The Examined Life (PHI 303)

The Examined Life (PHI 303)

Course Description

This course will present some of the history of the rise of a self-aware consciousness, beginning in 500 BCE in the “Great Leap of Being” and including current thinking on the personal and independent search for self-knowledge and the philosophic quest for the ground of being. Lectures will explore both cultural and individual examples of the examined life as described by thinkers including Heraclitus, Lao Tse, the Buddha, Plato and Ralph Waldo Emerson, among others. The emphasis will be on the student’s own experience with the readings in the wisdom traditions and efforts to understand and articulate personal consciousness.

Course Sessions and Topics

This course is divided into ten, one-hour lectures.

Week 1 | Introduction to the Examined Life

Week 2 | The Great Leap of Being

Week 3  | The Crisis of Identity

Week 4 | Longing for the Commonplace

Week 5 | The Quaking of the Ground

Week 6 | Emerson Revisited

Week 7 | Resonance and Premature Satisfactions

Week 8 |  The Classic and the Modern Debate

Week 9  |  Ideology and the Problem of Order

Week 10 | A New Metaphysics

Learning Outcomes for this Course

Outcome 1:  Students will explore the history, psychology and philosophy of The Examined Life

Outcome 2: Students will examine what Socrates meant when he famously said “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Outcome 3: Students will see how the notion of the examined life was developed and changed in the religious traditions of Hebraism, Hellenism and Christianity.

Outcome 4: Students will study the birth and expression of existentialism and its effects on modern art, literature and philosophy.

Outcome 5: Students will see how the work of one modern philosopher.explores and lives the examined life.

Outcome 6: Students will have the opportunity to write and discuss the implications of both the examined and the unexamined life.

Your Teacher

Richard G. Geldard, PhD | Dramatic Literature and Classics, Stanford University. Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at Yeshiva University, Doctoral Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and Author of ten books on Early Greek philosophy and the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson (see