Philosophical Consulting

Sample Syllabus of The Meaning of Life

Dr. Gregory Scott
Fall, 2000

Course Syllabus


All readings are from Leslie Stevenson, Ten Theories of Human Nature, 3rd ed. (London:  Oxford University Press, 1998),  except those found in the (free) handouts.   These are all that is needed to receive relatively full benefit from the course (naturally, the most fruitful discussion will result if assignments are read by the scheduled date).  The text is available at the NYU Bookstore (Green St/Wash Place;  998-4678, M-Th –> 8:30pm; Fr/Sat –> 6pm; Sunday, Sept. 24th on 12-4).
For those who wish to pursue individual topics further on their own, a more detailed list of recommended books comes at the end of each section in Ten Theories.

Topics/Reading (TT = Ten Theories)
1 - General introduction and overview. Philosophic methods. The existential claim regarding suicide. Covered in class:  Hamlet and intro of Ten Theories.
2 - The view of 20th-century logical positivism.  Ayer, The Meaning of Life, Ch 10
3 - “Out-of-body” experiences/Reincarnation.  Ayer, The Meaning of Life, Ch 11
4 - The “elitist” view of the best life, and political ramifications.  Chapter on Plato (TT).
5 - Another kind of excellent living:  happiness defined.  Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics.
6 - The “argument from design”:  one so-called “proof” for the existence of god or gods.  An alternative option to creationism and the "Big-Bang ex-nihilo" theory.  Chapter on Christianity (TT); Aquinas.
7 - Pleasure as a guide to the goal of life.  Hedonism/utilitarianism. Epicurus.
8 - Another pleasure principle:  the place of romance, love, sex, and procreation.  Chapter on Freud (TT).
9 - Hard determinism and sociobiology.  Skinner and Lorenz (TT).

10- Existentialism and authentic living.  Chapter on Sartre (TT).
(1)    Hamlet, pp. 89-90 (Shakespeare)

(2)    The Meaning of Life, p. 178-208 (Ayer)
(3)    Reincarnation (from The Theosophical Society)
(4)    Nicomachean Ethics, pp. 280-302 (Aristotle)
(5)    Summa Theologica, pp. 24-27 (Aquinas)
(6)    “The Letter to Menoeceus,” etc., from The Epicurus Reader, pp. 28-40