Skip to main content

Instructor: Alexander Jech. This course meets Monday – Friday from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. in Caldwell 103.

This course will focus upon the early development of existential thought as it was developed in the writings and thought of such philosophical “outsiders” as the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, the Russian philosopher-novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the German philologist and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Toward the conclusion of the course we will survey the “mature” development of existentialism in the thought of Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus.

A central conviction of traditional philosophical approaches is that human reason provides an adequate guide to human life and that rationality is either an, or the essential element in a human life lived well. But can reason adequately provide answers to the deepest and most important questions about the nature of human existence? Can it lead us to some transcendent standard of all meaning and value, such as God or the Form of the Good, which would satisfy our desire to know and live by reason? If reason cannot do this, can it find a standard of value within ourselves, perhaps within the nature of reason itself? The writers we will consider were motivated by the conviction that reason was not up to the task of providing a ground of intelligibility, meaning, and value for human life. It could neither ascend to a transcendent source of value, such as God, nor establish a suitable replacement for such a transcendent source within human nature or reason itself. Each therefore attempted to find alternate sources of intelligibility, meaning, and value for human life which we will survey, investigate, and evaluate.

Alexander Jech’s webpage