Philosophy | Introduction to Existentialism
P135 | 3473 | Spade
Topic: Kierkegaard and Sartre
This class will introduce students to some of the main themes and figures in the
existential tradition of philosophy. We will focus on two people, Søren Kierkegaard and
Jean-Paul Sartre, and their views on topics such as: human responsibility and choice, the
nature of belief in God and the effect it has on people, interpersonal relations, self-
deception and human emotions. We shall find that, although Kierkegaard was a dedicated
Christian whereas Sartre was a confirmed atheist, in many respects their views are quite
Class will meet in lecture format twice a week, plus a require discussion section on
Fridays. There will be regularly scheduled short quizzes throughout the semester, to make
sure you are getting the terminology and basic concepts. In addition, I will ask you to
write two essay-type examinations and two papers.
(1) Robert Bretall, A Kierkegaard Anthology (Princeton). From this, we will be
? The Rotation Method. A hilarious essay on how to avoid boredom (from
? Diary of a Seducer. Just what it says (also from Either/Or).
? Passages from Fear and Trembling. A powerful meditation on the Biblical
story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac.
(2) Walter Kaufmann, ed., Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, 2nd ed. From
this, we will be reading Sartre's Existentialism Is a Humanism and passages from
Being and Nothingness.
(3) Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea. The weirdest novel of all times.
(4) Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit and Three Other Plays. Sartre's grim portrayal of
interpersonal relations, with the famous line "Hell is other people."