Students Explore the Meaning of Life through Philosophy and Literature
Who am I really? What can I know about myself and about the world? Without love, are we incomplete beings? Can the prescription for a fulfilling life be found in religion, reason, art, or nature? If you’ve asked yourself any of these questions, you’re not alone: throughout the ages and across the globe people have considered the very same questions of human existence.
In “The Art of Living,” a course offered to Stanford freshmen, three Stanford humanities faculty challenge the students to consider these questions through the lens of great philosophical and literary works. In the last session, for example, students read Plato’s Symposium, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling,Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, and Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon.
In different ways, each of the authors offers a detailed exploration of life’s ‘big’ questions, thereby providing a foundation of sorts for those who follow. While Plato advocates a life of reason, Kierkegaard champions religious faith, and Nietzsche endorses artistry and illusion. Morrison celebrates community and Shakespeare seems to privilege the authentic action of an isolated individual.
Videos of Full Lectures
- Introduction – Anderson, Taylor and Landy
- Visions of Love – Taylor
- “It is not Hard at all to Challenge Socrates” – Landy
- A Life of Reason? Socrates v. Alcibiades – Anderson
- “Your Worm is the only Emperor for Diet” – Landy
- Hamlet: Knight of Resignation – Taylor
- “For Hecuba! What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba that he should Weep for her?…The Play’s the Thing” – Anderson
- Roundtable Discussion: Shakespeare – Anderson, Landy, Taylor
- Abraham is the Knight of Faith: Faith versus Love, Morals, and Reason Itself – Anderson
- “Was it so Easy a Matter not to be Mistaken?” – Landy
- Abraham is the Knight of Faith: On the Roles of Reason and Faith – Taylor
- “What one Should Learn from Artists” – Landy
- Recurrence and Redemption or Why Science is just as Necessary as Art – Lanier Anderson
- Morality Strikes Back? – Taylor
- The Narrative Construction of the Self – Taylor
- The Flight of Self – Anderson
- “It’s not about you Living Longer. It’s About how you Live and Why” – Landy
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