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PHI 91 — The Meaning of Life

Quarter: Summer
Day(s): Wednesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 23—Aug 25
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jun 25
Units: 2
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): Frederick M. Dolan
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jun 23—Aug 25
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jun 25
2 Units
Frederick M. Dolan
Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
What is the meaning of life? Always worth asking, the question is especially urgent given the public health emergencies and political crises of the past year. It invites religious and spiritual answers. But it’s also a problem that philosophers try to approach systematically. Søren Kierkegaard finds meaning in the self’s ability to connect the temporal to the eternal, while Martin Heidegger locates it in our way of living with death. Political theorist Hannah Arendt draws attention to the democratic public sphere, where citizens exchange views about the significance of their words and deeds. Existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus explore how individual integrity is achieved by facing up to a universe devoid of objective purpose. Ralph Waldo Emerson celebrates the experience of wholeness that nature provides to those who free themselves from the restrictions of society, Friedrich Nietzsche recommends approaching life as a work of art, and Susan Wolf identifies activities in which subjective passion meets objective value.

We’ll explore these ideas and more. The course won’t provide any easy answers to the question of the meaning of life, but it will provide an opportunity to improve your ability to ask and answer it for yourself.

Professor of Rhetoric, Emeritus, UC Berkeley

Frederick M. Dolan’s interests include political and moral philosophy, theories of interpretation, and aesthetics and the philosophy of art. He received a PhD from Princeton.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling (ISBN 0140444491)
(Required) Friedrich Nietzsche, The Joyous Science (ISBN 0141195398)
(Required) Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (ISBN 014044923X)