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>>Course Schedule<<

The calendar is an educated guess outlining the various activities we will undertake. Small or significant changes will be announced in class so that you can alter our tentative class plan as needed. If you are absent and if changes are made, you are still responsible for those changes. Print and bring all articles to class on day(s) they are to be discussed, and of course you should have read them prior to our discussion of them.

Class sessions
Topics & Deadlines
Week 1: Jan. 15, 17

Introduction to class and each other.

Review class policies and what we will be doing.

Stipulation of terms: "good", "life", "pursuit", "happiness"

  1. Syllabus, in its entirety

Some "texts":

  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Truman Show
Week 2: Jan. 22, 24

What is happiness? Aristotle's notion of eudaimon

The role of ethics, of a moral goodness

The role of community | What it means to be "flourishing" | Immortality | "Doing" happiness

Establishing some principles and shared terms

Due by midnight Monday: Comment to BC's blog post here

  1. Darrin M. McMahon’s “History of Happiness,” pp. 1-15
  2. J. O’Toole’s “Creating a Good Life,” pp. 27-39
  3. Pedro Alexis Tabensky’s “Introduction"," from Happiness (filename: flourishing.pdf), pp. 12-15
  4. Alan Lightman, "A Brief Version of Time"
  5. Groundhog Day
Week 3: Jan. 29. 31

Aristotelian v. The Moderns: Figuring out happiness

How to live

Acknowledging our ignorance

Due Thursday, Jan. 31: Your first response paper, choosing from among these posted questions.

  1. Aristotle’s “Happiness"
  2. Review (or re-read) O’Toole’s “What is Happiness"
  3. Mitchell’s Chapter 12 "(How to Live") from The Gift of Fire (see URL below)
  4. Rethinking Thinking (WSJ)
  5. Louis CK: Nobody's happy
  6. The Hurt Locker

Note: All readings from Mitchell can be found at All readings from Mitchell are for entire chapters. You should print the assigned chapters and bring them to class.

Week 4: Feb. 5, 7

Education and a Good Life

Attacking our ignorance | Acknowledging the walls

Discussion leaders: Mackenzie & Emily M. (Tuesday)

Due Thursday, Feb. 7: Your second response paper, choosing from among these posted questions.

  1. Wayne C. Booth’s “What is Supposed to be Going on Here?”
  2. Plato’s “Living in a Cave.”
Week 5: Feb.12. 14

What is education?

Due Tuesday, Feb.12: Short comment to BC's blog post asking for you to identify your "muddiest point"

Due Thursday, Feb.14: Third response paper, with questions provided here

The first day of retirement (photos from The Atlantic)
Berry-funded research grants, scholarships

  1. Mitchell’s Chapter I, “Who is Socrates…”
  2. Edmundson’s “On the Uses of a Liberal Education as Lite Entertainment for Bored College Students”
  3. Lifeplan instructions (.pdf download)
  4. Shawshank Redemption, at 1:24 into the clip.
Week 6: Feb. 19, 21

Governing ourselves

Due by 9am Tuesday, Feb. 19: Response to BC's post over at Wandering Rocks.

Due Thursday, Feb. 21: Fourth response paper, questions provided here

  1. Mitchell’s Chapter 9, “Home Rule” and Chapter 10 “Colonialism.”
  2. The Liberal Arts as Guideposts in the 21st Century, an essay in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education
  3. Your classmates' essays (SPRING 2012)
  4. Film: Educating Rita (on reserve in the library and on YouTube)
Week 7: Feb. 26, 28

Time, Memory and Living Backwards

Memory not as something we have, but as something we are.

Due Thursday, Feb. 28: Fifth response paper, questions provided here

  1. Ludwig’s “Living Backwards”
  2. Film: La Jetee (view in class)
Week 8: March 12, 14 The Man in the Mirror: Living Backwards

Who's really in charge?

The myth of progress: Disney's Carousel of Progress

Due noon, Tuesday, March 12:Comment to BC's blog post on, "How much is enough?"

Due Thursday, March 14: Sixth response paper, questions provided here

  1. Haidt’s “The Divided Self”
  2. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “Materialism and the Evolution of Consciousness”
  3. Rosenberg’s “Mindfulness and Consumerism”
  4. Men In Black clip.
  5. 30 Rock (What happens on Leap Year doesn't count! Hedonism)
  6. Typography clip from Vimeo
Week 9: March 19, 21 Tuesday: Hali & Megan, Tyler & Harper leading a half of the class each on Haidt, Csikszentmihalyi and Rosenberg

NO CLASS on Thursday

  1. Get a head start on next week's readings
  2. Work on your life plans
  3. Laugh, cry and think deeply
Week 10: March 26, 28 The Little Things and the Animal Kingdom

Due Tuesday, March 26:Seventh response paper; questions provided right here

Due Thursday, March 21: Outline and/or table of contents for your life plans, plus an abstract

  1. Mitchell’s Chapter 4, “The Right Little Thing.”
  2. Frans de Waal’s “Kindness”
  3. Chris Rock discovers his ancestry
  4. NBC drama "Awake" and notions of memory
Week 11: April 2, 4 Filtering media messages; consumerism v. religion

How much should individual responsibility play in one’s pursuit of happiness and a good life?

  1. Twitchell’s “Attention K-Mart Shoppers,” pp. 23-32 and pp. 56-61
  2. Film: Ma Vie en Rose (fabulous film)
  3. Neil Postman (excerpts)
  4. Williams’s “Save the Whales, Screw the Shrimp”
Week 12: April 9, 11

How spontaneous are we, really?

No response papers due this week or next; work on your smooth drafts


  1. Wilson’s “In Search of Nature”.
  2. Leopold’s “The Land Ethic”
  3. Mark Smith’s “Obligations to Future Generations”
Week 13: April 16, 18

How do we even discuss responsibility vis-a-vis the environment?

No class Tuesday, April 16: Berry symposium on student scholarship

Due Thursday, April 18: Smooth drafts of lifeplans (instructions from the Feb. 5 block)

  1. van Wensveen’s “Something Old, Something New” [e-book].
  2. “The Physical Science behind Climate Change,” Scientific American
  3. View video of Jared Diamond on the collapse of societies
Week 14: April 23, 25

Looking to science

Dr. Michael Cooley joins us for The Third Chimpanzee on Tuesday.

Thursday: Life plan presentations

  1. Diamond’s “The Third Chimpanzee.”
  2. Is free will an illusion? Does it matter? (from the Chronicle of Higher Ed)
  3. Excerpt from The Great Divorce
Week 15: April 30

Wrapping up and finishing out; living some good life! Also, finish life plan presentations.

Due Tuesday, April 30: Final versions of life plans

Also, complete this brief final exam, due Wednesday, May 8 at 10 am (of course you can submit earlier)

pepp patty

keep your eyes on the prize!
keep attacking your ignorance!!


In this course we will examine a “timeless” concern of our species: What is the good life? What is the difference, if any, between a “happy life” and a “good life?” More specifically, we will examine some of the “goods” life offers that are clearly both a means to the good life and ends or goods in themselves. Obviously the “good life” is a combination of many smaller “goods.” In order to provide impetus for thought and class discussion, we will read various authors who, directly or indirectly, present ideas that attempt to define what is “good” in life or ideas that attempt to decline “truths” about life from which values and behavior may be derived that, in turn, may lead one to pursue elements of the “good and/or happy life.”

Some areas we will focus on are:

  • How and what kind of education contributes to the “good life?”
  • How and what kind of “character” or self-knowledge will best support the pursuit of the “good life?”
  • What are some of the “images/concepts” of the “good life” proffered to us by our own culture?
  • What types of responsibility does an individual have to create a good life for one’s self, for others

Course goals

Conscious and close analytical reading of assigned texts is central to whatever learning takes place in this course. Our effort will be to learn how to read more effectively so that as much as possible of the original author’s ideas become available to enrich our own thinking, and, perhaps, behavior.

A closely related goal is the development of critical and analytical thinking skills. Students will present in-class summaries of, references to, and evaluations of ideas encountered in required readings and in class discussion itself. In turn, the response of the instructor and other students will stimulate and demand collegial but also critical responses to ideas as they are presented.

More generally, our goal will be to begin a focused and sustained analysis of a basic question our species must have begun to ask whenever self-reflexive consciousness became a part of our being: what makes life “good”? We do not need to set as our goals the discovery of final answers; rather, our goal is to discover some of the “better” paths one might follow as we pursue answers to the question of “What is the good life?”

Writing requirements

You will be writing throughout the semester, realizing that writing IS thinking. It’s difficult to write every day; it’s difficult to write poorly every day. As your writing improves, so will your thinking, which will produce yet better writing. A virtuous cycle. The course asks you to write in three basic forms or formats: two-page response papers, a deep analysis of roughly 10 pages, and very short, discussive comments to the class blog,

These various writing assignments will invite you to engage in the pursuit of course goals as outlined above. The response papers should not be considered an informal diary of cryptic, vague thoughts, randomly recalled as they are inspired by a muse. Rather, they should be a deliberate and systematic analysis of ideas written in complete sentences and well-developed paragraphs.

To give you a sense of the kinds of writing you will be doing, below are a few possibilities for writing emphases in your response papers. The list is not comprehensive, but should help you begin thinking about what to write (and how to write):

    1. Consider significant arguments that cause you to think, to recognize a new perspective on or a new analysis of some idea/issue. In this type of response, you would define what the key idea is and then explain or analyze how and why that idea is significant to other parts of the article or to larger issues under discussion in the class. In this type of paper, you will not re-tell, re-phrase or merely summarize what you have read. Instead, you will explain and analyze what ideas in the passages are provocative, new, troubling, brilliant and/or insightful. Identify and react to these “must be grasped” ideas, concepts and perspectives to retrieve from the article its essential ideas. Include why they are significant.
    2. Think about and comment on some of the implications of one or more specific ideas in the article: implications for other articles we have read and their key ideas; for your own understanding of the idea discussed in the article or for related ideas you have previously held; for values and beliefs related to our culture; for your own understanding, values, beliefs, and behaviors as any one or more of those relate to some as part of “happiness” or a good life.
    3. Once we’ve read a few articles, I will ask you to write about how you see how two or more of the articles’ ideas interact. What is it you have noticed? Why is it intellectually engaging? What are some questions and issues that have arisen directly from readings or class discussion that you want to pursue further?
    4. Look at your own life; the life you observe among your friends and peers; the life you see in our culture. What elements of the “good life” do you NOW see as potential parts of the good life because of readings and class discussion?
    5. Given our readings and class discussion, what old ideas about a “good” in life appear somehow less good (or more good) than before? Explain. What NEW ideas are germinating, creating new perspectives on possible “goods” in life or new ways of looking at “old” goods? Give examples, and analyze why these new ideas seem like possible goods worth pursuing.

For all of the ideas and themes above, DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE NIGHT BEFORE TO WRITE YOUR PAPERS. As Ernest Hemingway put it: “All first drafts are sh--.” And remember rule one of and for writing: “Sit your butt in the chair.”

Revisions of earlier ideas/analyses will also be required. You will get fair warning on when these will be due, and which papers you are to revise. These revisions (think ‘re-VISIONing,’ seeing anew) are critical, both for discussion and for your own journey.

You will get much more help with the writing projects as the semester unfolds.

What you will need (required):
  • Stuff you need to know:

    Professor: Dr. Brian Carroll
    Office: Laughlin Hall 100
    Office phone: 368.6944 (anytime)
    Home page:
    Blog: Wandering Rocks

    Office hours: MWF 2-5, TUE 1-3| by appointment | walk-ins welcome


    • Attendance: You are required to be in class. Recognizing that illness or personal problems may, rarely, cause one not to be able to come to class, two absences and/or latenesses are allowed before your course grade is affected. Unless credible, extreme circumstances arise that cause more than two absences, any absence beyond the two will deduct a point from the professionalism/participation portion of the course grade.

    You are required to bring relevant readings, journal entries, and other materials to class as outlined elsewhere on daily syllabus. Failure to have copies of assigned reading materials could also result in professionalism/participation deductions.

    • Distractions: Distractions, including digital devices: I am easily distracted; ringing cell phones, therefore, will be lobbed out of the classroom window or run over with a truck. Texters will be publicly humiliated. Late arrivals will be stared down unmercifully. In short, be professional and civil, pay attention and don’t distract anyone, including the professor. If you are unsure what “civil” means, the professor would be happy to elaborate.

    • Preparation: Complete the assignments and be ready to tackle the activities of the day. Be ready to discuss and debate ideas, approaches and opinions.

    • Deadlines: When an assignment is due, it is due. Turn in whatever has been done by deadline. If we have out-of-class assignments, they will be accepted for up to one week after deadline, but late assignments will be penalized. Remember, penalized work is not necessarily the same as 0 (zero) points. Complete out-of-class assignments and learn from them, even if they are turned in late. After an assignment is more than a week late, however, that work is not eligible for points. Please note: If a student misses a class when an assignment is due and that student has a legitimate excuse, the professor will accept the late assignment without penalty at his discretion. The professor defines what constitutes a legitimate excuse and reserves the right not to grant full credit for assignments turned in under these circumstances.

    Academic integrity: Because academic integrity is the foundation of college life at Berry, academic dishonesty will result in automatic failure on the assignment in question. Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following: cheating, unauthorized collaboration, plagiarism, fabrication, submitting the same work in multiple courses, and aiding and abetting. For definitions of these terms, please consult the instructor. Additionally, violators will be reported in writing to the Provost. Students who are sanctioned for violating the academic integrity policy forfeit the right to withdraw from the class with a grade of “W.”

    How you will be graded:

    Response papers 40%
    Final paper 20%
    Discussion participation, including blog posts 15%
    Discussion leadership 10%
    Professionalism 10%
    Presentations of life plans



    A theory about human nature and grading: Most human beings turn out average work most of the time. Many can do superior work. Of that many, most could do excellent work. The factors involved are obvious: native intellect, gifts from the gods, interest, desire to succeed, desire to learn, discipline, and shear hard work. The first two are beyond our control. The others are within our control.

    To compute your final grade, add up your point totals, apply the appropriate percentages, then refer to the grading system summarized here:

    59 and below

    Definitions of the grades can be found in the Berry College Bulletin. “A” students will demonstrate an outstanding mastery of course material and will perform far above that required for credit in the course and far above that usually seen in the course. The “A” grade should be awarded sparingly and should identify student performance that is relatively unusual in the course.

    Berry Viking code
    Academic dishonesty in any form is unacceptable because any breach in academic integrity, however small, strikes destructively at the college’s life and work. The code is not just policy, it is foundational to the academic environment we enjoy and in which scholarship thrives. It is in force in this classroom.

    For the complete Viking Code, please consult the student handbook. In short, each student is “expected to recognize constituted authority, to abide by the ordinary rules of good conduct, to be truthful, to respect the rights of others.” The College’s mission, in part, commits to a community of integrity and justice. During an era when ethics are sometimes suspect, there seems no higher goal toward which students ought to strive than that of personal honor.

    Students with special needs
    If you have special needs of any kind, including learning disabilities, please let me know. Come discuss it with me. I want to make sure on the front end that we prevent any problems associated with the course. Martha Van Cise, director of the Academic Support Center, suggests: “Students with disabilities who believe that they may need accommodation in this course are encouraged to contact the Academic Support Center in Krannert Room 301 as soon as possible to ensure that such accommodations are implemented in a timely fashion.”

    Finally, I believe we are here for a good time, not a long time, so let’s have some fun!

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