CCHU9052 Humanities
The Best Things in Life: A Philosophical Exploration


Course Description

This course helps students address difficult issues raised by the question of what makes a good life. It begins by discussing a few fundamental questions: What does it mean to live an examined life? Is an unexamined life worth living? How can philosophy help us pursue an examined life? The course then proceeds to examine the sorts of things that are often thought to give value to the human life. What constitutes the good life? Many people would say: pleasure, happiness, accomplishment, status, material comfort, knowledge, virtue, love, and friendship. But what are these things really, and how valuable are they?

In examining the “best things in life”, the course will introduce and evaluate several major philosophical theories of the good life, namely, hedonism, the objective list approach, the desire-fulfillment theory, and the human flourishing theory. The course will also critically discuss some visions of life developed by historical and contemporary thinkers. These visions provide profound, albeit controversial, reflections on the art of living – how we should cope with personal failure and success, the loss of loved ones, temptation of vanity and pride, constraints of social powers, and one’s own death.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

    1. Appreciate and critique some of the central arguments in ancient and contemporary literature on the good life.
    2. Formulate their own views and arguments on some important issues regarding the good life.
    3. Reflect upon their own conceptions of the good life.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 60
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 60
Total: 152

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Tutorial participation 20
Philosophical essay 30
Short essays 50

Required Reading

  • Haybron, D. (2013). Happiness: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hurka, T. (2011). The best things in life: A guide to what really matters. New York: Oxford University Press.

Recommended Reading

  • Haidt, J. (2006). The happiness hypothesis: Finding modern truth in ancient wisdom. New York: Basic Books.
  • Kupperman, J. J. (2006). Six myths about the good life: Thinking about what has value. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co.
  • Wolf, S. (2010). Meaning in life and why it matters. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor J.C.W. Chan
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 8361
Email: jcwchan@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor J.C.W. Chan
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 8361
Email: jcwchan@hku.hk
Dr F.F.L. Mang
Department of Politics and Public Administration, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 8337
Email: franz@hku.hk