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Figures & Movements: 20th Century Continental Philosophy


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

History of Philosophy


The purpose of Figures & Movements courses is to allow students to zoom in on a particular thinker or philosophical tradition. From year to year, the subtitle can shift as the course focuses on different figures and movements. In this particular offering, we will survey major philosophical movements from the 20th century, including phenomenology, existentialism, feminism, and postmodernism as represented by thinkers such as Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Hannah Arendt, and Jacques Derrida. Heidegger and his dubious political leanings will serve as the centerpiece for the block as we consider the origins, influence, and criticism of his thought. Among other key topics to be covered, we will focus on anxiety, death, and totalitarianism.

Course Objectives

This course aims to investigate ideas and texts from 20th century continental philosophy. 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:

  • details relevant to the course theme and the historical context of the texts, ideas, issues, and events studied;

  • significant elements of the thought of key 20th century figures.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • 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.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Each ordinary meeting of the course will consist of an 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, each student should mark out a short passage (1-3 sentences) from the day’s reading that especially stood out.

Assessment Method

  • Participation and attentiveness in class discussions, 19%

  • Short written reflections on the readings (1200-1600 words total), 16%

  • One short answer and/or essay “mid-term” exercise, 25%

  • One final paper (during reading week), 40%

Reading list

Required Text: Heidegger, Being and Time. Harper, 2008 (or any edition of the Macquerrie and Robinson translation, or a standard German edition of Sein und Zeit if you want to live dangerously).

Other readings available online.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Adam Buben,