York University Dr. David N. Stamos
AP PHIL 1100 3.0 M S 447 Ross
Winter 2013 office hours: by appt. only
T/R 11:30–12:20 email: [email protected]
VH-A (I do not teach or send grades via email)
The Meaning of Life
“What is the meaning of life?” In reply to this question virtually everyone has an opinion. But
opinions are a dime a dozen, and that’s probably putting too high of a price on it. Opinions only
become interesting when reasons are given in support. Then we have not merely opinions but
Enter philosophy. Philosophy is in the business of examining arguments, calmly and coolly,
and above all rationally, on the big issues, the big questions. Philosophers also make arguments
on the big questions themselves, as do many thinkers from other disciplines. Philosophy is not,
and this course is not, about expressing one’s feelings about this or that. (If that is what one is
looking for, a course in finger painting is strongly recommended, or poetry.) Hence never write
“I feel” in a philosophy test/exam or paper.
In this course we will critically examine arguments on various issues concerning the meaning
of life. In Part I we examine theistic solutions to the meaning of life, which almost invariably
include a belief in the immortality of the soul. In Part II we examine a variety of nontheistic
solutions to the meaning of life, which invariably take death to mean the total and permanent
annihilation of the person (mind, soul, spirit, call it what you will). In Part III our readings focus
on the various meanings of “meaning” and related matters. In Part IV, the final section, we take
evolution seriously and examine some of its implications for the meaning of life, given that
evolutionary biology is the core and foundation of the modern science of life (biology).
The subjects of God and life after death recur throughout this course. Students taking a
philosophy course—especially this one—should neither adamantly assume that God exists or
does not, or that life after death exists or does not, but should be able to examine various issues
from the viewpoint of each possibility and each combination of possibilities.
The goal of this course is not to reach any final conclusion on our topic, let alone to indoc-
trinate, but rather to develop an understanding of many of the answers to our question and an
appreciation of the related issues and problems. Students from all backgrounds are welcome but
should keep in mind that this is a philosophy course and intellectual curiosity is the key.
E.D. Klemke and Steven M. Cahn, eds. (2008). The Meaning of Life: A Reader. 3 ed. Oxford
University Press. ISBN: 978-0-19-532730-4.
Course kit (available in the bookstore).
In-Class Test 25% (Feb. 14)
Essay 30% (Mar. 21)
Tutorial Attendance 10%
Final Exam 35% (TBA. Do not book a trip during the exam period: Apr. 10–26)
• students who have recently suffered a death in the family, or have a loved one in the hospital
possibly on their deathbed, or are taking medication for depression, or have a serious difficulty
discussing the topic of death, absolutely without question should not take this course!
• the course consists of two lectures per week and one tutorial per week. • if you miss the test or exam or want an essay extension, read the last page of this Course
• plagiarism is an extremely serious offence and will be prosecuted in accordance with York
• thinking in philosophy requires not only comprehension but critical reasoning. Both are skills
that are improved, generally, by practice. This is the purpose of the tutorials. The tutorial setting
allows students to practice their comprehension and critical reasoning skills. Although the
tutorial grade will be based totally on tutorial attendance, it is expected that participation in the
tutorials will improve student grades in other areas.
• the Tutorial Grade is based exclusively on the sign-in sheets. Everyone will clearly print their
registered name on a sheet handed out at the end of the tutorial class. Everyone is allowed to
miss one class and still get 10/10. Miss two and get 9/10. Miss three and get 8/10 and so on.
There is no point belaboring your TA or me if you were sick, or had a death in the family, or
were in a car accident, or slept in, etc. The reasons and the documentation are irrelevant. If, for
example, you were sick and missed two tutorials, then the best you can get is 9/10, which is quite
fair. (Students with an extended illness or a similar situation need to contact me, not their TA.)
Also note that there is no early-signing (if you have to leave the class early then your attendance
does not count) and there is no back-signing, signing in at a later date because you forgot or
weren’t paying attention. It is your responsibility to make sure you stay to the end of the class
• tutorials begin the second week, as does tutorial attendance.
• all essays must be submitted to turnitin.com in addition to a paper copy. Essays not submitted
to turnitin.com will receive a zero