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Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Philosophy of Mind or Concepts of Selfhood.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


We will try to understand why and how individual human existence has become a philosophical question. What is human existence, freedom, alterity, experience and responsibility? Who am I and who should I become? As prologue, we will discuss the projects of "thoughts for myself" by Marcus Aurelius and Michel de Montaigne. What is the role of writing (for oneself and for others) in the process of self-knowledge? What is the meaning of literature for existentialism?

We will study the immediate inspiration of existentialism in Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. We will pay attention to their thinking of the meaning of life in relation to God (individual faith vs. death of God), and ask what transvaluation of values and overcoming of humanity mean.

We will speak about the elements of Heidegger's Being and Time that were paramount to the existentialists, especially his conception of existence, the distinction authenticity / inauthenticity, as well as anguish and being-towards-death. We will discuss Sartre's existentialism in more detail, as well as the ethics of ambiguity de Beauvoir and even the question of the absurd formulated by Camus.

Finally, we will study criticisms adressed to existentialism formulated by later French philosophers, insofar as they think that existentialism gives an excessive role to the conscious I.

Course objectives

This course aims to present existentialism in the light of its history and evaluate its significance today.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • the most important questions and authors of existentialism.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • describe and analyze existence and experience philosophically;

  • develop a personal question discussing one or several authors read during the seminar.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


Graded assessment

  • Final essay

Non-graded exercises

  • Mid-term take-home exercise: research project in preparation of the final essay.

  • Each student has to present a reading of the literature and discuss it with the group.

The non-graded exercises are required for getting admission to the final exam (paper).


  • Final essay (100%)


The resit consists of a paper and counts as 100% of the grade, overwriting all previous graded exam components.
Class participation is required for taking the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Discussion of the paper is by appointment after publication of the final grade.

Reading list

  • Extracts from Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembing

  • Extracts from Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety

  • Extracts from Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (Fröhliche Wissenschaft) (§§ 109, 125, 341, 343, 354)

  • Extracts from Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (Genealogie der Moral) (3, § 28)

  • Extracts from Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (Sein und Zeit) (§§ 25-27, 39-40, 46-53, 54-60)

  • Martin Heidegger, Letter on Humanism (Brief über den Humanismus)

  • Extracts from Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (L'être et le néant)

  • Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism is a humanism (L'existentialisme est un humanisme)

  • Extracts from Simone de Beauvoir, The Ethics of Ambiguity (Pour une morale de l'ambiguïté)

  • Extracts from Albert Camus, Myth of Sisyphus (Le mythe de Sisyphe)

Further literature will be published via Brightspace. Each student will make a presentation of one extract to the group, and use at least one book in the preparation of the final essay.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Prof.dr. S.E. Lindberg


Not applicable.