I am delighted to announce my new class, “Virtues, Values, and Meaning in Life”, inaugurating in March 2016. There are two versions of the class I want to teach. Let me start by spelling out the “regular” version. Scroll down to the “Philosophy for Atheists” banner for the alternate version.
In this course we will deal with philosophers’ writings that rigorously and edifyingly deal with the perennial practical questions of how to live a good life, how to cope with adversity, how to live a meaningful life, and how to be a good person. We will engage with the wisdom of philosophers and philosophical writers from antiquity up through our own era. In addition to the inexhaustible and justly famous classics like the works of Plato, the Stoics, Nietzsche, and the Existentialists, there are a number of cutting edge contemporary philosophers who still engage vigorously with the classic philosophical questions of how to live and die well. The course will mostly be concerned with topics like love, friendship, pleasure, pain, purpose, priorities, self-understanding, self-fulfillment, self-overcoming, self-creation, altruism, emotions, adversity, meaning, purpose, value, charity, ethics, virtue, happiness, family, justice, death, suicide, spirituality, moral particularism, humanism, freedom, choice, moral psychology, the ethics of care, and fate. Sometimes we will analyze particular virtues and vices in depth. We will put special emphasis on exploring the vibrant subfield of ethics known as “virtue ethics” which has undergone a contemporary renaissance over the last 35 years in particular. But we will not limit ourselves to the insights of virtue ethicists as philosophers from other ethical schools of thought also have insights into these topics.
The range of fascinating and highly practical topics that fall under the umbrella of this class is huge. So my hope is that this can be one of the classes that I run year round, perpetually exploring new material and rotating topics to cover each one afresh multiple times from different insightful angles.
And the topics we are slated to cover require little philosophical background and have a high degree of immediate relevance to everyone. I expect the class to be one of my most accessible to newcomers to philosophy and so I think students will be more willing than in other classes to join midstream the way they would any other perpetually meeting group, like a book club or a discussion group, etc. Busy students who cannot attend every week should also feel more comfortable than in other classes attending only those weeks that fit their schedule without worrying that they missed vital material between sessions. My classes are usually self-contained so this isn’t a problem anyway, but I think this class it will be especially easy for busy students who cannot attend every week to keep up. (Also of interest to busy students—there is no commitment to ever pay for class time you don’t use. You are refunded—unless you choose a class recording instead—every time you miss, with no pressure to feel obligated to attend. You can also quit the class at any time you want. Full details on how my courses work are here.)
This class will treat a number of topics–ethics, meaning, value, etc.–that are frequently assumed to be the province of religion. While, indeed, religions have historically tried to give answers to such questions, these subjects are fundamentally philosophical in nature and, I argue, not only can be explored outside of faith-based religions, but are best and most appropriately explored without religious limitations. In this class, I will focus on providing a thoroughgoing philosophical and secular approach to these questions in order to provide an alternative to the predominantly religious sources of consideration of these topics that are available to people outside the academy. We will of course include the insights and arguments of religious thinkers where they make points that transcend narrow sectarianism in order to be universally relevant. But for the most part we will put religion aside, neither bashing it nor relying on it, to focus on our problems philosophically instead. The goal of the regular Virtues, Values, and Meaning in Life class will be to focus constructively and positively on what we should believe and how we should live, rather than on rejecting religion.
I would like to start several sections of Virtues, Values, and Meaning in Life as soon as people are ready in March. I’m tentatively penciling in Tuesday afternoons and nights, but exact times will depend on the schedules of prospective students. I will coordinate the times so that the most people can take the class with as many classmates as possible, and I will make sure that I teach however many times as are necessary to accommodate everyone who has interest. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or, preferably, just friend me on Facebook and message me there to let me know you’re on board for at least the first class period (which will be a free trial for people who have never attended any of my class sessions before).
That said, some people leaving religion and coming to me to study philosophy often have a mixture of needs and interests. They both want to think through their positive post-religious philosophical answers to the Big Questions and to spend some time processing their new thoughts about religion now that they are on the other side of it. This is an extremely valuable and yet difficult process of “debriefing” their religious experience, “detoxing” from the negative aspects, and cohering their philosophical arguments against their former faith now that these are no longer their “doubts” but their positive positions that they find themselves having to explain to the religious people in their lives who want explanations of why they no longer believe. I specialize in helping people work through all these issues. Such students typically want to comb back over the philosophical arguments related to religious belief and to think about religion from historical, psychological, sociological, ethical, and epistemological viewpoints. If this description fits you, then I want to revamp my Philosophy for Atheists class to provide this for you. The class will run year round and be devoted to covering the material from the “Virtues, Values, and Meaning in Life”, along with Topical Introduction to Philosophy material and serving as a “Philosophy of Religion for Deconverts” class.
This class will be a place where I will rigorously and sympathetically help you process and contextualize your former religious experience, help you think critically and charitably about religious arguments you hear all the time by exploring the most philosophically sophisticated theistic and atheistic writers, and help you think through your positive post-religious approach to virtues, values, and meaning in life. I want to run this class on Sunday mornings 11am-1pm Eastern Time. And I am open to other times as well if students express interest and cannot attend Sunday mornings.Write me at email@example.com or, preferably, just friend me on Facebook and message me there to let me know you’re on board for at least the first Sunday morning class period (which will be a free trial for people who have never attended any of my class sessions before) or if you need another time scheduled for you.
Finally, I have a student who attends year round on Saturdays from 5pm-7pm Eastern. We just finished spending a year delving into one topic and we are selecting the next topic. If you would like to join that student, the options we’re considering are Philosophy of Mind, Metaethics, Metaphysics, and Philosophy for Atheists. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook if you want to take any of those four class topics with us.
As always, full information on class prices and formats can be found here.
To explore more topics I offer that you might request that I start one of my other classes for you, please go to any of the links below: