Honors | Ideas & Experience I (HON)
H211 | 12681 | Jack Rollins


TuTh 1:00-2:15pm

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 “greatest good” 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 today’s summun bonun’s 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?

Required Textbooks:
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