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Professor Surveys 'Good Life' Ingredients

April 5, 2018

What makes a good life? Professor Paul Firenze, assistant professor in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, believes the answer might lie in examining one’s own work and how it impacts the outside world.

In Firenze’s class, “Designing the Good Life,” he asks students to examine design, and if the idea of a “good life” is a universal concept or if it is unique to the individual. His students explore these philosophical ideas, analyzing and critiquing design and human behavior in spaces, politics, economics, technology, and other areas.

“The ways in which we design the world affects our ability to live a good life. And by ‘good life,’ I mean to flourish, to do well as a human being,” says Firenze.

Boston Common, Firenze notes, appeals to those who appreciate serene beauty, rich history, and a unique skyline. It is a place where people can find peace or exercise. Its political and societal implications beg the question: Why was it designed? Firenze’s class guides students to consider these types of questions.

The course—which fulfills the requirements for a humanities elective and an ethics requirement for majors that require an ethics course—features lecture components, group discussions, and guest appearances. At the end of the semester, Firenze groups students together by their majors. Those students then prepare hour-long lesson plans on how their majors hinder or help humans flourish.

Firenze’s expertise in religion and philosophy led him to develop this course. He believes that to truly be successful, a student has to think about why they are doing their work in the first place.

“One thing that all of the students at Wentworth do is design at some level,” says Firenze. “The goal of designing is to make life better. But that requires an understanding or a definition of what it means to make something better. Improving your design only works if you’re making it better for people.”

Firenze’s advice to students: “Be open to thinking about things in new ways—to think about the thing that you studied from a different perspective.”

--Sumya Mohiuddin

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