The Meaning of Life

Overview

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.

Programme details

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.

Monday
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.

Tuesday
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?

Wednesday
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.

Thursday
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?

Friday
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?

Fees

Description Costs
Programme fee (no accom–incl.lunch and dinner) £1070.00
Programme fee (with single en-suite accom and meals) £1565.00
Programme fee (with single standard accom and meals) £1380.00

Tutor

Dr Andrea Lechler

Tutor

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.  

Assessment methods

There are no assessments for this course.

Application

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.

Accommodation

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.

The fee stated includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available*.

There is also a limited number of standard rooms available, which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but shared bath and toilet facilities. 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 en-suite room or a standard twin set room each person should complete an application form and email it to us at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk as these rooms cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)

Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems. Students should note that bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.

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.

Non-residential

If accommodation is unavailable in a particular week, we also offer places on a non-residential basis whereby participants can take classes and have meals at the college, having arranged their own accommodation elsewhere.

If you wish to enrol on a non-residential basis please complete an application form and email it to us at oxfordexperience@conted.ox.ac.uk as this option cannot be booked online. (Forms may also be posted to us at: The Oxford Experience, OUDCE, 1 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JA, UK)