The Pursuit of Happiness:A History

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"The Pursuit of Happiness: A History"  (Fall Term 2021)

Iliff Course #: IST 3037 - DU/JDP Course #: RLGN 4506

4 Credits; HI-Depth Advanced Masters & PhD Level Seminar

Starting Date:      Thursday September 16th, 2021

Ending Date:        Thursday November 18th, 2021

Class Times:         Thursdays from 8:30 AM to Noon

Classroom:           Meets @ Iliff in Shattuck Hall (social-distancing required in class)

Instructor: Prof. Albert Hernández, Ph.D.


Office: Iliff Hall, Room 115

Office Hours:---By Appointment---In-Person, On Zoom, or Mobile-Call.

Important Policy Notices & COVID-19 Protocols:

In the event that any participant in an Iliff School of Theology course meeting on campus tests positive for COVID-19, that course will move to synchronous virtual meetings during the scheduled class time for the next two weeks. After that quarantine period, the course will then resume meeting on campus as scheduled.

Residential courses at Iliff School of Theology DO NOT MEET on-campus during IST's Week of "Gathering Days" (Week Five of the Fall Term from Monday Oct 11 to Saturday Oct 16).  Thus, this course will be fully online for Week Five only.  (This practice will avoid scheduling conflicts for students who may be registered for a hybrid course that conflicts with a residential class' meeting time).

Course Description/Synopsis:

This course provides a historical examination of key concepts, major questions, and practices about humanity’s search for Happiness from the Hellenistic-Roman period of Antiquity through the Early Christian, Medieval, and Early-Modern periods of Western history.

The content of the course centers on the role of ancient moral philosophy and Early Christian theology in the formulation of eudaemonic theories about the problem of Happiness in relation to metaphysical assumptions and religious influences as well as to socio-cultural, political, and institutional norms that shaped Christian notions of human purpose and potential. Time will be set aside in class each week to examine and discuss the contemporary proliferation of books, seminars, organizational development programs, and employee engagement workshops aimed at addressing "Happiness" and "Wellness" in the early 21st-Century.

Given the significant effects of the 2020-2022 global COVID-19 pandemic on human flourishing, we will also discuss the relationship of "health" and "healing" to Happiness as well as the relationship of disease to the idea and experience of Happiness and Wellness.  Time will be set aside in class each week to examine and discuss the contemporary proliferation of books, seminars, organizational development programs, and employee engagement workshops aimed at addressing "Happiness" and general ideas/practices of "Wellness" in the early 21st-Century.


Required Textbooks:

Augustine, Trilogy on Faith and Happiness. The Augustine Series, Book 6. New City Press, 2010. (NOTE-WELL: Any edition of these commentaries and theological treatises by Augustine will be fine for your reading and for our class discussions, including versions of this text available online.)

Thomas Aquinas. Treatise on Happiness. John A. Oesterle, Trans. University of Notre Dame Press, 1991.  (NOTE-WELL: any edition of this section of Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae will be fine for your reading and for our class discussions, including versions of this text available online.)

R. W. Sharples, Stoics, Epicureans and Sceptics: An Introduction to Hellenistic Philosophy . Routledge, 1996.

Additional Required Readings:---- All other readings from primary or from secondary sources, will be made available to students as PDF's on the "Files" tab of our Canvas course site, and will be listed in the "Course Summary" section of the Syllabus for each week of the course in which the reading is due to be completed with full author, title, and page number information. Any relevant internal or external links to required readings available in the public domain will also be listed in the "Course Summary" of the Syllabus for each secondary source, or for each primary source excerpt.

Suggested Additional Reading : ( Not required to purchase these books).

William Davies, The Happiness Industry: How Government & Big Business Sold Us Well- Being. Verso, 2015.

Diana Lobel, Philosophies of Happiness: A Comparative Introduction to the Flourishing Life. Columbia Univ. Press, 2017.

Darrin M. McMahon, Happiness: A History. Grove Press, 2006.

Martin Thielen, Searching for Happiness: How Generosity, Faith, and Other Spiritual Habits Can Lead to a Full Life. Westminster John Knox Press, 2016.

Paul J. Wadell. Happiness and the Christian Moral Life: An Introduction to Christian Ethics. (Second Edition). Rowan and Littlefield, 2012.

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Course Objectives and Learning Goals: 

(1) Students will develop an understanding of the classic formulations of Aristotle on Western moral thought and its influence on the formation of Christian theological anthropology, the history of ethics, and ideas about happiness.

(2) Students will develop systematic research skills related to the research and writing of various types of historical, philosophical, and theological narratives from the contexts of Hellenistic thought and culture, Early Christian thought and culture, as well as from Medieval continuations of these ancient eudaemonic discourses.

(3) Students will develop critical skills for assessing the problems of periodization in historical reconstruction and representation.

(4) Students will cultivate critical skills for analyzing unexamined socio-cultural and contextual assumptions in works of historical representation, as well as in theological and philosophical treatises.

(5) Students will cultivate critical skills for assessing the selection and application of historiographical methods/models to specific research projects.

(6) Students will develop an awareness of the ongoing proliferation and dissemination of "Happiness" and "Wellness" programs across the landscape contemporary U.S. culture during the early 21st-Century.

DEGREE LEARNING GOALS in HISTORY (for all Iliff Master’s Degree Programs) 

Historical Development/ Expressions of Religious Traditions (HI): demonstrate awareness of religious traditions as historically-situated movements that interacted and changed in relationship to their surrounding cultures and subcultures over time, resulting in various expressions located within and influenced by social structures and institutions, ideologies, historical events, ethnicity and gender, and cultural worldviews.



Each student is expected to have read the assignments and be prepared to discuss the material for each class session.

Regular attendance in class, and participation in any required Canvas assignments/discussions will be factored into this portion of your grade.

Excessive absences or tardiness will lower your final grade by at least ten percent or by one letter grade.

Each student will be responsible for (1) leading a brief seminar discussion session during the term of the course (15 to 25 minutes duration maximum) based upon a summative overview of a chapter or portion of that day’s assigned readings/seminar discussion topics.

Students may also complete this requirement by selecting an external primary or secondary source and summarizing its particular view/philosophy of “Happiness” from among the vast history of Christianity, or from other philosophical, psychological, secular or religious traditions, including contemporary Happiness, Wellness, or Mental Health theories or programs. Your class presentation will be limited to no more than 15 to 25 minutes of class-time.  Internet-based, contemporary resources are acceptable as long as all print and/or internet sources are properly documented and listed at the end of your written summary.

In addition to the oral/verbal portion of this assignment described above, a brief 2 to 3 page written summary that raises two or three questions for critical discussion, with copies provided to the rest of the class (online through Canvas, emailed to the class, or printed and brought to class) by the presenter, is required to earn full-credit on this assignment and for successful completion of this assignment.

Each student will write a minimum 2-page double-spaced summative proposal of her/his/their Final Reflection Paper or Final Research Paper. This assignment will also be discussed in-class for the benefit of students who have never written a research proposal.

State your proposed paper’s central thesis and main topics/themes, then provide a summary of what you plan to work on, and explain why you chose this particular topic/theme.

You must also provide a preliminary bibliography (BBL) of your proposed topic/theme.  Four to six primary or secondary sources from books, journal articles, and reputable websites is fine for this “preliminary” BBL. 

The instructor will provide sample Research Paper and Reflection Paper proposals on Canvas for students who wish to preview the format of this assignment. 

DUE DATE: End of Week 6 on Saturday October 23rd, 2021 by 11:59 PM (CMT). Submitted on Canvas in Word format. (Please, absolutely NO PDF document submissions).   

Each student will write a Final Research Paper, or a Final Reflection Paper, based upon her/their/his proposed and approved research/reflection topic from the Midterm Proposal assignment.  

Papers should not exceed a total of 8 to 12 pages in length for Masters-level students, and MUST INCLUDE a complete "Bibliography" page at the end or a list of “Works Cited” page at the end. 

J.D.P./Ph.D.-level students will be allowed to write papers up to a maximum of 15 pages in length, including a complete "Bibliography" or a list of “Works Cited” page at the end of the paper.   

All Final Research Papers or Final Reflection Papers will be submitted/uploaded via Canvas by the assigned deadline.

DUE DATE: At the end of the course on Sunday November 21st, 2021 by 11:59 PM (MST). Submitted on Canvas in Word Format.  (Please, absolutely NO PDF document submissions).   

Course Procedures & General Expectations:

Writing Lab:

Grammar and organization are important for all written assignments.  Additional help is available from the Iliff Writing Lab . , which is available for students of any level who need help beginning an assignment, organizing thoughts, or reviewing a final draft.

Academic Integrity and Core Values:

All students are expected to abide by Iliff's Policies & Statement on Academic Integrity as published in the Masters Student Handbook , or the D.U. & I.S.T. Joint Doctoral Program's Statement on Academic Honesty, as published in the Joint PhD Student Handbook and as appropriate.  All participants in this class are expected to be familiar with Iliff’s Core Values.

Incomplete Grades:

Incomplete Grade petitions will be granted only in the case of documented and verifiable medical circumstances or other personal or family related emergencies. In the event a student requires this option, the final grade for the course will be assigned as a "Pass" (P) or "Fail" (F) grade.

Additional Policies & Services:

For information about A.D.A. Accommodations , or for information about additional Iliff School of Theology "Policies & Services" go to this tab/section of our Canvas course page or go there by clicking on this Link.

Sep 16, 2021ThuWEEK ONE: Introduction to the Course & to The History of Happinessdue by 02:30PM
Sep 23, 2021ThuWEEK TWO: The Ancient Greek Traditiondue by 02:30PM
Sep 30, 2021ThuWEEK THREE: The Pursuit of Happiness in the Hellenistic-Roman World, Part Onedue by 02:30PM
Oct 07, 2021ThuWEEK FOUR: The Pursuit of Happiness in the Hellenistic-Roman World, Part Twodue by 02:30PM
Oct 17, 2021SunWEEK FIVE: No On-Campus Class Meeting this Week. Focus Instead on Mid-Term Assignment Due at the End of Week Six. due by 05:59AM
Oct 21, 2021ThuWEEK SIX: Guest-Speaker and Student Presentation due by 06:00PM
Oct 24, 2021SunWEEK SIX: MID-TERM ASSIGNMENT: Proposals for Final Research Papers or Final Reflection Papers Due on Saturday of Week Six October 23rd, 2021 by 11:59 PM (MST)due by 05:59AM
Oct 28, 2021ThuWEEK SEVEN: Part I: Eudemian Ethics and Eudaimonism in Late-Ancient & Medieval Christianity due by 06:00PM
Nov 04, 2021ThuWEEK EIGHT: Part II: Eudemian Ethics & Eudaimonism in Medieval Christianity due by 06:00PM
Nov 11, 2021ThuWEEK NINE - Part I: "The Pursuit of Happiness through the Ages" (The Late Medieval and Early Modern Worlds)due by 07:00PM
Nov 18, 2021ThuAssigning Points and Grades for Class Presentation Projectsdue by 06:59AM
Nov 18, 2021ThuWEEK TEN: No Class on Thursday November 18th, 2021 - Focus Instead on Your Final Papers due by 07:00PM
Nov 20, 2021SatAssigning Points & Grades for Class Discussion and Participation during Fall Term 2021 due by 06:59AM
Nov 23, 2021TueWEEK TEN: Submitting Final Reflection Papers or Final Research Papers and Details about Deadlinesdue by 06:59AM