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Religion: On the Meaning of Life

REL 085 Z1 (CRN: 60328)

3 Credit Hours

For crosslists see: PHIL 010 Z1

About REL 085 Z1

This course will benefit students taking their first course in either religion or philosophy, as well as students who have been introduced to these subjects previously. The pace of the course will proceed on the basis of the progress students are making in reading and discussing the material. While the course will be divided between lecture and discussion, emphasis will be placed on questions raised by the readings and student concerns. This course explores the ways in which different thinkers, texts, and traditions have responded to the question concerning the meaning of life. Topics to be covered include the questions: What is human happiness? What makes a good life? What is meaningful work? What kinds of responsibility do I have for other people? How do various thinkers, both philosophic and religious, respond to the problem of human suffering? What is the relation of personal to social identity in an age of increasing complexity? We will read classic as well as modern and contemporary texts. In addition, we will use films to provide the basis for further reflection and discussion.


Dates: June 17 - July 12, 2019; Cross listed with PHIL 010 Z1

Section Description

This course is meant to be of value to both beginners and to people who have already delved into philosophic questioning and religious life. I want to emphasize that I view all education as continuing education. The greater variety of students and the somewhat more informal setting of Summer Academy make these courses among my favorite to teach. The course will be divided between lecture and discussion. The requirements are simple and straightforward. This syllabus is roughly the one we will pursue. It may seem like a lot of reading, but it is quite doable within the time frame. We will not read the entirety of each book. There will be reading adjustments according to the pace of the class, drawn from the following, some of which we will read in part, others in full. Tuesdays with Morrie, Mitch Alboom The Death of Ivan Illyich, Leo Tolstoy The Will to Believe, William James Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl I and Thou, Martin Buber Existentialism From Dostoevsky to Sartre, Walter Kaufmann Siddhartha, Herman Hesse Being There, Kosinksy Courage to Be, Paul Tillich

Section Expectation

Grading Attendance and participation . . . . 25% • If you are reluctant to participate in class discussions, students should submit three quotes from the reading and/or class discussion to the instructor at beginning of class, along with two questions. Otherwise, submitting one question per reading assignment is sufficient. Short Quizzes . . . . 25% Papers . . . . 50% • Topics can be of the students’ own choosing or a response to one or two questions to be assigned.




Rowell N/A Hlth 102 (View Campus Map)


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