nl en

Synchronicity or Coincidence: the Limits of Causality


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialization Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Culture

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialization Philosophy of Humanities


Some human experiences entail a miraculous coalescence of mutually corresponding events in which variegated elements suddenly seem to ‘fit’. Modern thinking, however, highly determined as it is by an impoverished ‘causality’, conceives of this causality as a one-directional chain between two separate events. Whether in its rationalist or in its empiricist form, Modernity reduces the classical Aristotelian doctrine of a fourfold explanation of change to the idea of sheer efficient causality. What gets lost in this reduction, though, is any event’s meaningfulness.

Drawing on ancient articulations (esp. Plotinus), several contemporary thinkers attempted to restore an intrinsic meaningfulness of events by considering a pre-causal synchronicity: a significant, not just ‘coincidental’ coincidence of seemingly ‘a-causal’, purely ‘arbitrary’ occurrences. In this course we will study some alternatives to predominant causal thinking (Schopenhauer, Klages, Jung, Yasua, Gestalt psychology), alternatives that ultimately affect the structure of the (distanced, scientific) ‘subject’ itself. We will assess the viability of these alternatives when interpreting the world, history, and the self.

Course objectives

This course aims to reflect on the predominant axiom of Modernity: causality. It attempts to re-contextualise this axiom and to consider its alternative: synchronicity. Doing so entails a reassessment not only of one of Modernity’s basic premises, but also of its concomitants: a neutralised ontology, an irreducible is-ought (or, fact-value) distinction, an alienated subjectivity, an irreversible time-conception, in short: nihilism.

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

  • the all-pervasive character of the Modern causality principle (in our thought, belief systems, convictions, etc.);

  • synchronicity as an alternative to causality;

  • the different ontological and ethical implications of a causality principle and a principle of synchronicity.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • contextualise and assess the prevailing Modern causality principle

  • imagine and assess synchronicity as an alternative to the causality principle, and distinguish its implications for science, religion, morality, etc.;

  • identify hidden premises in contemporary analytical and moral thinking.


The timetable is available on the MA Philosophy website
MA Philosophy 60 EC, or MA Philosophy 120 EC

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hrs = 280 hours

  • Attending seminars (13 weeks x 3 hours): 39 hours

  • Studying of compulsory literature and completing assignments: 65 hours

  • Writing the paper (including reading and research): 176 hours

Assessment method

  • Weekly assignments (30%)

  • Conclusive paper (60%)

  • Course attendance and participation (10%)

Class attendance is required. Missing more than 4 meetings excludes from course completion.


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (midterm, final test). A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory.


One resit will be offered, consisting of the final paper. The mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. No separate resits will be offered for mid-term tests (assignments). Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.
Class attendance is required. Students will only be eligible for the resit if class attedance has been sufficient.


Blackboard will be used for:

  • posting of instructions or texts;

  • discussion

  • posting of questions for the instructor or fellow students

  • uploading assignments and the conclusive essay (through Turnitin).

Reading list

All texts will be made available on Blackboard or on the library’s course reserve shelf.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for and exams in the column under the heading “uSis-Actnbr”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr H.W. Sneller


Not applicable.