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Prospectus

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Existentialism

Course
2021-2022

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.

Description

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.

Timetable

The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method

Assessment

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).

Weighting

  • Final essay (100%)

Resit

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, 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. 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.

Registration

Enrolment through uSis for this course is not possible. 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.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact

  • 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

Remarks

Not applicable.