Learn to Live Well

Jan 18

Pick your Professor

You can learn to solve a differential equation. You can learn to ride a bike. But is happiness something that can be learned? And if so, how? This session will introduce the fundamental philosophical puzzle of God and the Good Life and discuss Aristotle’s answer to it.  

We have three main learning goals for this day. You will:

  1. Understand Aristotle’s “eudaimonist” view of happiness (as contrasted with “hedonism”).
  2. Appreciate why it’s so important, on the eudaimonist’s view, to know our “function.”
  3. Critically evaluate rival approaches to thinking about morality and the good life.

Read This:

Primary Text: Interactive Essay: Aristotle on Learning to Live Well (Nicomachean Ethics I.7, II.1-4)

Secondary Text:  Brief commentary on the idea of “Learning to Live Well”

The purpose of the “Secondary Texts” is to serve as an example to you of how well-trained philosophers apply the primary texts we’re reading to real-world problems. They were all written by GGL instructors (Prof. Blaschko, other professors in the philosophy department, and sometimes PhD students). One of the major goals in this course is to help you get better at this sort of writing, that is: writing that presents complex ideas simply, and in the context of thought-provoking invitations to further thought and argument. You will not often be tested directly on these texts, though from time to they’ll show up in quizzes or in-class lectures or activities. More importantly, by consistently reading, analyzing, and engaging with them, you’ll be in a good position to write well when you start working on your written assignments in this course.

Do This:

Required: After you’ve finished today’s reading, make sure you complete the reading quiz, which you can access through your section’s Canvas page.

Suggested: In our experience, college courses go best when you bring your “whole self” into the material. If you haven’t done this before, consider setting a timer for five minutes to sit back, look over your notes, and just think about how today’s class and content relates to questions you bring to the table, or issues you care deeply about. 

In class, your professor will be presenting some material (and making sure you understood what you read), but lessons can be shaped deeply by questions or comments you bring in. Don’t be afraid to raise your hand (or come up before or after class) to raise these sorts of things. You’ve got a lot of agency in God and the Good Life, and — if you use it — you and your classmates (and your instructor and TAs) will be grateful for it!

Watch This: