Greek philosopher Socrates was killed in Athens because he asked difficult questions of people, said Daniel Hutto.
"Just like you want to ask me difficult questions," the head of the School of Liberal Arts at the University of Wollongong said to this Mercury reporter.
But Professor Hutto said this to emphasise his point about cherishing a society that allows freedom of discussion.
He said this is exactly what the "controversial but important" Western civilisation degree he designed and runs, encourages its students to do.
"Things that are important are controversial," Prof Hutto said.
"Disagreement is a good thing, it is not a bad thing. We don't want to kill off disagreement or get one coloured vision of things - that's horrible. Nobody wants that, that is oppression."
This week the director of the school's Western civilisation program played Socrates to almost 40 students, the first to begin the university's controversial Ramsay Centre-funded course.
"This is a unique course. I don't know if there is any other course that does a philosophical look at non philosophical text," Prof Hutto said.
"In philosophy we don't normally read poetry and books like the Bible or the Quran.
"People are saying you are teaching stuff that has been taught for ages but they haven't read the full material.
"The soundbite era is not good for getting at the truth of this course. It is too interesting and too unique."
In week two, students will discuss the controversy surrounding their own course, and debate whether it is appropriate to study Western civilisation at all. "They will write their own critical review on this," he said.
"There is no sense in which they have to agree that it is a good idea."
Some 30 of the students have a $30,000 scholarship from the Ramsay Centre, which has provided $50 million to fund the course. The most intense learning will happen in small tutorials after the main lectures, in which eight students will question each others' views on the texts.
"People have got a vision of what this course is and it is not even close to the truth," Prof Hutto said.
"It is about getting the students to think better and one way of thinking better is not thinking you know it all.
"We want to train our students to think really well and carefully so they can present a balanced view.
"We are giving them the tools to think like this."
The Ramsay Centre offered funding for three universities to run degrees in Western civilisation.
After more than two years, and failed negotiations with two of the country's top institutions, it has signed agreements with UOW, the University of Queensland, and the Australian Catholic University.
Prof Hutto has been busy planning and preparing the course but he hasn't escaped the controversy over the past year following the university's decision to accept the Ramsay Centre's donation.
"[Critics] say it is all about ideology and politics but not for me, it's all about these great books," he said.