Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 592: The Good Life

Instructor: Patricia Turrisi

What is "the good life"? What is a good life? Is such a thing even possible?Can it be defined? Is it universal among humans? Do different species have different sorts of "good lives" than humans? What are the indications of a good life?

Here are some concepts we will consider:

  • The popular conception of the good life is correct. Good times and good health are a few of its elements.
  • A good life is a virtuous one.
  • The good life is irrelevant; it's the afterlife ("next life," "final life") that counts.
  • A good life is indicated by a good death.
  • A good life is lived according to the divine law(s), not the law of the state.
  • The quality of life no longer matters in this culture.
  • Whether your life is good or not is a matter of destiny.
  • The good life is a state of mind, relative to the person who has it.
  • The good life is only possible within a social and cultural context that supports it, and among human beings who share the same social and cultural assumptions.
  • The good life is an exclusively human possibility.
  • Humans are not the only organisms who can have good lives.
  • The good life exists, but for other people, not me.
  • The good life may have taken place in other places and times, but not here and now.

Readings may include:

The Good Life, edited by Charles Guignon
Sophocles, Antigone
Thomas Jefferson, The Declaration of Independence
Henry David Thoreau, Life Without Principle
Robert Frost, "Departmental"
Rainer Maria Rilke, "September 22th, rue Toullier" from The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge
Jesus of Nazareth, "My Father's Kingdom"
St. John the Divine, "The New Jerusalem"
Nikos Kazanzakis, The Last Temptation of Christ
Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Last Update: February 6, 2012