Philosophy | Introduction to Existentialism
P135 | 3367 | Eisenberg
This course will be devoted to a study of some major theses in
existentialism and of their relation to alternative philosophical
positions. Among the themes to be discussed will be the meaning of
life, the individual (or self) vs. society, the existence or
non-existence of God and the human relation to the divine, and freedom
and moral responsibility.
The principal authors to be studied will be Kierkegaard, Nietzsche,
and Sartre. Requied readings will be, almost exclusively, from those
philosophers' own works rather than from commentaries on those works.
The readings will include selections from Existentialism from
Dostoevsky to Sartre (ed. Kaurmann); A Kierkegaard Anthology (ed.
Bretall); Nietzsche's early but now enormously influential essay "On
Truth and Falsehood in the Extra-Moral Sense" as well as selections
from Kaufmann's Portable Nietzsche anthology; and brief selections
from Sartre's Being and Nothingness and from his "Existentialism is a
Humanism." The emphasis will be on careful reading of those classic
texts rather than on extensive reading.
There will be two very brief quizzes as well as a mid-semester and a
final exam, the latter two of the essay type. Two relatively short
papers (approximately five pages each), on topics suggested by the
instructor, will also be assigned. Probably students will also be
required to respond in writing (1 to 1.5 pages per response) to eight
study questions throughout the semester.