In this course, we will investigate a fundamental human question: what is happiness, and what do we need to attain it? Is happiness primarily about being satisfied with our lives or does it consist in fulfilling our emotional aspirations or in having a positive balance of pleasure over pain? Is happiness an all-encompassing goal, or can it conflict with other considerations such as meaning, morality, or authenticity? If so, how do we address such conflicts? To reflect on this set of questions about happiness and well-being, we will investigate the arguments of philosophers, psychologists, and cultural critics. The goal of our inquiry is not so much to arrive at a fixed answers but to critically reflect on the concept of happiness from different angles. In addition to investigating the topic of happiness, this course will serve as an introduction to the craft of writing and critical thinking. We will begin by analysing the basic elements of academic writing and discuss strategies to help you construct a well-reasoned argument, respond to other writers’ claims, and anticipate objections. Subsequently, we will discuss the structural elements of an effective research paper, with particular attention to strategies for revising your first draft. After the mid-semester break, we will discuss how to generate a significant research question and how to identify, evaluate, and use sources to support your own argument.

Course organization

Since this course aims to help you hone your writing and critical thinking skills, we will spend much of our time discussing strategies for becoming a better reader and writer. In addition to peer writing workshops, one-on-one writing conferences, and oral presentations, which will take up an entire class session, we will discuss a writing-related topic during the first half of each class. During the second half, we will discuss the assigned readings, guided primarily by student questions and responses.


Course objectives

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Analyze and critically evaluate arguments in texts drawn from different academic disciplines
  • Construct a clearly defined research problem, explain its significance, and articulate an argument that addresses it
  • Critically engage with relevant sources that will help you to contextualize and support your argument
  • Articulate your argument in a clearly structured, evidence-based way, and respond to anticipated objections
  • Revise your written work based on peer and instructor feedback and offer targeted suggestions for improvement to your fellow students