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Philosophies of Difference


Admission requirements

This course is open to MA students in Philosophy 60 EC and 120 EC. Admission to specialisation Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Culture or specilaisation Philosophy of Humanities is required.


The focus of this course is the development and radicalization of attempts to think difference within the phenomenological tradition. We will take as our point of departure Husserlian phenomenology, in which is marked the very structure of experience as relation and therefore difference.

Husserl’s understanding of consciousness as relation is taken up by Heidegger in the service of his own project of fundamental ontology. Problematising traditional accounts of relationality, Heideggger invokes the ontological difference as the insurmountable difference between Being and beings. For Levinas however, this difference is no longer to be conceived as ontological, but rather as ethical. This means that for Levinas, the fundamental question for philosophy is no longer the Heideggerian ‘What is the meaning of Being?’ but rather ‘What does my being mean for the Other?’ Between these understandings of difference, Derrida emerges with the question of difference in and of itself; no longer to be understood as difference between two terms as ultimate limits, but rather as that which displaces and defers all possible relations.

Although the projects of these thinkers are autonomous, each thinker questions the limits of philosophy through a radical re-reading of the history of metaphysics. As such, an investigation into the relation between these thinkers gives us the possibility to learn about the limits and responsibility of philosophy itself.

Course objectives

This course aims to investigate the development and transformation of the phenomenological movement in its varied attempts to think difference. Students will read key texts by Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas and Derrida. Students will be expected to demonstrate the ability to compare, contrast and critically analyse the main arguments both written and orally. In addition, MA students will be expected to demonstrate the ability to use close readings to critically interpret the assigned texts and to place these texts in a broader philosophical context, going beyond the assigned readings where necessary.

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

  • the key texts in phenomenology and the relations between them.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • give a critical discussion of the ideas as developed by Husserl, Heidegger, Levinas and Derrida;

  • formulate a reasoned argumentation of their position in the topics covered in this course;

  • present their ideas both orally and in writing;

  • place the standpoints of the used literature in a broader philosophical context;

  • find, analyse and discuss relevant literature beyond the prescribed texts.


See Timetables MA Philosophy 2015-2016

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load (10 EC x 28 hrs): 280 hours

  • Attending lectures and seminars: 14 × 3 hours = 42 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 80 hours.

  • Time for preparation of presentation: 22 hours.

  • Time to write a paper (including reading / research): 136 hours.

Assessment method

  • Presentation (15%)

  • Final research paper (85 %)


One resit will be offered, covering the entire course content and consisting of a paper. The grade will replace previously earned grades for subtests. Class participation and practical assignments are mandatory requirements for taking the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.


Blackboard will be used for announcements and course information.

Reading list

To be announced.
There is no need to study before the start of the course.


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Registration for lectures and tests

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. R. Uljée