THE PRINCIPALS

Lee Hoinacki worked closely with Ivan Illich over a period of 40 years collaborating with him on many of the texts forming the basis of the Illich bibliography. Peter Bohn studied with Dr. Illich and had the pleasure of hosting the Illich “Living Room Seminars” from 1990-1996 during the period Dr. Illich lectured at Penn State. Alex Wood, currently a student of philosophy and literature at the University of Pennsylvania, forms with Lee and Peter the core of a reading group exploring topics in philosophy and literature. In the past year the group has explored the philosophy of Simone Weil, Emmanuel Levinas and Ivan Illich.

Lee Hoinacki

Born Lincoln, IL, USA, April 3, 1928. Grammar and High School, Lincoln, IL.

Military Service: USMC, 1946-1948. Honorable Discharge.

B.A. Providence College, Providence, R.I. (Philosophy)

M.A. UCLA (Latin American Studies)

M.A. UCLA (Political Science)

Ph.D. UCLA (Political Science)

Lic. Dominican House of Studies, Washington, D.C. (Theology)

Languages: English, Spanish, Latin, French, German.


1959-1967. Clergyman, New York City, Chile, Mexico.

1964-1967. Staff. CIDOC, Cuernavaca, Mexico.

1970-1971. Research Dir, CLAVE, Caracas, Venezuela.

1971-1978. Assoc. Prof., Sangamon State University, Springfield, Illinois.

1978-present. Self-employed.

Part-time teaching:

Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, IL.;

Penn State University, University Park, PA.;

University of Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany;

University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany;

Traditional Acupuncture Institute, Columbia, MD.

Various published articles, available on request.

Books: El Camino: Walking to Santiago de Compostela (University Park: Penn State Press, 1996).

StumblingToward Justice. Stories of Place (University Park: Penn State Press, 1999).

The Challenges of Ivan Illich, editor, with Carl Mitcham (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002).


1429 N. 11th Street Philadelphia, PA 19122-3410 215-763-1305

Alexander Wood

M.L.A. University of Pennsylvania – Master of Liberal Arts (est. completion Aug 2005)

B.A. Haverford College - magna cum laude (May 1999).


2002 – present. Project Manager and Application Developer, HTH Worldwide Inc., Radnor, PA

1999-2002. Information Technology Manager and Analyst, America's Choice Healthplans, King of Prussia, PA

Activities and Honors

Elected to Phi Beta Kappa honor society

Elwyn Inc., Media, PA – Mental Health Worker (September 1999-Present). Worked with children with emotional and behavioral problems and their families in locations throughout the city of Philadelphia.

The Empowerment Group, Philadelphia, PA (November 2001 – March 2002) Provided management and strategic consulting services to non-profit organization in Philadelphia dedicated to promoting economic growth in economically disadvantaged neighborhood.

AIDS Service Network, Haverford College - Co-Chairperson (1996-1997)

Varsity Lacrosse, Haverford College (1996-1999)


2044 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19146

Peter Bohn

Born Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA, ,1955.

B.A. The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (Arts and Sciences)

B.S. The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (Agronomy)

M.S. University of Georgia, Athens, GA (Agronomy)

Ph. D. The Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA (Agronomy)


1997-present Director of Information Technology. HTH Worldwide, Inc. Radnor, PA

1989-1997 Senior Associate, Agronomy Department, The Pennsylvania State University

1978-1981 Staff, Luzerne County Community College/Human Resources Development Dept.

Teaching Experience

Science, Technology and Society Department, College of Engineering, The Pennsylvania State University

Agronomy Department, College of Agriculture, The Pennsylvania State University,

Penn State Cooperative Extension, The Pennsylvania State University


12 Summit Drive Bryn Mawr, PA 19010