nl en



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


In this course, we will be reading and discussing the work of the greatest thinkers in the European existentialist tradition (with emphasis on Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre). Each of these thinkers tried to understand what life can and should amount to in our modern world. We shall explore such topics as: the loss of faith in a secularized world, the possibility of commitment, the ultimate nature of being and nothingness, the place of the individual in society, the possibility of authentic existence, the human capacity for free will, the role of death in the meaning of life, and the limitations of morality in determining how we should act. Students should be prepared for extensive reading, thinking, and writing, as well as active participation and engagement in the classroom if they would like to do well in this course.

Each ordinary meeting of the course will consist of a 3-hour interactive discussion on the scheduled topic, with reading to be completed prior to the meeting. This course depends heavily on group discussion of significant primary texts. Each class will begin with the instructor introducing the key issues and readings for that day and offering an interpretation of the works being discussed. Students should join in the discussion at any time, asking questions, making suggestions, or making comparisons with other texts we have read. For each meeting, it’s a good idea to mark out a short passage (1-3 sentences) from the day’s reading that especially stood out.

Course objectives

This course will explore philosophical ideas from the 19th and 20th century that are often seen as contributing to existentialism. The course will draw upon important texts from the history of philosophy and occasionally from contemporary scholarship. Students will be expected to compare, contrast, and critically discuss the main arguments in the classroom and in their written work.

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

  • the development of major themes and arguments in the existentialist tradition;

  • strategies for finding meaning in the modern world.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • distinguish between the views of key thinkers in the existentialist tradition;

  • formulate their own rational position on the topics covered in this course;

  • critically reflect on and distinguish between key types of philosophical argumentation;

  • exhibit a set of reading, writing, research, and discussion skills that allow them to engage texts and other people in an informed and conscientious manner.


See: BA Filosofie

  • Filosofie, BA3 – BA Plus-traject or Standaardtraject

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars: 13 x 3 hours = 39 hours.

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature: 101 hours.

  • Time for preparation of paper proposal (including reading/research): 40 hours.

  • Time to write a paper (including reading/research): 100 hours.

Assessment method


  • Class participation (15%)

  • Paper proposal (20%)

  • Final paper (65%)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (class participation, paper proposal, final paper). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory. Class preparation and attendance are required and are conditions for submission of the paper.


The resit will consist of one examination, a paper. The mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. No separate resits will be offered for mid-terms. Class participation and attendance are required and are conditions for submission of the paper for the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.

Exam review

Discussion of the papers is by appointment.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • posting of instructions, texts, and other materials

  • discussion

  • uploading assignments and grading (through Turnitin).

Reading list

Required texts:

  • Existentialism: Basic Writings, eds. Guignon and Pereboom (Hackett)

  • Heidegger, Being and Time, translated by Macquarrie and Robinson (Harper, 2008)

Suggested readings:

  • Buben, Meaning and Mortality in Kierkegaard and Heidegger: Origins of the Existential Philosophy of Death (Northwestern University Press, 2016).


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.


Dr. Adam Buben


No reading is necessary prior to the first meeting.