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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.


The course presents the central questions and the most important authors of the philosophical current of existentialism. 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? We will also ask to what extent individual existence can be grasped by philosophy, and to what extent it overflows or redefines what philosophy can be. 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 start by Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, who give the first impulsion of existentialism. 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 see how existentialism follows on from phenomenology but how it also distanciates itself from the classical phenomenology by interpreting the I in a markedly individual, affective and ethical framework. We will study 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. Another central source will be Sartre's Being and Nothingness and especially the concepts of nothingness, freedom, situation, body, and other.

We will see how existentialism has faced the question of the meaning of life especially in Camus's question of the absurd and de Beauvoir's ethics of ambiguity. We will examine the political implications of existentialism in the works of Fanon, Beauvoir, and Patočka. By these investigations we will evaluate the relevance of existentialism today.

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.


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


Active participation in class.

Class presentation: pass/fail, required to pass the course

Written examination with essay questions.


Written examination (100 %)


Written examination with essay questions.

Attendance and active participation in class is required for admission to the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination 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

  • Extracts from Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembing

  • Extracts from Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or (Seducer's Diary)

  • 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)

  • Extracts from Franz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks (Peau noire masques blancs)

  • Extracts from Jan Patočka, Heretical Essays in the Philosophy of History

Further literature will be published via Brightspace. Literature will be studied at home and discussed in class. Each student will also make a presentation of a short text (probably in groups of two).


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 information bar at the right hand side of the page.

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


Not applicable.