Course Existential orientation and meaning in life

ECTS: 1.5

Course leader: Claudia Welz

Language: English

Graduate school: Faculty of Arts

Course fee: 0.00 DKK

Status: Course is closed for applications

Semester: Spring 2024

Application deadline: 20/03/2024

Cancellation deadline: 02/04/2024

Course type: Blended learning

Start date: 15/05/2024

Administrator: Anders Gade Jensen


All students are placed on a waiting list until we reach application deadline.


Please note that for this course registration is binding unless you are prevented by illness.


Life is the main thing, and meaning is the main thing in life. This can be illustrated with the help of the following parable: A barefoot man finds a single gold coin and converts it into two silver coins. With one coin, he buys a plate of rice. With the second, he buys a flower. To the question “Why,” he replies: “The rice is to live. The flower is to have something to live for.” To survive, for the sake of existence, a plate of rice is needed. For a sense of life, for meaning in life – a flower is necessary. Thanks to meaning, we differentiate between what’s important and what’s less significant, and we adjust our choices accordingly.

Personal experiences of meaning in life are varied and diverse, depending on our individual ways of orienting ourselves in the world. Therefore, in this course, we will investigate the link between existential orientation and meaning in life.

Can we expect a common or shared orientation towards existential meaning in life? Søren Kierkegaard identified three overlapping realms or dimensions of life that could be seen as worldview archetypes: the esthetic, the ethical, and the religious. These three dimensions of existence are intricately connected to our experiences of different modalities of meaning in life.

The course readings combine Kierkegaard’s philosophical and theological search for meaning in different realms of life with Martin Buber’s Chassidic stories about the love of God and one’s fellow human beings, and the psychological pursuit for meaning despite massive trauma, in particular the approach developed by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl in his “logotherapy.”

In his keynote lecture, Dr. René Rosfort (Søren Kierkegaard Research Center, University of Copenhagen, Denmark) will focus on “Kierkegaard’s Existential Approach: The Single Individual Between Faith and Reason.” In her keynote lecture, Dr. Tami Yaguri (Ono Academic College, Israel) will present the “Art of Meaning,” her own method of identifiying and formulating meaning in a dialogical exchange, which she also employs in training art therapists and psychotherapists. In addition, Dr. Yaguri will conduct a workshop on personal meaning in life with the course participants. Course convenor Dr. Claudia Welz (Aarhus University) will lecture about “Existential Orientation in Life Crises: Arts-Based Research and Spiritual Counselling – Listening-Forth the Courage to Face Life.”

We invite PhD papers from different disciplines. If you want to present your work, please upload the title and abstract (around 250 words) of your proposed paper by March 20, 2024.

Papers should be uploaded to


This course aims to provide

  1. a critical discussion of theories and practices of pursuing meaning in different aspects of life’s way
  2. an interdisciplinary and interreligious approach to finding personal meaning in life
  3. an introduction into the philosophy of orientation with a view to orientation in life crises.


The course materials will be forwarded via email.

Target group:

This course will primarily target PhD students, but advanced MA students, postdoctoral researchers as well as colleagues interested in the theme are welcome, too.


  • Keynote lectures
  • Reading sessions where classic texts are discussed
  • Workshop on personal meaning in life
  • Presentations of PhD papers

ECTS credits:

1,5 ECTS for preparation and participation without paper

2,5 ECTS for attending the course and presenting a paper


Course responsible: Claudia Welz

Invited speakers: René Rosfort and Tami Yaguri


Campus Aarhus, Studenterhuset, Meeting Room M2, Frederik Nielsens Vej 2-4, 8000 Aarhus C.

Course dates:

  • 15 May 2024 09:00 - 16:00
  • 16 May 2024 09:00 - 16:00