Exploring Philosophy with The Good Place

Exploring Philosophy with The Good Place

Whether you are a fan of The Good Place or have never seen it before, this class is set up to be enjoyable and informational for all.

Is it ever okay to lie? What makes a good friend? How should you make a decision? These are just some of the questions we’ll tackle.

In four separate 7-week classes, we will watch each season of The Good Place and explore its philosophical and ethical themes.

Each week, we will have a live discussion over the previous week’s episodes.

The final two class periods will be reserved for final projects. Learners will be invited to create 10-minute presentations in any format they’d like (audio, video, visual, etc.) and discuss one of the philosophical topics from the class in more detail.

four containers of brightly colored frozen yogurt

Class Duration:

Season 1:
January 25-March 8

Season 2:
March 22-May 3

Season 3:
January 25-March 8

Season 4:
March 22-May 3

Class Size: 3-8 learners

Age Range: 14+

Total Price: $60/season

In each 7-week class, we will watch one season of The Good Place (available for streaming on Netflix and for rent from other locations) with viewing guides.

Each week, we will have a live discussion over the previous week’s episodes.

The final two class periods of each season will be reserved for final projects. Learners will be invited to create 10-minute presentations in any format they’d like (audio, video, visual, etc.) and discuss one of the philosophical topics from the class in more detail.

This class is discussion-heavy and will work best for learners who are confident participating via video and microphone. Learners who prefer to keep their cameras off and/or participate only by chat are welcome, but I do think it will be a less enjoyable experience in this particular case.

The final project is very open to students’ ideas and interpretation. They have 10 minutes to present on one of the main class questions in any way they’d like. In the past, students have created videos, podcasts, or art projects. They have also simply led a class discussion. Students are also allowed to work collaboratively on the final project if they wish (but group work is not required).

Season 1:
January 25-March 8 with live meetings on Mondays from 11:30a-12:15p Eastern/10:30-11:15a Central/9:30-10:15a Mountain/8:30-9:15a Pacific

Season 2:
March 22-May 3 with live meetings on Mondays from 11:30a-12:15p Eastern/10:30-11:15a Central/9:30-10:15a Mountain/8:30-9:15a Pacific

Season 3:
January 25-March 8 with live meetings on Mondays, from 12:30-1:15p Eastern/11:30a-12:15p Central/10:30-11:15a Mountain/9:30-10:15a Pacific

Season 4:
March 22-May 3 with live meetings on Mondays, from 12:30-1:15p Eastern/11:30a-12:15p Central/10:30-11:15a Mountain/9:30-10:15a Pacific

Texts: Access to Seasons 1-4 of The Good Place (streaming on Netflix and available for rent at many libraries and streaming services)

To interact in class: Zoom, Discord, computer with internet access, microphone (strongly recommended), camera (optional)

For project: Tools (of learner’s choice) to create final project (such as PowerPoint, Google Slides, YouTube, etc.)

45 minutes weekly for live session, 1-2 hours per week for out of class work

Ability to participate maturely in an online classroom.

Familiarity with philosophical ideas and questions

Analysis of film including visuals, dialogue, and character development

Presentation skills

Debate and perspective-taking skills

(From Common Core ELA Standards)
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1 A, C, D
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.5 (depending on final project choice)

CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA.LITERACY.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1 A, C, D
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.5 (depending on final project choice)

Students have full choice over what kind of final presentation they create, which allows them to pick requirements appropriate for their experience level and time availability.

Families and learners are welcome to share any information about their individual learning preferences and needs and instructor will make accommodations that are helpful to the class.

The Good Place is a network TV show, so it meets those standards for content. There is reference to sex and drugs and implied profanity. 

The philosophical questions we discuss in class will include conversations about criminal action including violent acts and murder. These are typically general and avoid descriptive detail, but this is a discussion group with student-led input, so I cannot fully predict topics that will be discussed. I will steer conversations toward age-appropriate content.

The Good Place does mention religion. In particular, the show — which takes place in a “heaven”-like setting — says that all religions got a tiny bit of the real afterlife right. I do not plan questions specifically about religion, but sometimes students do bring up that reference in discussion. At no point is any religious belief stated as fact, and no religion is privileged over another. The show does not show a supreme being, but it is set in the afterlife and shows some characters who have power (in a bureaucratic hierarchy) over different realms of that afterlife.

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