Skip to main content

Instructor: Aurora Yu. This course meets MWF 10:10 – 11:00 a.m. in SC 209.

Existentialism is associated with 19th and 20th century European philosophers who, despite profound differences in thought, shared an interest on human subjectivity, as well as its place in society, history, and the philosophical tradition. In this course, we will examine concepts such as freedom, reality, temporality, death, emotion, and the relation between self and other, by studying the most influential works by Arthur Schopenhauer, Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Albert Camus, and Frantz Omar Fanon. Among others, we will read a novel, i.e., The Plague, that reflects upon just the kind of absurdity we have all experienced during the pandemic.

The central theme of our explorations is the ‘being’ of humans. In Being and Time §1, Heidegger asks, “do we in our time have an answer to the question of what we really mean by the word ‘Being’? Not at all.” In the fog of uncertainty, we will explore various modes of being, including being for itself, being in the world, being with others, being in love, being a woman, being a colonized subject, etc. In particular, we will try to answer existentialist questions such as: what is the goal of my being? Is there really any actual/objective goal or meaning that I am pursuing in my life? If so, where does this meaning come from – from God, from society, or from myself? If there is no objective meaning in life, does it follow that my life is not worth living? What does my finitude, i.e., the imminence of death, entail about the meaning of my being?