By the end of the course, you should be able to do the following:
- Give examples of some of the many myths about meaning
- Describe some essential features of a range of paradigms of and perspectives on meaning
- Evaluate, from a personal perspective, the relative merits and values of these paradigms
- Discuss the relationship between purpose, value and meaning and their relevance for our lives
- Explain the difference between the meaning of life and meaning in life
Your online learning will include the following methods:
- Articles and slide presentations
- Suggested and optional further readings and references
- Personal (and private) reflection
- Participation in written discussions with other students
- Participation in videoconference seminars
For Liberal Arts for 55+ Certificate students: you will write a reflective essay.
Week 1: Introduction to the dimensions of meaning
What is the significance of meaning specific to older adults? We will explore the concept of meaning as a multidimensional experience with the intention of broadening our understanding of meaning itself, particularly how it relates to happiness, contentment and life satisfaction. We will review Paul Wong’s "Contextual Model of Meaning” as a map by which to evaluate subsequent models of meaning.
Week 2: Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus
Following a brief exploration of Paul Wong’s “contextual mode,” we will delve into the absurdist philosophy of Albert Camus and, paradoxically, the illumination of hope, commitment to a meaningful life and compassion that ensues.
Week 3: Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
“. . . the deepest form of meaning accessible to an older person is the freedom to choose their response to the ultimate challenge, suffering and death.” So writes Frankl in his renowned reflection on the relationship between suffering and meaning. We will discuss Frankl’s discovery of meaning through creative, experiential and attitudinal practices.
Week 4: Aristotelian virtue ethics
According to Robert Butler, Pulitzer prize-winning pioneer in the field of gerontology, personal integrity, values and character are primary psychological needs of the older adult and have a direct correlation to living a meaningful life. We will explore and analyze virtue ethics as a lens through which to consider what Aristotle defined as the precursor to wisdom.
Books, materials and resources
You will access reading material using SFU's online course management system, Canvas.