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Introduction to Phenomenology


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including History of Modern Philosophy, Cultuurfilosofie, Continentale filosofie, Philosophy of Mind.

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including World Philosophies: Modern Europe, Philosophy of Culture, Concepts of Selfhood, and at least one of the courses World Philosophies: China, World Philosophies: India, World Philosophies: Africa, World Philosophies: Middle East.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement and who have to complete an advanced seminar, to be selected from package A.


Phenomenology is the study of the ways in which the world appears or presents itself to us in experience. It is also the attempt to give an account of our relation to this world, as sensing, feeling, speaking, and thinking beings. Behind this broad definition, however, are a number of divergent interpretations of what phenomenological analysis means. This course offers an introduction to different trajectories within twentieth-century phenomenology by focusing on the concepts of self and other.

For the most part, phenomenology begins from the assumption that all sense arises in first-person experience. But, as this course will explore, such an assumption does not necessarily entail that the phenomenological tradition agrees on what first person-experience itself means. What is the difference between psychological and phenomenological accounts of self and alterity? What is it that unifies my experiences, and makes them mine in the first place? How is my sense of selfhood established and sustained? To what extent do we all share the structures that make up this sense of selfhood? And if it is always through my experience that I encounter the other, is the other simply a correlate of that experience? In other words, can radical or true alterity be experienced at all? These are some of the questions we will cover in this course, as we read selections from both canonical and contemporary texts.

The course will be divided into two main parts. In the first half of the course, we will elucidate the main aspects of the phenomenology of selfhood and otherness in three classical authors: Husserl, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty. In the second half of the course, we will focus more directly on the problem of alterity in French and contemporary critical phenomenology in order to interrogate both what it means to encounter others and what it means to be encountered as other.

Course objectives

Focused on conceptions of selfhood and otherness, the aim of the course is to introduce students to key developments in the history of twentieth-century phenomology, from the second period of Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology through Sartre’s existential phenomenology and Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of embodied cognition to contremporary critical phenomenology. The course is based on primary sources and students are expected to familiarise themselves with the works of a number of important authors. The exposition and analysis of texts will occupy a large part of class time and students will acquire the ability to understand and reconstruct complex philosophical argumentation.

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

  • phenomenology as a distinct manner of philosophizing;

  • key developments in twentieth-century phenomenology;

  • the different ways in which ‘self’ and ‘other’ have been conceptualised in the phenomenological tradition.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • analyse, interpret, and critically discuss difficult phenomenological texts;

  • compare and contrast different phenomenological analyses of ‘self’ and ‘other’;

  • articulate, both orally and in writing, arguments and criticisms that relate to the authors studied.


The timetables are avalable through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction


Class attendance is required. The sessions will take the form of lectures by the instructor, student presentations, and seminar discussions of key texts.

Assessment method


  • Weekly short position papers (compulsory but not marked)

  • In-class presentation: 30 %

  • Final take home paper: 70 %

Each week, students will be required to write a very short paper (500 words) focused on the primary material assigned for that week. The purpose of this exercise is to help with comprehension of the materials through argument reconstruction. Though they are not marked, submission of these papers is compulsory and repeated failure to do so will bar access to the final exam. The in-class presentation is also a requirement for admittance to the final exam.

For the final essay, the students can choose to write an essay which answers a pre-set question or to formulate their own question (subject to approval).


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (see above).


The resit covers the entire exam (100%) and consists of a paper. Students qualify for a resit if they do not have a passing final grade but have fulfilled all (other) course requirements. No separate resits will be offered for subtests. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for subtests.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory overall grade for the entire course cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Required texts

  • Jean-Paul Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego, trans. A. Brown, Routledge, 2004.

  • Edith Stein, The Problem of Empathy, trans. W. Stein, Martinus Nijhoff, 1964.

If you do not wish to purchase the above volumes, note that they are also available through the university library. Aside from Sartre and Stein, all of the weekly required readings for this class are printed within the course reader. Students who decide not to purchase the reader must bring either a printed copy of a PDF or the book in question to class (see Schedule for details). If you decide to go for either of these options, it is important that you use the translations indicated below. Texts on phones or computers in class are, as a rule, not accepted.

The reader contains:

  • Edmund Husserl, ‘Pure Phenomenology, its Method and its Field of Investigation’, in The Phenomenology Reader, ed. Dermot Moran and Timothy Mooney, Routledge, 2002, pp. 124-133.

  • Edmund Husserl, Extracts from the First and the Fifth meditation in Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology, trans. D. Cairns, Springer Science & Business Media, 1973, pp. 25-26, 89-100, 106-113, 116-136, 148-151.

  • Jean-Paul Sartre, Extracts from ‘Being-for-the-Other’ in Being and Nothingness: An Essay in Phenomenological Ontology, trans. S. Richmond, Routledge, 2018, pp.307-09 and 347-80.

  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Extract from The Phenomenology of Perception, ‘The Body as Object and Mechanistic Physiology’, The Phenomenology Reader, ed. Dermot Moran and Timothy Mooney, Routledge, 2002, pp.427-35.

  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ‘Man Seen from the Outside’, The World of Perception, trans. Oliver Davis, Routledge, 2004, pp. 81-90.

  • Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ‘Others and the Human World’, Phenomenology of Perception, trans. D. A. Landes, Routledge, 2012, pp. 361-383.

  • Emmanuel Levinas, ‘Ethics and the Face’, Totality and Infinity, trans. Alfonso Lingis, Duquesne University Press, 1969, pp. 194-219.

  • Simone de Beauvoir, ‘Introduction’ and ‘Woman’s Situation and Character’, The Second Sex, trans. C. Borde and S. Malovany-Chevallier, Vintage Books, 2011, pp. 3-17 and 638-664.

  • Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks, trans. R. Philcox, Grove Press, 2007, pp. 89-119.

  • Sara Ahmed, ‘Introduction: Find Your Way’, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others, Duke University Press, 2006, pp.1-24.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is not possible for this course. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office..


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.