AP/PHIL1100 3.0 M: The Meaning of Life

Offered by: PHIL


Summer 2019




BLEN (Blended online and classroom)


Calendar Description / Prerequisite / Co-Requisite

An exploration of a number of fundamental practical philosophical questions, including: What is the meaning of (my) life? What is happiness, and how can I achieve it? What is wisdom? What is death, and what does it mean to me?

Course Website

Many courses utilize Moodle, York University's course website system. If your course is using Moodle, refer to the image below to access it.

    Getting Started with your Blended online and classroom Course

Students enrolled in this course are required to review the Next Steps website.

The Next Steps website explains how to start your fully online (ONLN) & blended (BLEN) course(s) with start up information including computing requirements, course website access instructions and links to course outlines & course websites. Students are also encouraged to review the Student Guide to eLearning at York University.

Moodle course website access starts within the first week of the term. For late enrollees it takes two business days from the time of your enrolment to access the Moodle websites once the semester has started. Course materials begin to be released on the course website during the first week of the semester. Get familiar with Moodle by reviewing the Moodle Student Resources Page.

For enrolment matters and academic related questions, please contact the affiliated LA&PS School/Department. For eLearning support please contact eLearning Services, LA&PS.

Moodle and computing support can be directed to ithelp@yorku.ca or visit the Student Computing website

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Course Director: Henry Jackman

Office: S434 Ross

Office hours: Tuesday & Thursday: 5:30-6:30

Office phone: 736 2100 Ext. 77595

E-mail: hjackman@yorku.ca

Web Page: www.jackman.org

    Expanded Course Description

This course is devoted to exploring a number of fundamental philosophical questions that make their way into everyday life: What is the meaning of (my) life? Is there any meaning in my life that will not be destroyed by my death? What is happiness, and how can I achieve it? What is it to be wise, and is wisdom a good thing to have? What is death, and what does it mean to me? Is the unexamined life really not worth living (as Socrates maintained)?


In exploring these questions, we will read selections from the works of classical philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, and the Epicureans, as well as a number of modern and contemporary philosophers such as Hume, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Marx, James and Sartre and Wolf.

    Required Course Text / Readings

All of the required texts are in the course kit available at the bookstore.

    Weighting of Course

Weekly online exercises:                      10%

500 word expository essay:           15%

Tutorial participation:                           5%

1000 word critical essay:               30%

Final Exam:                                                          40%

    Organization of the Course

Week June 17:                     Introduction: Course Mechanics

Introduction: Course Themes

Introduction: Arguments


Plato: Apology

Plato: Crito


Quizzes on Themes & Arguments and on Plato due (Friday June 21)


Week of June 24:                Epictetus: The Handbook

Epicurus: “Letter to Menoeceus”, Principal Doctrines

Nozick: “The Experience Machine”


Nagel: “Death”


Quizzes on Epicurus & Epictetus, and on Nagel due (Friday June 28)

First paper due (Sunday June 30)


Week of July 1:                    Aristotle: Nichomachean Ethics


                Marx: “Alienated Labor”

Hume: "On Suicide”


Quizzes on Aristotle Marx and Hume due (Friday July 5)


Week of July 8:                    Schopenhauer: Studies in Pessimism


Nietzsche: The Gay Science


Quizzes on Schopenhauer and Nietzsche due (Friday July 12)


Week of July 15:                 Sartre: “The Humanism of Existentialism”


Quizzes on Sartre due (Friday July 19)

Second Paper Due (Sunday July 21)

Week of July 22:                 Tolstoy: “My Confession”

James: “The sick soul" & "The Divided Self”,  “Is life worth living?”


Nagel: “The Absurd”


Wolf: “The Meanings of Lives”


Quizzes on Tolstoy, James, Nagel and Wolf due (Friday July 26)



July 31-Aug 9:                    Final Exam Period


    Course Learning Objectives
  • To be able to critically read texts, in this case classic texts from the history of philosophy, and extract and evaluate their argumentative content.
  • To be able to clearly present the arguments in these texts in written form.
  • To be able to present, both in writing and in tutorial discussion, clear arguments of your own evaluating the arguments presented in those text.
    Relevant Links / Resources