PHIL 224.001 – Existentialism

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Instructor: Kyle Driggers. This course meets MTWRF 9:45 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. in MU 118.

Despite what the “-ism” suggests, Existentialism is neither a philosophical position nor a philosophical movement. So-called existentialists like Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Søren Kierkegaard, and Frantz Fanon disagreed radically about the nature of the lived human experience, the existence of God, the possibility of human freedom, and so on. Perhaps the best way to understand Existentialism is as a kind of philosophical mood or sensibility rather than as a collection of doctrines.

This course explores that sensibility by examining some core Existentialist texts. In addition to reading work from the authors listed above, we will read short texts from Nietzsche, Heidegger, Dostoyevsky, and others.

Here are some of the questions we will explore:

(1) Does human life have meaning? If it does, what is its origin?

(2) What are the limits of philosophical reasoning? Are there parts of life that are necessarily ambiguous?

(3) Is rational decision-making always possible? Or do we sometimes have to take leaps of faith?

(4) What does it mean to live an authentic life? How and why do we deceive ourselves?

(5) Are we free? Could we ever truly live as if we weren’t?

Grades will be determined by a combination of thoughtful class participation, papers, and a final exam.

This course satisfies the following requirements: PH, NA.