The Meaning of Life
The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.
'What is the meaning of life?' seems to be one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves. But how should we understand this question? Why have many philosophers suggested that our lives are meaningless? In what ways might God be a source of meaning? And can life be seen as meaningful by those who do not believe in God’s existence? Is my life meaningful if I am a moral person or live in accordance with my nature? Does the meaning of my life lie in the achievement of certain goals or is it more important to enjoy the present moment? We’ll discuss the answers various philosophers have given to these and other questions about the meaning of life.
Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.
Introduction. Different interpretations of the question 'What is the meaning of life?'
Why have some philosophers deemed life to be meaningless? We discuss the view that life is meaningless because there is no God and ask in what ways religion can offer meaning.
Do we have to invent values and meaning? We examine subjectivist views about the meaning of life and start searching for objectivist alternatives. Was Socrates right in claiming that an unexamined life is not worth living and that being a good person is a necessary condition of living a good life?
Is a meaningful life a life lived in accordance with our nature? We discuss Aristotle’s and Rousseau’s views.
We also start considering the connection between meaning in life and the pursuit of goals, in particular the position that the pursuit of goals isn’t important because some activities are meaningful independent of their effects.
We discuss the view that striving towards goals is an important ingredient of a meaningful life and that lasting achievements can give our lives meaning.
Some believe that our lives are meaningless because of our smallness in comparison to the universe. Is it possible to give our lives more meaning by transcending our limits?
Is a meaningful life a life that tells a good story? Does the meaningfulness of our lives depend on when and how we die? Would our lives be more or less meaningful if we were immortal?
Baggini, Julian. 2004. What’s It All About? Philosophy and the Meaning of Life. Oxford University Press.
Klemke, E. D. & Cahn, S. M. 2017. The Meaning of Life. A Reader. Oxford University Press.
Metz, Thaddeus. 2013. ‘The Meaning of Life’. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/life-meaning/
During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.
The fee £1565 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct firstname.lastname@example.org, as these rooms cannot be booked online.
There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form. Early application for these rooms is essential.
Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct email@example.com, as these rooms cannot be booked online.
Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.
We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.
Programme fee (with single en-suite accommodation and meals): : £1565.00
Andrea Lechler holds a degree in Computational Linguistics, an MSc in Artificial Intelligence, and an MA and PhD in Philosophy. She has extensive experience of teaching philosophy for OUDCE and other institutions.
There are no assessments for this course.
Online registration closes on Friday, 1 May 2020 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support