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CLU44550 How to be Happy

Thanks to Thomas Jefferson, the pursuit of happiness - along with life and liberty - is a foundational right of the US constitution. And all of us want to be happy. But how many of us can define what happiness is? And since we struggle to define it how can we attain it, and why are we all so obsessed with it? Part of the answer lies in the influence of one strand of thinking about happiness (eudaimonia) that derives from Aristotle. But Aristotle’s influential view was merely one among many, so in this module, we revisit the earliest formulations of happiness in Classical literature and philosophy and compare them with other conceptions of happiness from contemporary western and non-western traditions. By so doing we’ll tell the story of how we began to think of ourselves as people who need to pursue something called happiness - even though we don’t know what it is - and reveal how odd our modern conceptions of doing well and being happy are. Texts will be read in translation.

  • Module Organiser:
    • Dr Ashley Clements
  • Duration:
    • Semester 1
  • Contact Hours:
    • 22 (one 2-hr seminar per week)
  • Weighting:
    • 10 ECTS
  • Assessment:
    • 50% coursework (two written assignments), 50% written examination
  • Course Open To:
    • Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology; TJH Classical Civilisation; TJH Ancient History and Archaeology and Classical Languages (subject to Departmental approval); Visiting

Learning Outcomes

Upon the successful completion of this module students should be able to demonstrate:

  • Interpret a range of different ancient and modern conceptions of happiness
  • Critique modern Western conceptions of happiness against their ancient antecedents
  • Relate different conceptions of happiness and the systems of value of which they are part
  • Evaluate ethics in comparative perspective and use ancient texts and non-Western perspectives to pose the question of how we should live now