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Remember, it's never too late to register for a class, even after it's begun. You can always catch up with any sessions you may have missed by watching the video recordings of previous sessions. The time remaining to register before the first class session is below, so stop hesitating and get to it!

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as in-person classes, live-streamed Zoom sessions and video recordings

  • • This course is offered during the 2024 Term 3 (July-Sept) period as an in-person course at the EarthDiverse Centre in Hamilton, New Zealand, live-streamed via Zoom if you live elsewhere, and as video recordings of the live sessions if you cannot attend the regularly scheduled class.

Date & Time:

Begins Wednesday 31 July 2024

  • • Our 2024 Term 3 “The Meaning of Life” course meets on Wednesdays from 11:00am-1:00pm beginning on 31 July 2024 (New Zealand time) and continues for 3 consecutive weekly sessions. The last class of the Term is held on Wednesday 14 July 2024.

  • • If you live outside of New Zealand and wish to Zoom in to our live class sessions, check the nearest local Time Zone equivalent below.

Time Zone equivalents:

for live-streaming Zoom Sessions from New Zealand. If your Time Zone doesn't suit our live-streamed class, you can also access our courses by watching the live-recorded sessions that are posted to the course webpage each week, usually within 1-2 days.

  • Honolulu, Hawai’i: begins Tue 30 Jul 2024, 1:00-3:00pm

  • US Pacific: begins Tue 30 Jul 2024, 4:00-6:00pm

  • US Central: begins Tue 30 July 2024, 6:00-8:00pm

  • US Eastern: begins Tue 30 Jul 2024, 7:00-9:00pm

  • London, UK: begins Wed 31 Jul 2024, 12:00-2:00am

  • New Delhi, India: begins Wed 31 Jul 2024, 4:30-6:30am

  • Bangkok, Thailand: begins Wed 31 Jul 2024, 6:00-8:00am

  • Singapore & Shanghai: begins Wed 31 Jul 2024, 7:00-9:00am

  • Tokyo, Japan: begins Wed 31 Jul 2024, 8:00-10:00am

  • Sydney Australia: begins Wed 31 Jul 2024, 9:00-11:00am


PHL216: The Meaning of Life

  • • This is one of life's perennial questions, the one that gets the most airtime, especially in the modern era. What does it ALL mean?

  • • There are several contenders that claim to answer this most dofficult of questions. This series of three consecutive lecturers explores them all, even the ones that say that life is meaningless, it’s a stupid question, or even a pseudo-question. Each will be critically explored with time for discussion.

Session 1: We are here to have a good time. Pleasure and happiness are the ultimate meaning of things.

Wednesday 31 July 2024

Pleasure and happiness are the ultimate meaning of things. That’s why we’re here. To get those endorphins going. Contrary to that, we are here to serve God, praise him and keep his commandments. Half the world thinks so. A popular response is sport, that ersatz religion. Some think the arts can supply meaning. Some, like Dick Frizzell, think we are the meaning; us, family.

Session 2: We are here to make a difference.

Wednesday 7 Aug 2024

Our purpose is to help people and make the world a better place. As Einstein said, “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” Socrates claimed that the search for truth is the meaning of life. Some suggest, like the philosopher Heidegger, that death, paradoxically, provides life with meaning. Living forever, the opposite idea, is also a popular contender.
make the world a better place

Session 3: We are here to reach self-actualization, to give birth to ourselves, as the psychologists express it.

Wednesday 14 Aug 2024

We are evolving creatures, and we must be part of that process, morally, intellectually, socially and politically. Another more recent answer is that it is all meaningless. Nothing makes sense, there is no big picture, it’s all random and pointless and in the end the whole planet will be burnt up in a fire ball.

Or perhaps we are here simply to bare witness to the wonder of existence, otherwise it would be all for nothing if no one was around to see it.

If a modernist, you’d be looking for the answer, which for Stephen Hawking would be “the triumph of human reason,” whereas a postmodernist would say, the meaning of life is the meaning you give it, which for the physicist would be near to worthless.

Course curriculum

    1. EarthDiverse Course Information

    2. EarthDiverse Zoom instructions

    1. Session 1: We are here to have a good time.

    1. Session 2: We are here to make a difference.

    1. Session 3: We are here to reach self-actualization, to give birth to ourselves, as the psychologists express it.

About this course

  • Video and PDF content of class presentations or whiteboard notes are uploaded weekly after each live session
  • Begins Wednesday 31 July 2024
  • NZ time: Wednesdays 11:00-1:00pm

Meet our Instructor:

History, Literature & Philosophy Instructor Peter Dornauf, MA Dip Tchg

Peter Dornauf has taught in secondary schools, Wintec and Waikato University collectively for over 25 years. He is a well know Waikato artist, art critic and a writer of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. His book “Days of Our Deaths” serves as the basis for one of Peter’s other popular EarthDiverse courses, “A Cultural History of Death.” Peter also teaches our “The Spiritual in Modern Art” course and continues to develop additional EarthDiverse courses for future Terms.


This is a hybrid class with both in-person sessions in our classrooms and streamed live via Zoom.

All in-person classes are held at the EarthDiverse Centre located at 401 Anglesea Street, Hamilton Central, Hamilton (located just north of the Hamilton Central Bus Station) (entrance is located on the side of the building, see map below). Those looking for parking for our evening classes can park just in front of the building in any of the available car parks. Daytime parking can be found in our dedicated car parks, or free 2-hour on-street daytime parking can be found just in front of Anglesea Street.

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.

Distance-Learning options:

Live Zoom sessions and Video-Recordings

  • • 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.

Pricing options:

• All prices are in New Zealand dollars and include GST. • Unwaged includes students, seniors, retirees and unemployed. • Prices remain the same regardless of your chosen method for accessing this course.


Those who cannot make the class meeting day and time via live Zoom sessions may consider accessing this course through the weekly recorded video sessions. Class videos are usually posted within 1-2 days of each live class session and are available for your own personal learning on a day and time of your choosing.

  • • 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 posted weekly to the course webpage usually 1-2 days after each class 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.

  • • 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.


  • There are no prerequisites for this course.

  • Open to adults of any age (years 16 and above).


Love your courses!

Vicki Jacobsen

I have so enjoyed and appreciated all of the courses I have attended.  They have spurred long held interests and I am looking forward to pursuing the knowledge and the way of considering and understanding I have gained from you and your programmes. (2022 Term 2)