AP/PHIL1100 3.0 A: The Meaning of Life

Offered by: PHIL


Fall 2022






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 Start Up

Course Websites hosted on York's "eClass" are accessible to students during the first week of the term. It takes two business days from the time of your enrolment to access your course website. Course materials begin to be released on the course website during the first week. To log in to your eClass course visit the York U eClass Portal and login with your Student Passport York Account. If you are creating and participating in Zoom meetings you may also go directly to the York U Zoom Portal.

For further course Start Up details, review the Getting Started webpage.

For IT support, students may contact University Information Technology Client Services via askit@yorku.ca or (416) 736-5800. Please also visit Students Getting Started UIT or the Getting Help - UIT webpages.

    Additional Course Instructor/Contact Details

Professor Ayana Samuel

Office Location:  TBA
Phone Number:  (416) 736-2100 Ext. TBA

Office Hours:  Virtual office hours: An open office hour will be held after lecture once a week via Zoom. Students are encouraged to attend to ask questions related to the course material or assignments, or for general discussion. Individual meetings are available by appointment.

    Expanded Course Description

In this course, we will explore how various philosophers, religious thinkers, literary figures and artists have approached issues surrounding the meaning of life. We will consider how these thinkers have addressed questions like: Does life have any meaning or purpose, and would it matter if it didn't? Is life only meaningful if there is an afterlife? Should we fear death? Is there such a thing as a good life? What, if anything, makes life valuable or worthwhile? As we explore how various historical and contemporary thinkers have addressed these questions, we will subject their answers to critical scrutiny and aim to develop our own original approaches to these questions.

    Additional Requirements

Technical requirements for taking the course: Lectures for this course will be held online via Zoom and will be delivered synchronously, at the scheduled course meeting days and times. To attend lectures, students will require a stable, high-speed internet connection and computer or device capable of running Zoom. In addition, a device equipped with a camera and microphone would enable students to get the most out of the online component of this course, but is not required.


Here are some useful links for student computing information, resources and help:

Student Guide to Moodle

Zoom@YorkU Best Practices 

Zoom@YorkU User Reference Guide

Computing for Students Website

Student Guide to eLearning at York University


To determine Internet connection and speed, there are online tests, such as Speedtest, that can be run.]


Times and locations: Please note that the lectures for this course will be delivered remotely. Lectures will be held during the scheduled meeting times, on Zoom, from 11:30 to 12:20 on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tutorials will be held in person.

    Required Course Text / Readings

E.D. Klemke and Steven M. Cahn. (2017).The Meaning of Life. (4th Edition). Oxford University Press. Print ISBN: 9780190674199, Ebook ISBN: 9780190674205

    Weighting of Course


Reading responses:          30%

Paper 1:                             20%

Paper 1 revision:               15%

Paper 2:                             25%

Participation:                     10%

    Organization of the Course

This course will involve bi-weekly lectures as well as weekly tutorial sessions in which students will have the opportunity to discuss course material in a smaller classroom setting. The lectures will take place via Zoom at the scheduled meeting times. Recordings of lectures will be posted on the course website, however, please note that you are expected to attend the live lectures whenever possible and use the recordings only as a study aide or if your circumstances prevent your attendance.Tutorials will be conducted in person.

    Course Learning Objectives

At the conclusion of this course, you should be able to

  • Demonstrate an understanding of how philosophers and other thinkers have approached questions about life’s meaning
  • Be able to use this understanding as a foundation for critical assessment of the texts
  • Develop the writing and communication skills needed to clearly articulate your understanding and critical evaluation of the texts
    Additional Information / Notes

Additional Information: Coursework will consist of weekly reading responses, three papers—one of these papers will be a revision of an earlier paper—and participation.


Reading responses: Reading responses must be completed and submitted via the course website prior to the lecture on the relevant course material. They will be graded on a pass/fail basis. These assignments are meant to give students a chance to reflect on any questions or ideas that came up as they do the reading and will not be graded for accuracy (however, students will not receive a passing grade if they submit a response that does not substantively engage the text).


Papers: Paper assignments will develop students’ ability to clearly and concisely explain and evaluate philosophical ideas and argument. The first paper and the revision assignment will require students to clearly and concisely explain and evaluate a central claim or argument from the course material. The second paper will additionally require students to develop and explain their own arguments in response to claims or arguments in the course material.


Participation: Participation will be determined by your TA and will be based upon your contributions to tutorials. Office hour attendance and contributions may also be considered.


Course policies

Grading:  The grading scheme for the course conforms to the 9-point grading system used in undergraduate programs at York (e.g., A+ = 9, A = 8, B+ - 7, C+ = 5, etc.). Papers will bear either a letter grade designation or a corresponding number grade (e.g.  A+ = 90 to 100, A = 80 to 90, B+ B+= 75 to 79, etc.)  Reading responses will be graded on a pass/fail basis.

(For a full description of York grading system see the York University Undergraduate Calendar - http://calendars.registrar.yorku.ca/2010-2011/academic/index.htm


Assignment Submission: Proper academic performance depends on students doing their work not only well, but on time.  Accordingly, assignments for this course must be received on the due date specified for the assignment.  Assignments are to be handed in by the specified date and time, via the course website.


Lateness Penalty: Unless an extension is granted, the penalty for assignments submitted after the due date is a deduction of 1/3 of a whole letter grade for every day late. This means that a B+ assignment that is a day late is penalized to a B. Exceptions to the lateness penalty for valid reasons such as illness, compassionate grounds, etc., may be entertained by the Course Instructor but will require supporting documentation (e.g., a doctor’s letter).

Recordings Policy: Lectures will be recorded and posted on the course website for review. Please note that 1) the recordings should be used for educational purposes only and as a means for enhancing accessibility; 2) students do not have permission to duplicate, copy and/or distribute the recordings outside of the class (these acts can violate not only copyright laws but also FIPPA); and 3) all recordings will be destroyed after the end of classes.


Special Accommodations: I am committed to fairly accommodating students with disabilities. Please contact the instructors and Student Accessibility Services (https://accessibility.students.yorku.ca/) as soon as possible, and we will work together to ensure that you can fully participate in the course. Note that in addition to sending the letter, accommodations for individual assignments must specifically be requested well ahead of the assignment's deadline.


Academic Honesty: According to the University, academic honesty requires that “persons do not falsely claim credit for the ideas, writing or other intellectual property of others, either by presenting such works as their own or through impersonation.Similarly, academic honesty requires that persons do not cheat (attempt to gain an improper advantage in an academic evaluation), nor attempt or actually alter, suppress, falsify or fabricate any research data or results, official academic record, application or document. Finally, academic honesty requires that persons do not aid or abet others to commit an offence of academic dishonesty, including intentional acts to disrupt academic activities.” Suspected breaches of the University’s policy on academic honesty will be investigated and penalties will apply if there is clear evidence of a breach.

    Relevant Links / Resources