In Search of Meaning
The main goal of this course is to explore how some key literary writers and thinkers made sense of the world. You can think of this course as a quest for meaning through the literary works of four eminent figures.
We will be focusing on meaning from four different vantage points:
- Pessimism (What pessimism is and is NOT through the lens of the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran)
- Faith & the tragic sense of life (Through the prism of the Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno)
- Nature, Life, & Action (Through the prism of the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis)
- Coping with alienation during transitionary periods, revolutions, and political turmoil (Through the prism of the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz)
This course will not give you answers. It is an attempt to follow the path of four different novelists in their search for meaning in a seemingly silent universe.
Why this is relevant today more than ever? Because in a time of crisis on all levels, political, social, economic, and existential, alienation and existential crises can easily kick in.
But we are not alone in this journey.
Many other writers from different cultures and backgrounds had to do deal with similar predicaments. They also left behind fascinating reflections on how they tried to make sense of the world.
This course might not be useful for you. It will however provide you with a space for discussion, and the tools as well as some questions to reflect on life and the meaning of existence from different yet interesting perspectives.
If you don't like what we do, we'll give you a full refund.
I mean I'd say no questions asked, but it would be too late because that's mainly what we will be doing. Ask questions.
Please find below a tentative syllabus:
- Week 1. Cioran, On the Heights of Despair
- Week 2. Unamuno, Niebla (Mist)
- Week 3. Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek
- Week 4. Mahfouz, The Beggar
Who we are:
I've been giving these online courses since June 2020. To date, I've had over 550 participants from around the world. If you want to read a detailed review of what the courses are like, check out what Anthony Smyrski wrote in one of his newsletter dispatches at the following link.
The course will be co-taught by:
- Mahmoud Rasmi (@decafquest): finished his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Salamanca Spain. Between 2013 and 2020, he taught philosophy and cultural studies at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University. Now, he has decided to venture into the virtual world in order to give affordable classes online to people who are interested in studying philosophy in a non-academic setting.
Here’s a sample class on Stoicism from an Introduction to Philosophy online course:
- Philippe Caponis (@philippecaponis): Philippe holds an MS in Physics and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Paris. He taught philosophy at the American University of Beirut and Lebanese American University. He is interested in better understanding how scientific theories illuminate (and often reshape) philosophical debates about the nature of space and time, identity and material constitution.
Here’s a talk by Philippe titled: Three Philosophical Lessons from Modern Physics:
Dates and Schedule:
- 4 weeks, once a week, 2 hrs per session.
- The course will start on Tuesday, May 10, and will end on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.
- Course Schedule: Tuesdays at 7:00 pm CET time (Central European Time).
- Synchronous online course via Zoom.
- All lectures will be recorded and shared with the registrants
- Price: USD150$
- Capacity: 35 seats
You will receive the link to the sessions a few days before the course starts.
Since we are not an institution, you will not be able to claim credits for the course. Many of you might also already be busy with your jobs and daily routine; as a result, we won’t be assigning any homework, exams, or papers. However, if any of you wishes to be assessed on the course material covered, we can arrange for the proper method and format in private.
The sessions will be recorded and uploaded to the DecafQuest YouTube channel as hidden. The links will be made available to those registered.
Testimonials: Praise from others:
"I must say that was the best decision of my summer join @Decafquest and @philippecaponis philosophy course 1) the stoic debunked and the hype explained 2) the belief structure 3) determinism and rationality 4) freedom sex drugs and rock and roll. Along with meeting great ppl." - Axel Tasciyan (@akwelz)
“Highly recommend to anyone interested in finding out (more or for the first time like me) about philosophy – selected readings and highly enjoyable discussions, interactive, live class sessions with participants from all over the world.” – Tan Erten, (@tanerten)
“This guy’s class could change your life. At least make you think.” – Stephen Schott (@StephenBSchott)
“But one thing I can say is that his class got me thinking.” – Assaad Elias Mrad (@mradassaad)
“I have never taken a class like this (am an engineer), so I was a little intimidated by my lack of knowledge on the subject matter. Mahmoud brought a very non-elite, bottom-up style to the discussions and I felt very free and compelled to comment and be a part of this class. His knowledge is exceptional, and his perseverance (despite significant constraints happening in Beirut) was an inspiration. Having Nassim Taleb as a guest lecturer was also a great start to the class. 10/10 would take another class!” – Tom Martin
“Interested in new learning? Curious about an ancient topic? @Decafquest philosophy course is a great use of 2 hours, 2x wk for 1 mo. You’ll be in the company of a thoughtful, studied guide and like-minded others from across Earth globe Asia-Australia.
Appearing smart has never been easier: brag about your acceptance into DecafQuest’s “Intro to Philosophy”. Getting a little smarter has also never been easier either: join a knowledgable, inquisitive guide on discovering Philosophy, with the contemporary collaboration of like-minded classmates across the globe.” – Peter Noble (@petewnoble)
“I highly recommend @Decafquest.” – Waël Atallah (@wael_atallah)
“I joined @Decafquest’s course and can say it’s thought-provoking and fun.” – Oussama Himani (@ohimani)
“Last month I signed up for @Decafquest’s course on the Pre-Socratics to help with a project I’m working on related to the Sophists. Today’s the class I’ve been waiting for, but I already learned BIGLY more than I’d imagined, incl. about patristics and Late Antique Christianity.” – Beyon Miloyan (@bmiloy)
A pdf including course details.