PHIL / REL 150P: Life, Death, and Meaning

This is an introductory-level course of mine at Old Dominion University, and you’re invited to follow along, to join conversation on TikTok, or, if you’re a teacher, to use or adapt these materials for your own classes. I developed this course in Summer 2020 and taught it for the first time in Spring 2022.

You can follow me on TikTok here, but I post on varied topics and if you want to get to just the class-related TikToks, search for #deathcourse. Stitch replies to join in—

Our readings are pretty short (1) because I want students to sit with them, not rush through them; (2) because my student outcome goals are for critical thinking and critical reading, not mastering information; and (3) because hey this is a 100-level course. Readings in the First Part have embedded audio commentary so that we can avoid the thing where we spend class explaining the reading, and then students stop doing the reading because we’re just going to explain all of it in class anyway. With the embedded commentary, we can use the full class time for conversation and analysis. In the Second Part, students start inserting their own questions in the margins of the text, and start answering each other’s questions.

My current syllabus is here, and the readings and assignments are below with one link/page per week. Right now only Part One is live, but I’ll continue to update this!

Part 1: Themes from the Ancient Levant, 450 BCE–1945

𓂋𓏤𓈒 𓏌𓏤 𓉐𓂋 𓏏𓂻 𓅓 𓉔𓂋 𓅱 𓇳𓏤


Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια

Ἐγχειρίδιον Ἐπικτήτου

Parerga und Paralipomena, von Arthur Schopenhauer (Selections)

Selections from Friedrich Nietzsche

『葉隠』, 山本常朝 (Selections)

Part 2: Critiques: Indigenous, Feminist, Black and Disabled Perspectives

Pierotti and Wildcat, “Traditional Ecological Knowledge: The Third Alternative”

Virginia Held, “Birth and Death”

Eva Feder Kittay, “When Caring is Just and Justice is Caring”

James Cone, “”Nobody Knows de Trouble I See”: The Cross and the Lynching Tree in the Black Experience”

Part 3: Reconsideration

La Peste, Albert Camus

La Peste, Albert Camus

La Peste, Albert Camus

Final Reflection Assignment