SSI1 111

Life, Death, and Meaning

This course is devoted to a number of philosophical issues surrounding death and the meaning of life. The main focus is a number of existential questions and different attempts, past and present, to answer these questions. The central question of the course is: What gives life meaning? Some philosophers have argued that meaning is to be found in one of the following: the pursuit of pleasure of one's own happiness, the pursuit of justice or the common good, religion, the pursuit of knowledge, the pursuit of some other value (like artistic value or human excellence); while other have argued that life has no meaning (life is absurd). In addition, the following questions are examined: Is freedom of some sort necessary for a meaningful life? Would life have meaning if we lived forever? Is it rational to fear death? Does causing someone to exist always benefit that person? Is letting life go extinct bad? Readings for this course include a number of existentialist writers (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, de Bevouvoir), some excerpts from classic writers (Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus), and a number of contemporary writers (Nagel, Williams, Feldman, Nozick, Parfit, Taylor, Wolf). Affiliate department: Philosophy.