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GED2103 Philosophy and the Meaning of Life: Home

Course Description

What makes a human life meaningful? Does it make sense to talk about ‘the meaning of life’? This course will investigate various philosophical approaches to answering these questions. We will discuss topics including the following: the difference between happiness and meaning, subjective and objective theories of meaning, the relationship between meaning and morality, the shape of a life, human mortality, and love.

Recommended Books

Meaning in Life and Why It Matters

Wolf proposes that meaningfulness in life comes from loving something worthy of love, and being able to engage with it in some positive way. Wolf defines a meaningful life as a life that the subject finds fulfilling and contributes to or connects positively with something the value of which has its source outside the subject. Wolf’s essays on meaning in life are followed by four critical commentaries. Koethe and Adams seek to clarify the subjective and objective elements of meaning in life, while Aapaly and Haidt question the need for criteria of objective value. At the very end of the books is Wolf’s response to these critics.

The Reasons of Love

This book is a brief and provocative thesis on love and its role in guiding conduct. Frankfurt first states that how one should live is not subject to morality, and that caring shapes how one should live. Frankfurt then differentiates between love and caring. Frankfurt summarizes four features of love: a disinterested concern for the well-being or flourishing of the beloved, an intense partiality aroused by the distinct identity of its object, the identification of the lovers with the beloved, and constraints upon the will or even estrangement from volitional control. In the end, Frankfurt argues that self-love is the purest form of love and should not be frowned upon.

Midlife: A Philosophical Guide

This book is a philosophical reflection on the midlife. As for Setiya, the midlife crisis is a special kind of crisis of value. Setiya mainly distinguishes between telic value and the atelic value. The former is the kind of value obtained from advancing toward a goal or accomplishment, and the latter is the kind of value obtained from simply being immersed in an activity. Seitiya argues that one should pursue the atelic value in midlife as a philosophical treatment for the midlife crisis. Setiya also pitches mindfulness meditation as a way of learning to appreciate atelic value.

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