CCHU9065 Arts and Humanities
A Life Worth Living

This course is under the thematic cluster(s) of:

  • Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE)
  • The Quest for a Meaningful Life / The Universe and the Question of Meaning (UQM)
  • The Human Life Span (HL)

Course Description

What does it mean to live a worthy life? This is one of the most fundamental questions of human existence and this course addresses the relevant issues through an engagement with various philosophical and religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Christianity and Secular Humanism. We shall discuss how the teachings of important historical figures from these traditions have influenced the choices of people over the centuries, and how they have been contextualized and adopted in contemporary society. We shall examine how these figures regard the place of bodily pleasures, intellectual pursuits, power, status, possessions, accomplishments, virtues, relationship with other human beings and the relationship (or not) with the transcendent in their vision of a good life. We will explore the resources they offer for dealing with stress, temptations, disappointments and failures, social oppression, the loss of possessions and of loved ones, and with one’s own death. The course will help students connect across different disciplines and cultures, and develop the ability to examine controversial issues from multiple perspectives. Students will achieve these aims through interactive learning and high impact practices such as group debates and interviewing contemporary advocates of different worldviews concerning the question of “what makes a worthy life?”

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

    1. Engage articulately in considered, logical discussion on a range of views, beliefs, and traditional texts from multiple perspectives about issues related to the meaning of life.
    2. Describe, analyze, and evaluate several of the world’s major belief traditions in five areas: what it means for life to go well, for life to be led well, the reasons and motivations the tradition offers in its vision of a life worth living, resources each offers for achieving such a life, and what courses of action the traditions suggest individuals are to do when they fail to live such a life.
    3. Structure and articulate one’s own vision of an ‘examined life’ and ‘life worth living’.
    4. Independently apply relevant new advances in knowledge to their vision of a life worth living by means of analysis, critical evaluation, and personal reflection.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

Second semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 24
Tutorials 8
Reading / Self-study 36
Preparing materials and questions for discussion 10
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 36
Assessment: Presentation 6
Total: 120

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Individual presentation 20
Tutorial participation and assignments / discussions 10
In-class discussion 10
Short writing assignments 30
Final essay 30

Required Reading

Introduction

 

Hinduism’s vision of a good life

  • Koller, J. (2009). The Indian Way: An Introduction to the Philosophies and Religions of India (2nd ed). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. [Chap. 5 “Self and Society: Norms of Life”]
  • Selections from the Bhagavat Gita

 

The Buddha’s vision of a good life

  • Harvey, P. (2013/1990). An introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, history and practices (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [pp. 1-5, 32-48]
  • Loy, D. R. (2008). Money, sex, war, karma: Notes for a Buddhist revolution. MA: Wisdom Publications. [pp. 15-30, 37-43, 53-63]

 

Confucianism’s vision of a good life

 

Taoism’s vision of a good life 

  • Tsai, J. N. (n.d.). Eye on religion: By the brush and by the sword: Daoist Perspectives on the body, illness, and healing.
  • Tu, W. -m. (1968). The creative tension between Jên and Li. Philosophy East and West18(1/2), 29-39.
  • Zhang, E. Y. (2019). Forgetfulness and flow: “Happiness” in Zhuangzi’s Daoism. [pp. 1-10]

 

Christianity’s vision of a good life

  • Eagleton, T. (2007). The Meaning of Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Chap. 4 “Is Life What You Make It?]
  • Lewis, C. S. (1949). The Weight of Glory.
  • Nouwen, H. (2013). Discernment. New York: HarperOne. [“Preface”]
  • Williams, R. (2014). Being Christian. London: SPCK. [Chap. 2 “Bible”]
  • Selections from the Bible

 

Islam’s vision of a good life

 

John Stuart Mill’s (utilitarian) vision of a good life

  • Mill, J. S. (1863). Utilitarianism. [Selections]
  • Skorupski, J. (2006). Why Read Mill Today? London: Routledge. [Chap. 2 “The Good for Human Beings”]

 

A ‘Western’ secular philosopher’s vision of a good life


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Dr C. Hildebrand
School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 5921
Email: carlh@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Dr C. Hildebrand
School of Humanities, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 5921
Email: carlh@hku.hk
Professor D.K.L. Chua
School of Humanities (Music), Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2872
Email: dchua@hku.hk
Dr G. Halkias
Centre of Buddhist Studies, Faculty of Arts
Tel: 3917 2846
Email: halkias@hku.hk