Honors 205: How Should We Live? (Module)

How should we live?

This question, most famously associated with Socrates and possibly even with the birth of philosophy itself, is often thought to be the most fundamental human question. The question is universal, meaning that it has been addressed in some way by every culture.

In this class, we will evaluate some of the most significant attempts to answer this question as well as the value of the question itself. Why have some writers addressed this question while others have not? What are the historical circumstances that condition and constrain the ways in which this question has gone addressed and unaddressed? Does the question presuppose a specific subjectivity?

Students will evaluate responses to this question both for the value inherent in that exercise and toward the end of building their own answer.


Students will:

  1. Demonstrate in writing comprehension, analysis, and interpretation of a variety of multiethnic texts;
  2. Demonstrate in writing knowledge and comprehension of literary texts’ social, cultural, theoretical, and historical contexts;
  3. Gain an understanding of several philosophical frameworks that may be used in the study of literature and literary history;
  4. Apply concepts from philosophies studied to analyses and interpretations of the course’s literary texts;
  5. Explain interpretations via oral and written communication.

REQUIRED TEXTS: The books listed below must be purchased, rented or borrowed. I have included links to Amazon, but you should feel free to get them from your preferred vendor.

ADDITIONAL TEXTS: Based on student interest and the themes that emerge in class discussions, we will read some of the following texts. You do not need to purchase, rent, borrow or print these until we decide which ones we are going to read.

  • Socrates, “The Apology” (Blackboard)
  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (Blackboard)
  • Henry David Thoreau, “Where I Lived, What I Lived For” (Blackboard)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Self-Reliance” and “Politics” (Blackboard)
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground, Vintage
  • Jonathan Lear, Freud (Blackboard)
  • Simone Weil, “Waiting for God” (Blackboard)
  • Viktor FranklMan’s Search for Meaning Beacon Press
  • James Miller, The Passion of Michel Foucault (Blackboard)
  • Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace (Blackboard)
  • James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games (Blackboard)
  • Marilynne Robinson, “Prigs and Puritans” (Blackboard)
  • Terry Eagleton, The Meaning of Life (Blackboard)
  • Martin Hägglund, This Life (Blackboard)
  • Glennon Doyle, Untamed (Blackboard)
  • Benjamin and Jenna Storey, Why We Are Restless (Blackboard)

Texts must be brought to class IN HARD COPY on the day they will be discussed. Students will be considered absent if they do not bring the reading to class on the day it is discussed. Texts from Blackboard must be printed out and brought in hard copy as electronic devices are not permitted in class.

GENERAL INFORMATION: This course will emphasize critical reading and analysis of the assigned texts. Class meetings will be primarily discussion based. Readings must be completed before the class meeting in which they will be discussed. This enables students to get the most out of the lectures and to participate effectively in discussion.

Discussion: During class discussion you are not expected to have fully developed points of view about the course materials, but you are expected to participate. You will be rewarded for trying; you will not be penalized for being wrong or unclear, but it should be clear that you have done the readings and are working toward mastery of the material.

Aggressive Reading: Unlike other courses in which you read to complete an assignment—in which you read in order to read every word—you will benefit most from this course by reading aggressively. Rather than attempting to read every word, you should attempt to understand and ponder every idea. That may allow you to skim/skip repetitive paragraphs, or you may need to read some sections two or three times. The key is that you read for understanding, not completion. You are most likely to do this if you read with a pen and paper in which you write down ideas, questions, quotes, points of confusion, and points of disagreement.

Questions: None of us, myself included, knows everything about the topics of this class. It is our responsibility to ask others who may know the answer, either in class, in office hours, or over dinner. I expect that you are learning the material, not that you know it. As much as possible, try not to be shy or embarrassed about what you don’t yet know. The biggest failure in learning any material, in college or in life, is to fail to ask questions about things you do not know.

Hybrid Structure: This course will meet in person (60%) and online (40%). We will select a time for remote sessions that allows all students to attend.

Availability: I expect that all of you, either alone or in groups, will contact me at some point during the semester. I am available to discuss the course material, either during office hours, at other times, over the phone, or through email.  If you would prefer to schedule a time during non-office hours, simply contact me by phone or email and we will schedule an appropriate time.

Course Conduct: In order to build and maintain a supportive and productive learning community, students and instructors must treat one another with respect.

For students, this includes but is not limited to:

  • Being prepared to discuss the assigned readings each day;
  • Regular attendance;
  • Notifying the instructor of any scheduling conflicts;
  • On-time arrival to class;
  • Minimizing trips in and out of the room during class;
  • Minimizing side-conversations;
  • Refraining from use of cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Neither laptops nor tablets may be used in class.  Cell phones must be turned off AND put away during class meetings.  Students who use laptops, tablets, or cell phones will be considered absent.

Failure to adhere to these expectations – especially if students are disrupting others’ learning or creating an unwelcoming environment – will result in disciplinary measures. For more on University policies on appropriate classroom conduct, see the University of La Verne Catalog.

For instructors, responsibility for building and maintaining a supportive and productive learning community includes but is not limited to:

  • Being accessible to students;
  • Communicating clear expectations for student success;
  • Addressing students respectfully, including use of preferred names and pronouns;
  • Returning graded work in a timely fashion;
  • Creating a open exchange of ideas to which all students are encouraged to contribute;
  • Facilitating the interrogation and critical analysis of ideas, including interrogation of the instructor’s views, biases, and values.

Students are encouraged to report violations of University policy, including sexual misconduct and social justice incidents here: https://laverne.edu/student-affairs/incident-report-wellness-referral-form/.


  • Twice Weekly Assignments: 25%
  • Essays: 25%
  • Quizzes: 10%
  • Midterm: 15%
  • Final Exam: 15%
  • In-class participation: 10%

Twice Weekly Assignments:  On the Schedule of Meetings (below), you will find study questions for each class session.  On the first day of class, students will be assigned questions for each week.  All students are responsible for writing approximately 1-2 pages in response to these questions.  The twice weekly assignments must be brought to class so that they can be used in our discussion.  Students will be discussion leaders for the questions they have answered.  These assignments should be handed in at the end of each class. In these assignments, you should feel free to answer the questions not only as they pertain to the texts but also with reference to contemporary political issues.

These assignments should reflect an accurate grasp of the reading. Excellent answers will include critical reflection and specific references to the text.

Quizzes:  Quizzes will be given on randomly selected days.  I will write a question on the board or post one on Blackboard. These questions will reflect our discussion and/or the assigned reading for the day.  Students will have ten minutes to answer these questions. The quizzes will be assessed on the same basis as the weekly assignments.

Essays: On the dates listed on the schedule below, essays will be due. The first essay will be 1250 words and the second essay will be 1500 words. These essays must address at least two of the course readings. (New readings must be addressed for each assignment).

Students must submit their essays to SafeAssign by 11:59 am on the day they are due. Late papers will be penalized at the rate of one grade per day. The exams will be graded based on the following criteria:

  • Does the paper demonstrate knowledge of the course materials?
  • Does the paper have a clear thesis?
  • Is the paper’s thesis supported consistently and coherently?

Click here for a a helpful guide to structuring and writing your essay. It is addressed specifically to students of political theory, but it is good guidance for this class too.

Essay exams must be submitted to SafeAssign on Blackboard. All papers must be submitted in Microsoft Word. No PDFs.

Exams: The midterm and the final exam will be composed of a selection of the study questions given below.

If you need disability accommodations for an exam or other assignment, please see the instructor as soon as possible. Information regarding disabilities, including learning disabilities, will remain confidential. If you are not sure whether you need special accommodations, please contact the Accessibility Services Department. Information about location and contact numbers can be found here: https://sites.laverne.edu/disabled-student-services/.

In-Class Participation: Class participation will be measured based on attendance and preparedness (i.e. whether students are prepared to discuss the reading in class). Students who miss more than three (in-person) classes will automatically suffer a deduction of one-third of a grade (e.g. a B+ becomes a B).  Students who miss more than five (in-person) classes will suffer a full grade deduction (e.g. a B+ becomes a C+). Students who use laptops, tablets, or cell phones will be considered absent. Multiple instances of tardiness will also result in a deduction of one-third of a grade.

Late Assignments: Late assignments may be submitted for partial credit, but no assignments will be accepted after the last day of finals week.

SCHEDULE OF MEETINGS AND REQUIRED READINGS: (For all of the assigned readings, please begin by noting when the text was published, why the author wrote it, and to whom the author was responding.)

April 5-6: Introduction, Film: Groundhog Day

  • How does Phil respond once he learns about the curse? He goes through several stages. Describe each stage.
  • What eventually causes the spell to be broken?
  • What is the path–according to the film–to becoming a good person?
  • What keeps us from becoming a good person?


  • Group 1___Brianna, Sergey______
    • How does Socrates distinguish his oratory from that of his accusers? 
    • What are the charges against Socrates? 
    • Who are Socrates’ “first accusers” and “later accusers?” p. 64-5 
  • Group 2___Briana, Alexa______
    • On what grounds does Socrates deny being a teacher? 
    • What is the “certain wisdom” that Socrates claims to have? p. 68 
    • What is the proclamation of the god in Delphi? How does Socrates respond to this proclamation? 
    • On what basis does Socrates conclude that he is in fact “a little bit wiser” than others? p. 70 
  • Group 3_Maria, Adam_________
    • Why did Socrates “incur many hatreds” from his questioning of people? p. 71 
    • Why does Socrates persist in questioning people even after he has incurred hatred for it?
    • How does Socrates respond to the accusation that he is just out for himself?
  • Group 4____Alex, Nathan_____
    • Why does Socrates refuse to parade his children before the jury to win their sympathy?
    • If Socrates were younger, would his strategy at his trial be any different?
    • What is Socrates’ accusation against Meletus? How does he use the dialogue with Meletus to make his case?
  • Group 5__Brianna, Sergey________
    • What does Socrates think “will convict [him], if it does convict [him]?” p. 78
    • Why does Socrates refuse to be “ashamed” even if it means he runs “the risk of dying?” p. 78
    • Why do people fear death? Why are they wrong to do so?
    • Why is it impossible for Meletus or Anytus to harm Socrates?
  • Group 6___Briana, Alexa_______
    • Why will Athenians harm themselves more than Socrates if they decide to have him executed?
    • What counterproposal (to the death penalty) does Socrates make?
    • What could Socrates have said to escape death? Why did he refuse to say it?
    • Socrates said that the philosopher is the most courageous person? How does The Apology illustrate this?

April 7-8: JULIAN BAGGINI, WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?, Introduction, Chs. 1, 4-6 

Introduction____Maria, Adam______

    • Why must the inquiry into the meaning of life be secular?
    • What makes Baggini’s account secular?
    • Why are we here?, is an ambiguous question according to Baggini. Why is it ambiguous?

Chapter 1  Looking for the Blueprint___Alex, Nathan_____

    • What is the naturalist view of human origins? What are its implications?
    • Explain Sartre’s analogy to a paper-knife?
    • What is Sartrean “bad faith?”
    • Why does Baggini emphasize the origin of the Post-It?
    • What is nihilism? What is Sartre’s view of it?

Chapter 1 (cont’d)_____Brianna, Sergey_____

    • Assuming that there is a Creator, what, if anything does that tell us about our purpose?
    • What is Baggini’s objection to our purpose being “to do God’s will”?
    • Why is Jesus’ answer to the purpose of life better? What’s wrong with his answer?
    • What does the Frankenstein story illustrate?

Chapter 4  __Briana, Alexa__

    • Who does altruism help?
    • Why was Immanuel Kant suspicious of altruism?
    • On what basis does Baggini argue that helping others can’t be the purpose of life?
    • What is the “germ of truth” in the altruism argument?

Chapter 5  ___Maria, Adam__

    • Does a society exist independent of the individuals that make it up? Answer with reference to Derek Parfit. 75-76
    • Why does Baggini oppose utopian thinking about the perfection of the species?
    • Explain the lure of transcendence.
    • What are the germs of truth in the argument for the greater good as the purpose of life?

Chapter 6  ___Alex, Nathan___

    • Why isn’t being happy the (whole) answer?
    • Is happiness a temporary or an enduring quality?
    • Why is a cigar happiness? Why isn’t it?
    • Describe Robert Nozick’s “experience machine” experiment. What does it illustrate?
    • How is happiness achieved?
    • Why are fewer and fewer people happy?

April 12-13:

JULIAN BAGGINI, WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?, chs. 7-10, ch. 11 (pp. 181-4 only), Conclusion

Chapter 7 Achievement ___Brianna, Briana_______

    • What is success?
    • What does Chekhov’s The Seagull illustrate about success?
    • What are the limits on free will?

Chapter 8  Carpe diem_____Sergey, Alexa_____

    • What role does mortality play in the good life?
    • What’s wrong with “Party on!” as a life philosophy of life?
    • What’s worthy, according to Baggini, in the injunction to seize the day?
    • How does Thomas Barnardo exemplify the philosophy of carpe diem?

Chapter 9  Lose Your Self___Maria, Alex____

    • What’s wrong with the view that the good life requires losing ourselves?
    • What value does Baggini see in losing oneself?
    • Can everything that is true be put into words?

Chapter 10  The threat of meaninglessness____Adam, Nathan_____

    • What if life is meaningless?
    • In what sense is life meaningless, according to Baggini? In what sense is it meaningful?
    • Explain the phlegmatic (Schultz) and the despondent (Camus) responses to the problem of meaninglessness.
    • Why, according to Baggini, might we be better off not trying to find the meaning of life?

Chapter 11, pp. 181-4 Love & Conclusion___Brianna, Briana______

    • What role does love play in the good life?
    • What is a deflationary account of life’s meaning?

FRANTZ FANON, BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS, Forward, Introduction, chs. 1

Forward & Introduction____Sergey, Alexa_____

    • Why did Fanon write this book?
    • In what sense is “a Black…not a man”?
    • What explains the inferiority complex of Blacks?
    • How might we apply a similar analysis to women? To other groups?

Chapter 1 The Black Man and Language___Maria, Alex_____

    • “A black man behaves differently with a white man than he does with another black man.” Why?
    • What is the problem Fanon tackles in ch. 1? Explain.
    • What defines colonized people?

Chapter 1 The Black Man and Language (cont’d)___Adam, Nathan______

    • What happens to the black Antillean when he visits France?
    • What is narcissism? How does Fanon use it?
    • Why do black Antilleans want to speak French?

April 14-15:

FRANTZ FANON, BLACK SKIN, WHITE MASKS, chs. 2-3, ch. 4 (pp. 64-80 only), ch. 6 (pp. 130-36 only)

Chapter 2 The Woman of Color and the White Man__Brianna, Briana_____

    • Why did Mayotte Capécia love a white man?
    • Why is withdrawal of the ego impossible for the black man?
    • Why did Nini refuse the love of a black man?

Chapter 3 The Man of Color and the White Woman____Sergey, Alexa ____

    • Why does Jean Veneuse wish to marry Andrée Marielle? What gives him pause?
    • What role does the Other play in Fanon’s thought?
    • How does white supremacy force black people to be neurotics?
    • How should people respond to the “split imposed by the Europeans?” (p. 63)

Chapter 4 The So-Called Dependency Complex of the Colonized____Maria, Alex_

    • Why does Mannoni attribute the inferiority concept to something pre-colonial?
    • What explains Fanon’s patient’s desire to be white?

Chapter 6 The Black Man and Psychopathology____Adam, Nathan____

    • Why didn’t Antilleans view themselves as black until 1940?
    • What happens when Blacks make contact with the white world?
    • What does it mean to say the Antillean discovers his true face upon arriving in France?
    • Why does Fanon address Jewish stereotypes alongside black stereotypes?


Group 1____Brianna, Alexa___

    • Why do women find it honorable to dismiss their own desires and goals?
    • How are women taught to mistrust themselves?
    • What is the “highest praise” for a woman? Why?
    • What does self-love mean?

Group 2______Sergey, Maria____

    • What does patriarchy do to girls?
    • How does patriarchy harm boys?
    • What are masculinity and femininity?
    • How does Glennon Doyle want her daughter to make decisions about her life?

Group 3_____Briana, Adam___

    • How should we react when people don’t like us?
    • How does one turn one’s life into an island?
    • What makes us adults?
    • Is it more important to be an obedient daughter or a responsible mother?
    • Why is integrity more important than anything else to Doyle?

April 19-20:  EPICTETUS, THE ART OF LIVING, vii-70

PP. vii-9____Alex, Nathan_____

    • What is the purpose of moral philosophy?
    • What is within our control? What isn’t?
    • What’s the advantage of focusing only on what you can control?
    • How can we bear hardship with tranquility?

PP. 10-18____Brianna, Maria____

    • Why is death no big deal?
    • Why is blaming others silly?
    • How much should we consider the opinion of others?
    • What role does the will play in Epictetus’ philosophy?
    • How should we feel when our possessions are stolen?

 PP. 19-25___Sergey, Adam____

    • Epictetus argues that serenity is the surest sign of the highest life. Why?
    • What is freedom?
    • How is life like a banquet?
    • How should we react to people who are downhearted?

PP. 26-37____Briana, Alex___

    • What is the basis of happiness?
    • Why is it critical to confront death and calamity?
    • Why is it important to be willing to be laughed at and condemned?

PP. 38-50____Nathan, Alexa____

    • How do we come to understand our duties?
    • Why are most people wrong about freedom?

PP. 51-70____Brianna, Maria__

    • Why is it important to avoid prattle, blather, pap, babbling, and palaver, even if it is entertaining?
    • Why is it especially burdensome to be female?


Book 2

Group 1___Sergey, Adam____

      • What is the difference between a virtue of thought and a virtue of character?
      • What is habituation? How is it related to virtue?
      • What are the mean, excess, and deficiency in relation to virtue?
      • What role do pleasure and pain play in regard to virtue?
      • What does it mean to say that just or temperate actions are the actions that a just or temperate person would do? 1105b
      • What are feelings, capacities, and states? Which one of them is virtue?

Group 2___Briana, Alex___

      • How do we find the mean?
      • Why is error easy and correctness hard? 1106b30
      • What kinds of actions or feelings do not admit of the mean? 1107a9
      • What kinds of mean states are not virtues?
      • Is the excess or the deficiency more opposite to the virtue?
      • Why is it hard to be excellent? 1109a25

Book 4

Group 1____Nathan, Alexa__

      • What is bravery? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • What is bravery’s relationship to fear?
      • What does the brave person fear? What does s/he not fear?
      • What is temperance? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • What is temperance’s relationship to pleasure?
      • Which pleasures are relevant to temperance, which are not?

Group 2___Brianna, Maria_____

      • What is generosity? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • What is generosity’s relationship to wealth?
      • How does generosity bear on giving and taking?
      • Why won’t a generous person ever become wealthy?
      • What is magnificence? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • How does magnificence differ from generosity?
      • What types of expenditures does the magnificent person make?

Group 3___Sergey, Adam___

      • What is magnanimity? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • What is magnanimity’s relationship to honor?
      • Why is the magnanimous person the best person?
      • Why does the magnanimous person seem arrogant?
      • What is the virtue concerned with small honors? What are its excess and deficiency?

Group 4____Briana, Alex____

      • What is mildness? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • What is mildness’ relationship to anger?
      • What is friendliness? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • What is truthfulness? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • When is it permissible to boast about oneself?
      • What is wit? What are its excess and deficiency?
      • What is shame? Why is it not properly considered a virtue?

April 25: First Essay Due, 11:59 am

April 26-7:


Group 1____Nathan, Sergey____

      • Describe Montaigne’s ideal person.
      • What is Pascal’s critique of Montaigne?
      • What is immanent contentment? Why is it bound to fail?

Group 2____Alexa, Brianna____

      • Why does science intensify our desire for transcendence?
      • How does Pascal mock the Jesuits?
      • What is the purpose of the Pensées?
      • What is Pascal’s critique of diversion?

Group 3____Briana, Adam____

      • Why is grief the proper response to the human condition?
      • What makes humans great?
      • What should we do about our predicament?

Group 4____Maria, Alex____

      • What is Pascal’s critique of the rationalism of Epictetus and Montaigne?
      • Why should a good person want Christianity to be true?
      • Why does God hide Himself?
      • What is God?


Preface____Nathan, Alexa___

    • What is empirical philosophy? What distinguishes it from pure philosophy?
    • What is metaphysics?
    • In considering morality, why is it so important to separate the empirical part from the rational part?
    • What are a priori laws?
    • Why is action that conforms to the moral law not enough?

First Section____Brianna, Maria____

    • Why is a good will the only thing that is good “without qualification?”
    • What accounts for happiness?
    • Why can’t happiness be the ultimate end or purpose for a reasoning being?
    • What is the relationship between duty and the good will?
    • What is the relationship between duty and inclination?
    • What is required in order for an action to qualify as moral?

First Section (cont’d)_____Sergey, Adam___

    • How is it possible that “beneficent” people may not be properly considered moral?
    • Why can’t we be commanded to love our neighbor?
    • Why does Kant distinguish between the “purpose that is to be attained” by an action and the “maxim according to which the action is determined?”
    • Why must the moral worth of an action be totally separated from the action’s consequence or effect?
    • Why must we only act on maxims that can be willed as a “universal law?”

Second Section________Briana, Alex______

    • Why is it impossible to know for sure whether there has ever been a truly moral act?
    • Why isn’t “love of humanity” a basis for morality?
    • What has been wrong with attempts to treat morality “in the way favored by popular taste?” p. 21
    • Explain the difference between subjective and objective imperatives.

Section Section (cont’d)____Nathan, Alexa______

    • Explain the difference between hypothetical and categorical imperatives.
    • Is happiness secured by hypothetical or categorical imperatives? Explain.
    • What is the categorical imperative?
    • Does suicide violate the categorical imperative? Explain.
    • Does borrowing money when you know you will not be able to pay it back violate the categorical imperative? Explain.
    • Does neglecting to cultivate a useful talent violate the categorical imperative? Explain.
    • Does failing to help those in need when you have the means violate the categorical imperative?

April 28-29:



Group 1_____Brianna, Maria__

    • Is a life a single, coherent thing?
    • Why is it hard to “generalize intelligently” about human life? (p.138)
    • For Eagleton, is it our differences or our similarities that matter most?

Group 2____Sergey, Adam___

    • What is Eagleton’s critique of Baggini on happiness?
    • What is the difference between Baggini’s conception of happiness and Aristotle’s?
    • Why does Eagleton think it is so important to acknowledge suffering?

Group 3______Briana, Alex____

    • Why is it a pity when people sacrifice their happiness for the sake of someone else?
    • Why is Aristotle’s good man more like Bill Gates than St Francis of Assisi?
    • Why is self-fulfilment less strenuous than self-realization?
    • Why, according to Aristotle, are ethics and politics intimately bound together?

Group 4____Nathan, Alexa___

    • Why can’t amassing power or wealth be the meaning of life?
    • How does death enhance life?
    • What is the meaning of St. Paul’s claim that we die every moment?

Group 5_____Brianna, Adam_____

    • Why isn’t intellectual contemplation the answer?
    • Why, according to Wittgenstein, is the question unanswerable?
    • What, according to Eagleton, makes life worth living?

Group 6_____Maria, Sergey_____

    • What is agapē?
    • How does Eagleton want to correct Baggini and Cottingham?
    • How is the meaning of life like a jazz band?

May 3-4: NIETZSCHE, THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA, pp. 9-69, 99-102, 113-16 

  • Group 1_____Briana, Nathan_________________
    • Why does Zarathustra decide he must “go down…descend?” What does he want to accomplish?
    • Why does Zarathustra love men, not God?
    • What does Zarathustra (Nietzsche) mean when he says “God is dead.?”
  • Group 2_____Alex, Alexa____________ 
    • What is the teaching of the “overman?”
    • Describe the “last man.”
    • Why are the people unable to understand Zarathustra?
  • Group 3____Brianna, Adam____________ 
    • Why does Zarathustra wish to have companions?
    • What is the first metamorphosis? The second? The third?
    • Why are teachers of virtue preoccupied by sleep?
  • Group 4_____Maria, Sergey____________
    • What is Nietzsche’s critique of the afterworld?
    • What is wrong with “despisers of the body?”
    • What is the relationship between our virtues and our passions?
  • Group 5_______Briana, Nathan_______
    • Why should we avoid seeing criminals as villains, scoundrels or sinners?
    • What makes writing good?
    • Why is the noble man superior to the good man?
  • Group 6___Alex, Alexa_____________
    • Who are the preachers of death?
    • Why should one “always seek an enemy?”
    • What is the new idol? Why is it so dangerous?
  • Group 7_______Brianna, Adam___________
    • Who are the flies in the marketplace?
    • What’s wrong with chastity?
    • In what sense is a real friend an enemy?
  • Group 8________Maria, Sergey__________
    • Why does Nietzsche believe that women cannot be friends?
    • What goals should we have?
    • What’s the downside of loving one’s neighbor?
  • Group 9_______Briana, Nathan_____________
    • What is the way of the creator?
    • How should we respond when adders bite?
    • What is self-overcoming?


Group 1_____Alex, Alexa_______

    • Why does Rilke resist offering a critique of Kappus’ poetry?
    • What is Rilke’s criticism of Kappus’ poetry?
    • Why shouldn’t Kappus concern himself with publishing or criticism?
    • What should Kappus do to write good poetry?
    • Why shouldn’t Kappus write love poems?

Group 2______Brianna, Adam______

    • What should Kappus write about?
    • What makes a work of art good?
    • Why is being an artist a burden?
    • When should one be dissuaded from writing?
    • Why are Kappus’ letters a pleasure for Rilke?
    • Why should writers be wary of irony?

Group 3_____Maria, Sergey____

    • What does Rilke love about Jacobsen’s books?
    • Why should Kappus read aesthetics or criticism as little as possible?
    • Why is patience critical to artists?
    • How is the artistic experience “so incredibly close” to the sexual experience?
    •  In what sense is “everything serious?”

Group 4______Briana, Nathan____

    • Why do people “misuse” sex and “love wrongly?”
    • Why is independence important?
    • How does Rilke find beauty in Rome?
    • Why is solitude and great inner loneliness the most important thing for an artist?
    • How should one handle difficult people?

Group 5_______Alex, Alexa_____

    • Why does Rilke urge Kappus to believe in God?
    • How should we “build” God?
    • “That something is difficult should be one more reason to do it.” Why?
    • How should we love?
    • What does it mean for unhappiness to “pass through you?” Why is it good?

Group 6_____Brianna, Adam___

    • Why should we attend to our sadness?
    • How is true courage exhibited?
    • Why is deep sadness good?
    • Why should we be very careful with names?
    • Why does Rilke often think of Kappus?

May 10-11:


Group 1_____Maria, Sergey____

      • What’s the difference between a finite and an infinite game?
      • What do finite and infinite games have in common?
      • What does it mean to say the parameters of a finite game are externally defined?
      • What is the purpose of an infinite game?
      • What are the qualifications for a finite game? An infinite game?
      • Why is it so important to agree on rules in a finite game?
      • What makes rules valid?

Group 2_______Briana, Nathan____

      • When do rules change in an infinite game?
      • Why don’t finite players always know that playing is voluntary?
      • How is play opposed to seriousness?
      • What is the difference between training and education?
      • How is “death in life” good?
      • What is the relationship between death and finite games? Infinite games?
      • Why is infinite play paradoxical? Why is finite play contradictory?
    • Group 3______Alex, Alexa____
      • What is the contradiction inherent in all finite play?
      • What is the difference between strength and power?
      • What is evil?
      • How can we integrate the finite into the infinite?
      • What is the difference between a society and a culture?
      • What kind of game is school? How does it differ from education?
      • Why do societies award prizes and titles?

MARILYNNE ROBINSON, PURITANS AND PRIGS (Blackboard), Cancel Culture Podcast, 0:30-14:30, 19:55-26:38; 36:42-39:43

Group 1_____Brianna, Adam________

      • What is Puritanism?
      • In what sense have we rid ourselves of Puritanism?
      • How is the common view of Puritanism misguided?
      • Why should we care about Puritanism?
      • What is priggishness?
      • Why is American culture shallow?

Group 2 ______Maria, Sergey_____

      • Why are collective acts of repentance important?
      • How are the new varieties of priggishness different from the old ones?
      • What is the Calvinist doctrine of “total depravity?”
      • What are the advantages of a Calvinist view of grace and salvation?
      • Why should we recuperate the idea of sin?
      • How is our culture Stalinist?

Group 3______Briana, Nathan______

      • How is priggishness different from morality?
      • What is authentic morality?
      • What’s wrong with the pursuit of happy, virtuous societies?
      • Why are we priggish?

May 12-13:


Group 1_____Alex, Alexa__

      • How does an industrial economy break down the connections that join people, land, and community?
      • Why doesn’t knowledge solve our problems?
      • What is the “second kind” of knowledge?
      • What kind of work does farming require?
      • How is farming related to humility?
      • Why did the Amish thrive when mechanized farms couldn’t?

Group 2_____Brianna, Nathan___

      • What’s wrong with the modern stereotype of an intelligent person?
      • How do the best human beings think?
      • How would family farming change our values?
      • What’s wrong with economics?
      • What’s wrong with the “ideal of competition?”
      • What’s wrong with the idea that economic losers should just “get into another line of work?”
      • How has the purpose of universities changed?

Group 3_____Sergey, Alexa______

      • In what sense are the winners of economic competition actually losers?
      • In what sense does our economics deny us pleasure?
      • How can strenuous work be pleasant?
      • What’s wrong with industrialism?
      • Why are we now unable to lead lives that are economically and ecologically responsible?
      • What is agrarianism?
      • What does agrarianism have to say about manufacturing?


Group 1___Briana, Alex__

      • Why do many Buddhists consider The Matrix a “dharma movie?”
      • How are our brains designed to “delude” us?
      • How is our desire for junk food delusional?
      • What has evolution designed us to do? How does it ensure we will do it?
      • Why does becoming happy require discomfort?

Group 2____Maria, Adam__

      • What is mindfulness?
      • What is the “real life Matrix?”
      • Why does meditation require a focus on breath?
      • What should we do with our feelings?
      • Why did natural selection direct us to desire things that are bad for us?
      • What’s the use of righteous rage?

Group 3_____Brianna, Nathan_____

      • Why do we see snakes where there are none?
      • Why is public speaking so frightening?
      • How can meditation help reduce anxiety?
      • What is the “happiness delusion?”


Group 1____Sergey, Alexa_____

    • What is Hayek’s critique of central planning?
    • What is Hayek’s critique of socialism?
    • Why is who controls the economy so important?
    • What is Hagglund’s critique of Hayek?
    • Why does Hayek favor the “order of the market?”

Group 2_____Briana, Alex_ ______

    • What is Hagglund’s critique of capitalism’s approach to supply and demand?
    • What is the difference between freedom and liberty?
    • Why is capitalism at odds with freedom?
    • What is the challenge of democratic socialism?

Group 3_____Maria, Adam ______

    • How should we measure our wealth?
    • What’s the difference between the realm of freedom and the realm of necessity?
    • Why is it important that we collectively own the means of production?
    • How does democratic socialism reduce and transform socially necessary labor?

May 19: Final Exam

May 23: Second Essay Due, 11:59 am



The Department of History and Political Science mandates that all submitted work adhere to the Turabian/Chicago style delineated in Kate Turabian, et. al., A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press (available at the Wilson Library Reference Desk). Here you can access the online version of the Chicago Manual of Style.

Here are a couple of websites that will automatically format citations in Chicago style for you: https://www.citationmachine.net/ and http://www.citethisforme.com/.

One seat space between students when possible.

No bathroom breaks except in the case of illness or emergency.  Student should discuss this circumstance with the proctor prior to the start of the exam.

No materials on the desk except for pens/pencils, bluebook or writing paper and exam.

Under no circumstances can students access electronic devices during the exam.

Exam proctors will note any violation of these rules and those will be considered in the final grade.


Your work will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

A—designates work of extraordinarily high quality; reflects unusually thorough and comprehensive understanding of issues at hand; presents a clearly identifiable thesis and argument that demonstrates cogent and creative development and support of ideas.

B—designates work of high quality; reflects clearly organized and comprehensive understanding of issues and hand; presents substantive thesis and argument with evident development and support of ideas.

C—designates work which minimally meets requirements set forward in assignment; reflects some organization and development of ideas, but develops argument in superficial or simplistic manner; may only address part of the assignment or be otherwise incomplete.

D—designates work of poor quality which does not meet minimum requirements set forward in assignment; demonstrates poor organization of ideas and/or inattention to development of ideas, grammar, and spelling; treatment of material is superficial and/or simplistic; may indicate that student has not done reading assignments thoroughly.

F—designates work that does not meet ANY of the standards set above or which is not handed in.


Plagiarism is a prevalent but highly unethical practice. Plagiarism will result in the immediate failure of this course and disciplinary action which could lead to expulsion from the University. If you are having problems in the course, please come and talk to me about it rather than doing something that could put your entire college career in jeopardy. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • The direct copying of any source, such as written and verbal material, computer files, audio disks, video programs or musical scores, whether published or unpublished, in whole or part, without proper acknowledgment that it is someone else’s.
  • Copying of any source in whole or part with only minor changes in wording or syntax, even with acknowledgment.
  • Submitting as one’s own work a report, examination paper, computer file, lab report or other assignment that has been prepared by someone else. This includes research papers purchased from any other person or agency.
  • The paraphrasing of another’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.


The Academic Success Center provides free one-on-one peer tutoring to graduate and undergraduate students in a wide variety of courses and subjects. Please make liberal use of the ASC if you need assistance with any of the assignments for this course. To make an appointment, use the quick start guide, stop by ASC on the second floor of the Campus Center, or call (909) 448-4342. Answers to frequently asked questions are available here.