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Religion: On the Meaning of Life

REL 085 OL1 (CRN: 60290)

3 Credit Hours

For crosslists see: PHIL 010 OL2

About REL 085 OL1

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.


Related Program

High School & Pre-College Programs


Dates: June 15 - July 10, 2020; Class will be taught as a Microsoft Teams virtual class which will be held Monday-Thursday 4pm - 6:15pm with a break. Attendance at the Teams class is recommended but not mandatory as the class will be recorded and available to watch at your convenience during that week. Cross listed with PHIL 010 OL2

More Information

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. We will explore how various thinkers' texts and films respond to some of the most basic questions of what it means to live a meaningful life. What does it mean to find meaning in life, given the fact that life is fleeting? How do various thinkers understand and respond to this question? We will discuss the quest for human happiness, the meaning of human freedom and responsibility, human suffering and the responses to it. We will also explore how human beings fundamentally encounter and relate to one another. We will take a brief look at the relation of fantasy to reality and of morality to politics.

Section Expectation

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 makes 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, rather we will be reading selections or excerpts from most 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.


Grading - Attendance and participation ~ 25%. - Tests ~ 25% - Papers . . . . 50%. Topics can be of the students’ own choosing or a response to one or two questions to be assigned.




Online (View Campus Map)

Important Dates

Note: These dates may change before registration begins.

Last Day to Add
Last Day to Drop
Last Day to Withdraw with 50% Refund
Last Day to Withdraw with 25% Refund
Last Day to Withdraw


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