Honors | Ideas & Experience I (HON)
H211 | 16340 | Jack Rollins
What is a good human life? How have other classical thinkers
answered this question? Have their answers been descriptive or
prescriptive, that is, have they described how people have lived or
how people ought to live?
Many, we will find, have started their answers with the idea of
summum bonum, or the ³greatest good² for man or society, but is this
site located in human nature or in a transcendental value located
outside human nature and in a religious conception of the world?
One of the first questions we want to ask is what is the nature of
the divide between these two ways of thinking about value. Does
modern man now rely on science, as ancient, medieval, and
Renaissance man relied on the Humanities to live the good life? Can
todayıs summun bonunıs only be found in science? St. Augustine found
that summum bonum is to be found in salvation in the next life; John
Stuart Mill claims it is happiness in this one; Kant believes that
the greatest good is to be found in reason alone, but David Hume
states that reason is the slave of passions. Aristotle and Plato
both thought that we could determine the good for human beings by
thinking carefully about their nature; however, Thomas Hobbes and
John Rawls claim that we must first look at the sorts of
relationships humans form and then determine the good accordingly.
Finally, there are others, such as existentialists Albert Camus and
Jean-Paul Sartre, who argue that there is no final good apart from
life itself. In sum, the goal of this course will be to read
selected classical approaches to the answer of What is the best way
to live, and then to translate these varied conclusions into a
personal code of what is the best way for you to live your life.
What is your summun bonum and how do you get there?
Augustine, The City of God
Cicero, On the Good Life
Homer, The Odyssey
Marcus Aurelius, Mediations
Plato, The Republic
Sophocles, The Oedipus Cycle
Virgil, The Aeneid
There are no tests in this class. There will be two essays, each
worth twenty-five percent of the final grade. The remaining fifty
percent, since this class will be conducted as a seminar, will be
earned in the regular demonstration of the mastery of the materials
under discussion during each class. I do not have an attendance
policy per se; however, I expect regular attendance. Since the class
will have a chat site, if anyone chooses not to participate in class
for some reason, or is absent, writing comments on the assignment at
this chat site will count as class discussion. Indiana University
also has a religious holiday policy, which allows for any student to
miss class for any legitimate religious holiday. Please tell me in
advance of any such planned absences.