Experiencing the Good Life

My class, The Good Life: Philosophy of Happiness, has been spending its first week learning about the most famous Danish philosopher, Kierkegaard. Luckily for us, he lived right here in Copenhagen!

A phrase I’ve heard often since arriving here is that at DIS, Europe is our classroom. This really couldn’t be more true, as all of our classes work to synthesize what we learn with aspects of local culture or businesses through field studies, where we leave our classrooms in order to get out and experience how what we’re learning relates to local culture. Some of my friends have gone to a local consulting business, to the zoo while studying child development, or to work on a farm while studying traditional danish cuisine.

For our first week in The Good Life: Philosophy of Happiness, we’ve been hard at work studying the works of Søren Kierkegaard, who is widely regarded as the most famous and influential Danish philosopher, and who wrote extensively on subjects related to the acquisition of happiness.

Our faculty instructor, Nan, has been one of the kindest and most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met. Our class is extremely diverse, academically, and Nan has done an incredible job of making Kierkegaard (a notoriously difficult philosopher) accessible, and everyone has something to contribute to class discussions. Although I am a philosophy major, I had never read Kierkegaard before and so having Nan to help us through it has been fantastic.

Kierkegaard grew up and spent his life right here in Copenhagen, and so our study tours have been focused on experiencing Copenhagen as a city and understanding how the local culture affected him as he grew up and in turn how he has left lasting impacts on Copenhagen.

Our two study tours were both tours of Copenhagen, one on foot, and the other on bike. We found out that he’s often likened to Socrates, the famous Greek philosopher, due to the way he connected with locals in everyday life and advocated for individuals spending more time in nature.

As we found out, although Kierkegaard lived in Copenhagen his entire life, he owned many different homes, most of which bear some sort of plaque. The last stop on our walking tour was one of his homes, but it had been turned into a cafe. DIS kindly paid for us all to have a non-alcoholic drink right in Kierkegaard’s living room!

Of great importance to Kierkegaard were the churches where he grew up, and most of his teachings relate to his being a Lutheran. Two different stops on our walking tour were churches that were particularly influential, one of which being the church where his service was held once he died.

It’s incredible to me how so much of our class is being related to where we are. Initially I was skeptical when I saw we had four hours of class a day, but it has been far from just sitting and listening to lectures. We’ve been exploring and actually connecting with what we’ve learned in a tangible way.

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