June 1st & 2nd
We live in a world of abundant possibility. More than at any other time in history, people are free to choose how to live. But with this luxury of choice comes the burden of decision. How do I know if I’m living right? And how might I find meaning in my life at all?
In the first half of this course, we confront the question of meaning head-on. We examine arguments that life is fundamentally absurd and consider proposals for how we might find meaning in the modern world. In the second half of the course, we look at thinkers who draw inspiration from ancient traditions and adapt them to the demands of the modern world.
This course is designed to be accessible to people with no prior training in philosophy. Some of the texts are difficult, and university-level English reading skills are an asset, but video lectures and reading guides are designed to make these texts accessible.
We will meet on ten consecutive weekdays (plus a first organizational meeting). There are three class meeting times:
Each class is 75 minutes long and will be supplemented by a 40–60 minute video lecture and short reading guide made available in advance.
Each week we will read a selected text, usually between 20 and 30 pages long. Readings will be made available in PDF format through the course website.
Week 0 June 1/2: Organizational meeting
Week 1 June 8/9: The absurd: Albert Camus and Thomas Nagel
Week 2 June 15/16: Existentialism: Jean-Paul Sartre
Week 3 June 22/23: The sovereignty of good: Iris Murdoch
Week 4 June 29/30: Meaning in life: Susan Wolf
Week 5 July 6/7: Games and utopia: Bernard Suits
Week 6 July 13/14: Beauty and God: Simone Weil
Week 7 July 20/21: Nonviolence: Mahatma Gandhi
Week 8 July 27/28: Engaged Buddhism: Thich Nhat Hanh
Week 9 August 3/4: Japanese aesthetics: Yuriko Saito
Week 10 August 10/11: An indigenous approach to global crisis: E. Richard Atleo