Welcome to Stevenson Core “Self and Society,” or, as I call it: The Meaning of (Your) Life. We will hold class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Stevenson Fireside Lounge (room 177) from TuTh 9:50 AM – 11:25 AM.
The course is just what it sounds like from the title: a class that explores a range of texts to help you figure out the meaning of life, especially your life. One of the key assumptions of the class is that meaning, or meaningfulness, is a good thing. Having a sense of purpose or direction will help get you through various bumps on life’s road. The question, obviously, is what is that meaning?
It may interest you to know that a former President of the United States once tried to work through the meaning problem on national television (with mixed results):
To help you grapple with this problem, we will read the following books, essays, and documents from world history, in the following order:
Week 0 (9/22) Introduction to the class
Week 1 (9/27): No excuses: the philosophy of Existentialism
“Existentialism,” by Jean Paul Sartre, from your Marino reader.
Week 2 (10/4): Gilgamesh and his search for endless life
“The Epic of Gilgamesh,” Stephen Mitchell edition.
The Epic of Gilgamesh takes place in and around Uruk, which was where? and when? . . . Does Gilgamesh have any sense of the meaning of life?
Week 3 (10/11): Obey the One God
The Book of Genesis and Huston Smith, chapter VII.
October 10th – “Genesis: The Art of Biblical Storytelling,” Bruce Thompson, 7:10 PM, Stevenson Event Center; What does Genesis tell us that our lives should be all about?
Week 4 (10/18): What does God want me to do?
The Book of Matthew; “The Cow” from The Qur’an; Huston Smith, chapters VI and VIII.
Birth of Christianity timeline
Jesus and Mohammed are the final prophets of the Judeo/Christian/Islamic theological succession. What is the life message of this tradition?
Week 5 (10/25): Who is to say what is good?
Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Genealogy of Morals,” from Marino reader.
How did Nietzsche turn the concepts of “good” and “evil” on their heads? What can we learn from him? Do we want to learn anything from him?
October 24th – “Saying YES! to Life,” Andrew Schafer on Nietzsche, 7:10 PM, Stevenson Event Center
Second core paper due Thursday, October 27.
Plato, “Euthyphro” from The Dialogues
What was the meaning of life for Socrates? What did Socrates think we should all be doing?
Week 7 (11/8): Taoism, the heavenly connection
Is there a “way to the universe”? If so, how can we find it?
Huston Smith, chapter V and the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu
Bhadavad Gita and Huston Smith, chapter II
Is our meaning fated for us? If so, can we live with that?
November 14th – “Love & Serve: What the Bhagavad-Gita Says about How to Live”, Caren Camblin, 7:10 PM, College 9/10 Multipurpose Room
Week 9 (11/22): the utility of faith.
“Saint Manuel Bueno, Martyr,” by Miguel de Unamuno Y Jugo, from Marino reader
Meaning: can we fake it until we make it?
Third core paper due Tuesday, November 22.
Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Welcome to Auschwitz. What do you do now?
Final core essay due on Thursday December 8 by 1 pm in my office, Stevenson 280.
No classes 11/11 due to Veterans’ Day and 11/24 due to Thanksgiving Break
Your four core papers will be graded on a scale of 100 to zero. The first will be worth 10 points towards your final grade. The next two will be worth 15 points. The final core essay will be worth 25 points. The rest of your grade percentage (25 percent) will go towards class participation.
You are expected to come to every class, on time. You are expected to read the texts and submit the work on time. You are expected to participate in class. I want you to come to my office and visit me at least once during the quarter (many more times if you like).
Accommodations for Students with Disabilities
If you qualify for classroom accommodations because of a disability, please get an Accommodation Authorization from the Disability Resource Center (DRC) and submit it to the instructor in person outside of class (e.g., office hours) within the first two weeks of the quarter. All course reading materials are available from the DRC electronic library. Contact the DRC at 459-2089 (voice), 459-4806 (TTY), or http://drc.ucsc.edu/ for more information on the requirements and/or process.