Existentialism Philosophy 238 Fall 2010
FALL 2011 Existentialism
Professor Linda Martín Alcoff
Existentialism is a philosophical tradition that tries to come to terms with the inaccessibility of God, and the uncertainty of life’s meaning. How can human beings live in such a condition without falling into despair? Existentialism also offers an approach to understand the human condition in a comprehensive sense, both in our individual and social lives.
The purpose of this course is to acquaint students with the historical development of existentialist philosophy through the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Friedrich Nietzsche, and to analyze one particular version of existentialism in some depth: that of Jean-Paul Sartre's. We will also explore how existentialist philosophy helps us understand specific social problems such as: poverty and injustice, anti-semitism, racism and sexism.
The class will consist of both lectures and discussions. Lectures will provide general explication of the texts and a historical setting for the ideas, and class discussion will focus on detailed textual explications and evaluations of the ideas.
All students must come to class prepared to discuss the day's reading. Students are strenuously encouraged to participate in class discussions in order to facilitate their understanding of the material and to engage in active philosophical analysis and evaluation. Class participation will count 10% of your final grade, but quality as well as quantity will be judged.
There will be 2 in-class exams and one final take-home exam. These will involve short answer and essay questions, based on the reading assignments. Dates are given in the reading schedule below. There will also be several short writing assignments spaced throughout the semester.
There will be a film night on Thursday December 1. Attendance is required, and if students write a one page analysis of the film, they will get extra credit.
Final grades will be tabulated as follows: class participation: 10%; average of short writing assignments: 30%; average of in-class exams: 30%; final exam: 30%.
Students who miss no more than 2 classes during the semester for whatever reason will receive a third higher letter grade at the end of the course, for example, going from a B- to a B or a B+ to an A-.
Classroom decorum: Arrive on time. Do not go in and out during class time. Turn off all electronic devices, including cell phones, Ipads, and lap-tops. If you must eat or drink, do so quietly.
Required Books: The following books are available at Shakespeare Bookstore. You are also required to purchase a Course Reader for this course at Shakespeare.
1. Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych.
2. Basic Writings of Existentialism
3. Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea.
4. Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew.
5. Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit and Three Other Plays
Reading Assignments and Course Schedule:
CLASSES THE FIRST WEEK ARE CANCELLED: AUG. 29 and SEPT. 1
READ Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy and be prepared to discuss on Sept. 8.
Sept. 8: Introduction to the course; discussion of Tolstoy and Kierkegaard
Basic Writings: pp. 3-5, 41-105
Sept. 12, 15: Kierkegaard continued
CR selection on Kierkegaard
Sept. 19, 22: Dostoevsky
Basic Writings pp. 189-254
Sept 27: Nietzsche
Basic Writings pp. 107-187
(Hunter has no classes on Sept. 29)
Oct. 3, 6: Nietzsche continued
Oct. 10: 1st in-class exam
Oct. 13, 17, 20: Sartre
Basic Writings pp. 337-367
CR selection: “Temporality”
Oct. 24, 27: Sartre on being, nothingness, the self, bad faith
Basic Writings pp. 369-390
CR selection: “Being,” “Nothinginess,” the “Self”
Oct. 31, Nov. 3: Sartre onthe look, being with others
Basic Writings pp. 391-409
CR selection: Fanon “The fact of blackness”
Nov. 7, 10: Sartre on freedom, responsibility, Marxism
CR selection: “Freedom,” “Responsibility,” “Politics”
Nov. 14: No Exit
Nov 17: 2nd in-class exam
Nov. 21, 22: existentialism onanti-semitism
Anti-Semite and Jew
Nov. 28, Dec. 1: existentialism on racism
Basic Writings pp. 495-505
CR selection: Lewis Gordon, Bad Faith and Antiblack Racism; Africana Philosophy of Existence
Dec. 1: FILM NIGHT
Dec. 5, 8: existentialism and the condition of women
CR selection: Beauvoir, “Introduction,” “The Independent Woman,” and “Conclusion” from The Second Sex
Dec. 12: Conclusion