PHL201: THE BIG QUESTIONS
New Course Offered: 2021 Term 1.
Day and time: Thursdays from 7:00-9:00pm.
Dates: First class meets Thursday 18 February 2021 and continues for 8 consecutive weekly sessions. The last class is on Thursday 8 April 2021.
Location: Hamilton, or on-line distance learning.
What is the meaning of life? What is the best political system? What is language and how do we understand each other? Does God exist?
Most people ponder the BIG questions from time to time. Sometimes our answers change over time, often on their own or as the effect of seminal experiences or encounters.
But these days there are not very many places where you can freely discuss these questions. Many academic institutions have become highly specialised and seem hesitant to engage in cross-disciplinary discussion and debate with such universal questions. Religious and political institutions often answer such questions from a very distinct or doctrinaire ideological angle or position.
In 2021 Term 1, EarthDiverse has organised a ‘Philosophical Café’ of sorts—a chance to talk about these queries from a wide variety of perspectives. Our round table discussions aim at being a forum for the respectful exchange of inquiries and ideas concerning life’s Big Questions. The idea is to attract and engage participants from a diverse spectrum of religious and ideological backgrounds. Anyone who has asked themselves what life, reality, language and community are all about—or should be all about—is welcome to attend and participate in our community.
Following two 5 mins presentations from two guest presenters from different cultural, ethnic, religious, scientific or academic backgrounds, we shall engage in a round table exchange of ideas with a view to teasing out the diversity and commonalities in our various worldviews.
Join us in a philosophical and spiritual journey to tap into the great pool of wisdom that exists within our local community, both here in Hamilton (through in-person attendance), or on-line via Zoom, through which you can participate fully in our lounge discussions.
Week 1 (18 Feb): On the Meaning of Life: Guest presenters: Dr Norman Franke, PhD and Pam Chiles, Buddhist practitioner
Week 2 (25 Feb): Is Our Universe Real?: Guest presenters: Dr Dean Ballinger; Dr Marcus Wilson (University of Waikato physicist).
Week 3 (4 Mar): Living the Good Life: Guest presenters: Rev Andrew McKean; Harvey Indyk, PhD, Fonterra
Week 4 (11 Mar): Political Systems: Guest presenters: Anna Casey-Cox, PhD, GoEco & Poverty Action Waikato; Debashish Munshi, PhD, Management Communications, University of Waikato, author
Week 5 (18 Mar): What Does it Mean to be Human?: Guest presenters: Amanda Bradley (Anglican Franciscan Minister, used to work in hospitals in India, looking after the poor and the dying, and knew Mother Theresa. Amanda’s father was a Jewish refugee from Europe.). Our other presenter is Prof. Louis Schipper, an environmental biogeochemist in Earth Sciences at the University of Waikato.
Week 6 (25 Mar): Is there Truth, and if so, What is It?: Guest presenters: Dr Carrie Barber, member of the Religious Society of Friends, and Margalit Toledano, PhD, Univ of Waikato.
Week 7 (1 Apr): What is Language? How do we understand the world and each other?: Guest presenters: Richard von Sturmer, artist, poet, playwright, film-maker, and musician; and Cristina Schumacher, a NZ-based Brazilian linguist and an expert in language learning and teaching.
Week 8 (8 Apr): Does God exist?: Guest presenters: Bishop David Moxon, Anglican Church and former envoy of the Anglican Church to the Holy See, and Peter Dornauf.
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course.
Distance Learning: This course has distance-learning options for those unable to attend the live class sessions in Hamilton. Students have three options for attending our courses once they have registered:
- attend in-person classes in our Hamilton classrooms at the regularly scheduled day and time,
- attend our live on-line classroom sessions via Zoom at the regular scheduled day and time,
- watch the live-recorded class sessions at your leisure, at a time, day and place more suited to your schedule.
These options can be mixed and matched throughout the course to suit your own availability and location.
Dr Norman Franke is a Hamilton-based poet, scholar, artist and film maker (MA, Hamburg University; Ph.D. Humboldt University, Berlin). He has published widely about 18th century literature, German-speaking exile literature (Albert Einstein, Ernst H. Kantorowicz, Else Lasker-Schüler, Karl Wolfskehl) eco-poetics and at the intersection of religion and poetry. Norman’s poetry has been broadcast on radio and published in anthologies in Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. He was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Waikato for 22 years before his department was disestablished. He is currently a Conjoint Senior Lecturer & Research Fellow in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.
Dr Todd Nachowitz is a Hamilton-based lecturer, writer, anthropologist, environmentalist and diversity activist. He previously taught in Religious Studies at the University of Waikato, teaching courses on Comparative Religion and Religious Fundamentalism & Extremism. Todd holds a Masters Degree in Development Anthropology from Syracuse University in upstate New York (1991) and a PhD from the University of Waikato (2015) in Political Science and Public Policy where he completed his thesis on diversity governance and the Indian diaspora in New Zealand. Prior to settling in New Zealand in 1995, Todd lived and worked in the United States, India, Pakistan and Nepal. He spent 11 years in South Asia as the Academic Director for university study-abroad programmes in Varanasi, India (for the University of Wisconsin-Madison); Lahore, Pakistan (for the University of California-Berkeley); and Kathmandu, Nepal (for School for International Training, based in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA) focusing on language, culture and religion. Todd speaks Hindu and Urdu, and is a specialist in comparative world religions and the history, religions, languages and cultures of South Asia. He also currently teaches our Hindi and Urdu language courses and the Religious Diversity courses at EarthDiverse. Todd is also the Founder and Executive Director of EarthDiverse.
In addition to our in-person classes in Hamilton, our courses offer distance learning options for those unable to attend classes in-person. Live-streamed Hamilton classes are available via free Zoom software for those living outside the Waikato. Live-streaming allows you to participate fully in your own learning, ask questions of the instructor and participate fully in the same way as if you were in the physical classroom.
Those unable to attend the scheduled date and time of the actual class sessions, or those who need to miss a class or two due to previous engagements or unexpected illness, can watch any or all of the live-recorded video sessions on their computers, laptops, tablets or mobile devices and study at their own pace and in their own time.
Detailed instructions on how to access our distance learning components will be sent after completing your registration. There are no additional fees for this service. However, distance learners will need access to a desktop or laptop computer with a good quality web-camera (tablet devices and mobile phones can also access our live-streamed classes), a built-in microphone (most modern laptops have built-in microphones) or a headset with a microphone. You will also need to download and install the free Zoom software on your computer or device. Those accessing the video recordings will be able to do so with a simple web browser on any device.
- Any Term can be taken independently of the others, and there are no prerequisites for any of the Term courses.
- This class has no assignments, required readings, quizzes, tests or exams.
- All classes encourage questions and group discussion.
- PDF copies of each class presentation are emailed to all participants the next day so that you are free to focus on class content rather than taking notes. You are most welcome to come, sit back, relax, take part in and enjoy the discussions!
- Course fees include a short tea/coffee/snack break in the middle of each session.
- There are no refunds for missed classes. Missed classes can be made up by watching the on-line recording of the class session, which is usually posted within 24 hours.
- Guests of registered participants are welcome to attend a single class at no charge.
- Certificates of Completion for any particular Term Course or Series are available for Professional Development purposes upon request at the end of each Term or Series.
Cost per person per Term (8 classes):
- Waged: $85 (includes online registration fee)
- Unwaged (unemployed, students, seniors): $70 (includes online registration fee)
Prices for Waged and Unwaged registrants remain the same regardless of your chosen method for accessing our courses. This means that you have the option to mix and match access between attending our regularly-scheduled live class sessions in our Hamilton classrooms, accessing our live class sessions on-line via Zoom at the regularly scheduled class meeting time (no matter where you are located), or watching the video-recorded sessions anywhere at a time and date of your choosing. This allows you to study at your own pace and in your own time.
Once registered, you have three choices for attending your course:
- attend our in-person class sessions in our Hamilton classrooms,
- Zoom in to our live classroom sessions and participate in discussions,
- access the live-recorded class sessions each week. This allows you to register for an entire course, even though the scheduled class session day/time may not be suitable to your schedule. You may also use this option to watch any recorded session for review, or in case you may miss a class session due to prior engagement, being away, or due to illness. This allows you to catch up with any “missed” sessions at a more suitable time.
Once registered, you will receive detailed instructions on how to access our courses via either of the distance-learning options, i.e. live access via Zoom, or watching the video-recorded sessions.
LOCATION: This course is held at Artmakers Trust, Norris Ward Park Arts Centre, 2 Seddon Road, Hamilton, located on the corner of Ward Street and Seddon Road in downtown Hamilton. The carpark entrance is off Seddon Road at the back of Norris Ward Park. Our classrooms are immediately to the left of the Waikato Society of Potters studio and to the right of the Community Men’s Shed. There is plenty of free parking available in the carpark just outside the classroom. Bikes are also welcomed!
DISTANCE LEARNING: You get to choose your location when you Zoom in to our live classroom sessions, or access our classes at your leisure and at a time and day of your choosing by watching the video recorded sessions from each class. This allows you to study at your own pace.