Wayne State University

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Fall Symposiam

Theme: The Good Life

Date: November 6, 2015
Venue: McGregor Memorial Conference Center
Time: 10:00 AM to 5:40 PM

Please click here for the schedule


Explication of the upcoming Symposium themed "The Good Life"

"The unexamined life is not worth living." With these words, Socrates
famously explained his decision to choose death over exile or silence after he had been convicted of corrupting the youth of Athens. Socrates' quest to understand the good life helped establish the Western philosophical tradition, and his life and death pose questions that still resonate today. The good life—it is what we all want, but what is it exactly? Is it food on our plate, swinging from a hammock on the beach, or personal fulfillment from spirituality or work? How can we recognize it, and how can we find it? What happens when different ideas of the good life collide?

Since Socrates' death over two thousand years ago, influential thinkers from Cicero to Montaigne have sought to identify the good life. Augustine, Aquinas, and other theologians have viewed the good life from a religious perspective, and political theorists and leaders like Vladimir Lenin, Ronald Reagan, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau promised a good life after radical economic change. Meanwhile, authors from Thomas More and Jonathan Swift to Margaret Atwood and Suzanne Collins have imagined utopian and dystopian societies that satirize our inability to achieve the good life. While musicians like Pharrell Williams and Bobby McFerrin have encouraged us to be happy and Men at Work boasted of their land of plenty, other musicians from Tony Bennett to Weezer take more pessimistic views of the good life as sugarcoating our personal deficiencies. Social psychologists have argued that the modern quest for material things never leads to the good life, and cultural anthropologists like George Foster posited that peasants believed in a world of limited good.

The good life also connects the humanities and sciences. Disciplines such as medicine, psychology, and the life sciences seek to ensure health (both mental and physical) by understanding and preventing disease. The intersection of these two senses of the good life—as a scientific and philosophical enterprise—has recently led to the creation of interdisciplinary fields (the medical humanities, medical ethics and bioethics, and the philosophy of healthcare) that seek to answer pressing questions: What is the ethical basis of medical research? How does the moral obligation of the doctor relate to the rights of a patient?"