The Meaning of Life
Seminar - UHON 301

Instructor(s): Will Barnes

Course Description

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god, and never have I heard anything more divine.” ― Nietzsche, The Gay Science.This course explores various ways to curse and gnash your teeth at the demon or think him a God, and centers around the question: “What is the meaning of life,?” To this end, we will examine a number of philosophical essays, novels, short stories, plays, and films, each of which challenges one to discover what - if anything - makes life worthwhile. The class is assessed by multiple multi-modal assignments which include multiple options and are designed to encourage students to develop their existing talents and passions through creative group work, project-based learning, as well as taking risks and experimenting with potentially unfamiliar activities including podcasting, filmmaking, web design, graphic art, song-writing, comedy bits, poetry, literature, public speaking, and presentations. The keystone assignment for the course is a 5-7-page research paper.Classes will focus on active student-centered learning with various exercises in class including regular classroom discussions, Circle of Friends meeting modeled classes, Socratic style and other forms of debate, free-writing, elevator pitches, group work, Q and A sessions, mock conferences, interactive standard setting, and more. There are no prerequisites, but students are expected to come to class prepared, engaged, and ready to learn and help each other learn.


Texts:- Robert Solomon, Existentialism 1st Edition Random House, 1974. - Simone De Beauvoir Independent Woman: Extracts From The Second Sex (any edition)- Other digital materials provided by the instructor, including sections from Kierkegaard’s Either/Or, and Fear and Trembling, Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” I & II from the New Yorker Magazine, Simone De Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity, Sartre’s No Exit, Camus’ The Stranger, Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, Franz Kafka’s The Plague, Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground, the Greek Tragedians, and more Films: - Fight Club- The Railway Men- The Perks of Being a Wall Flower


Course Requirements and Evaluation1. Presence, Preparation, and Participation: 25% of final grade This is not a course you can “phone-in.” While presence is necessary, it is insufficient to pass this course. Your prior acquaintance with the texts (preparation) being discussed in class is presumed and your contributions to our discussion (participation) will demonstrate your active engagement. Four absences excused or unexcused, will result in a reduction of grade; five will result in automatic failure of the course. Frequent lack of preparation will lead to additional absences deducted from your maximum allotment.You are responsible for keeping track of how often you have been absent. If you lose track, you can put in a request via email and I will check my records and get back to you. If you are unsure, you should ask me, because it is ultimately my records that are authoritative in determining final grades. You are responsible for finding out what you missed, including both assignments and class notes. You should inform me of any planned absences in advance so that you can arrange to submit any assignments in advance (assignments that are late due to absences are still late). You should also arrange with one of your fellow students in advance to have notes shared or otherwise taken for you (some students have class recorded). If you cannot plan this in advance (e.g., illness), you should follow up on these matters as quickly as possible upon your return. 2. Lead a discussion 15% of the final grade Your job is to summarize the reading material assigned for the day, offer your interpretation of the reading, with quotes and argumentative support from the previous lecture to support your interpretation, prepare 2 quotes to analyze and 3-5 questions for the class to discuss. You will submit your interpretation quotes and argumentative support and your discussion questions to Canvas PRIOR TO THE CLASS WHICH YOU ARE LEADING, these should be 2 sides double spaced in total. You should make your reading as accurate, clear, and well-supported as possible. 3. Project 1 = 10% of final grade - two small multimodal assignments with multiple options on Existentialist literature 4. Project 2 = 20% of final grade -two small multimodal assignments with multiple options on Existentialist theory 5. Final Paper = 30 % of final grade

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About the Instructor(s): Will Barnes

Will applies his areas of research concentration, Continental Ethical, Social, and Political Philosophy and Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Ethics to thwarting the psychosocial causes of structural identitarian violence and genocidal logic. He has master’s degrees in Buddhist philosophy (SOAS) and Western philosophy (UNM) and a Ph.D. in comparative philosophy (UNM). He has taught philosophy in five institutions and has studied in the U.K., India, Nepal, and the U.S.

He is the author of A Critique of Liberal Cynicism: Peter Sloterdijk, Judith Butler, and Critical Liberalism - an investigation into how liberalism and its critiques may be synthesized for establishing applicable solidarity in the pursuit of justice - published by Lexington in 2023, and is editor of Power and Crisis, Part of Brill Rodopi’s Philosophy of Peace series, expected 2024/25.

With reference to existentialism, feminist theory, Madhyamaka ontology and epistemology, psychoanalysis, post-structuralism, Quechua and Crow indigenous thought, African American comedy, and critical liberalism, his current manuscript, Virtues of Un-knowing: A Social, Ethical, and Political Case for Deconstructing Knowledge, theorizes the motivations and means for resisting individual and collective knowledge-based identification for the sake of establishing an ethics and politics of interdependence.

Will currently teaches at the University of New Mexico in beautiful and unique Albuquerque, where he has chosen to build community.