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Module Synopsis
The time and space in which we live is often described in terms of a ‘globalized modernity’. The processes associated with modernity and with globalization frequently make it more difficult for people to find meaning and happiness in their lives. These processes often remove us from our primary communities and sources of happiness. Traditional sources of authority and meaning, such as religion, are increasingly challenged. Our lives are increasingly focused on consumerism – ‘getting and spending more’ – and on seemingly endless individual competition. These often fail to provide any real sense of meaning and purpose to our lives, or lasting happiness. This course considers various philosophical approaches to finding and making meaning in life, and examines the different possible sources of meaning that are available to us as humans. It also considers various philosophical approaches to finding and generating happiness in our lives, examining the different sources of happiness that have been considered through history and across different cultural contexts. Living a moral life as a means to finding fulfillment is one possibility explored. The course therefore considers different ethical approaches to living a worthwhile life: the ethics of happiness; the ethics of the person; and the ethics of virtue. How we understand who we are is a further key question in the search for meaning and happiness. The liberalism underlying globalization and modernity constructs us as autonomous, independent individuals, with a primary focus on individual freedom. By contrast, more traditional and community-oriented worldviews understand us in terms of our relationships: we are who we are because of the relationships in which we exist. The course concludes with an examination of the tension between these liberal and communitarian perspectives, and the type of society each entails. The course is thus intended as a means to enable students to find and generate their own sources of meaning and happiness within the kind of community and good society we want.