Living the Good Life: A Philosopher's Guide to Meaning and Happiness

Curious Minds Speaker Series
  • a statue of a thinking man


Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Thu, Feb 16, 2023 1:00 PM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Thu, Feb 23, 2023 12:00 PM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Thu, Mar 2, 2023 1:00 PM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Thu, Mar 9, 2023 1:00 PM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Thu, Mar 16, 2023 1:00 PM
Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema Thu, Mar 23, 2023 1:00 PM
Film Info


Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are delaying the start of Curious Minds series Living the Good Life: A Philosopher's Guide to Meaning and Happiness, until next week. The Thursday, February 9 lecture has been cancelled. The series will now begin on Thursday, February 16 at 1 pm.

An additional lecture has been scheduled for Thursday, March 23 at 1 pm. We can pro-rate your subscription if you cannot attend the make-up lecture.

Thursdays, February 16 - March 23, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM | REGISTER NOW

Not ready to commit? Single tickets are available at the box office on the day of class.

We have a mandatory masking policy (except while eating or drinking) for all in-person Curious Minds courses.

What makes a meaningful life? How should we live our lives and how should we treat each other?

In this entertaining and mind-expanding new series from Curious Minds favourite Dr. Laura Carlson (Six Meals That Changed the World), adapted from popular courses she has taught at Queen’s University and the University of Oxford, we’ll explore how philosophers, writers and artists have approached the thorny question of personal and collective happiness over the last 4,000 years.

From the Ancient Greek philosophers to Toni Morrison; from the most philosophical TV show of all time (The Good Place) to Thomas More’s Utopia and Marie Kondo’s guide to keeping a tidy home, we’ll take a colourful, wide-ranging and highly accessible survey of the diverse societies, thinkers and big ideas that have shaped how people around the world imagine a ‘good’ life.

Don’t miss this uplifting inquiry into what it means to be human.

This series is led by Dr. Laura Carlson, who holds a doctorate in History from Oxford University and has taught history and classics at Queen’s University and Centennial College. Dr. Carlson has taught the popular Curious Minds courses Six Great Meals That Changed the World and An Edible History of Toronto.

Course Registration: $69 (Hot Docs Members: $60, $48, Free)

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February 16: How do we know what is real?

Long before Neo took the red pill in The Matrix, questioning reality was a favourite topic amongst ancient philosophers. To kick off the lecture series, we’ll explore some of the most interesting debates on one of the most basic questions of human existence: How do we know what is real? We’ll explore how philosophers and scientists throughout the world have tackled the question, from Plato to Neil deGrasse Tyson.

February 23: Are we alone in the universe?

The ‘specialness’ of humanity has fascinated philosophers for centuries, particularly when it comes to questions of morality, ethics and our treatment of other living creatures in the natural world. In this lecture, we’ll explore how everyone from Thomas Paine to Philip K. Dick have tackled the question of ‘human exceptionalism’ throughout history, and why it has become especially relevant in a world of robots and artificial intelligence.

March 2: What do I owe other people (if anything)?

In this lecture, we tackle one of the biggest philosophical questions of all: How should one person treat another? We’ll explore how philosophers from societies across the globe have attempted to answer this question, from the origins of the Golden Rule to the African concept of ubuntu. We’ll also confront some of the most interesting modern interpretations of this question, including how it led to one of the most successful (and philosophical) television shows of all time, The Good Place.

March 9: What would a utopian society look like?

As long as there have been human societies, there have been debates about how best to govern and organize them. From the ancient Greek city-state, to the divine right of kings, to the modern democracy, this lecture will offer a crash course in the philosophical foundations behind some of the world’s most famous forms of government and the historical contexts that created them. From Thomas More’s Utopia to William Morris’s News from Nowhere, we’ll look at some historical examples of those who tried (and often failed) to make a perfect world.

March 16: Why do humans make art?

Nobel laureate Toni Morrison once said, “The best art is political.” But not everyone agrees. In this lecture, we’ll explore why humans have been producing art since the time of the cave paintings, and whether all art must have a meaning. We’ll explore a range of historical and modern interpretations to art: whether art is the pinnacle of human achievement or an utter waste of time. From prehistoric cave paintings, to Notre Dame, to Andy Warhol, we’ll explore how humans have approached art and its meaning over several millennia.

March 23: How can I be happy?

For the last lecture in the series, we’ll tackle one of life’s greatest challenges: the pursuit of happiness. Self-help books are full of advice on the subject, from earning more money to taking longer vacations. In this lecture, we’ll dig into the history of happiness and learn why it can be so difficult to define and to achieve. We’ll also explore some of the many definitions of happiness around the world: from ancient Greco-Roman concepts of good fortune to Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic of tidying up.