The Most Important Question of All

Pleasure v Pain

We all dream of living the good life – but what is the good life? 

  • Is it a life in which we maximize pleasure and minimize pain?
  • Is is a life spent with a loving partner or in the company of good friends? 
  • Is it a life in which we have more money or power or fame than most people are able to achieve? 
  • Is it a life free from the domination of others or from excessive attachment to material things?
  • Is it a life spent loving God and doing God's will?
  • Mother TeresaIs it a life spent serving others or working to make society better? 
  • Is it a life governed by reason that finds the right balance among all the elements that contribute to a good life?
  • Is the good life the same as the happy life and, if it is, is it certain that our species is even "designed" for happiness?

From the dawn of civilization, philosophers, theologians, poets, and scientists have grappled with all these questions and have recommended ways to achieve the good life as they understood it. Each has tried to teach us how to live happily and well.  


In this course, we encounter some of the most influential thinkers in both Western and Asian societies who have dealt with the questions surrounding happiness and good living over more than two millennia. We read and discuss their thoughts as a way to help us develop our own philosophy of happiness and good living – a philosophy that will inform our life choices, console us when we encounter life’s difficulties, and guide us in our roles as friends and engaged citizens who care about our own happiness and the happiness of others.

© Terry Grundy 2019