Fall for 2013-2014
Existentialism is more than anything else a revolt against excessive abstraction in philosophy and in human life in general. Existentialists see abstraction in the "leveling down" of human life by diverse forces of homogenization, such as universal morality and rationality, mass society, and modern science. In each of these forces existentialists see a threat to human freedom, a threat to the individual’s distinctive identity and her ability to commit herself in her own voice (rather than in the voice of reason or morality or custom) to a life-defining commitment. Although existentialism is just as much literary and cultural as philosophical, in Philosophy 159 we will focus mostly on the philosophical aspect of existentialism. Existentialism is, moreover, a loose philosophical movement, rather than a school of thought. For this reason, we will be looking at several approaches to a group of problems or worries, rather than at the development of a set of doctrines.
We will start with an exploration of some of the basic threats to human freedom felt by the existentialists. We will then explore the philosophical responses to these threats offered by Jean-Paul Sartre, Søren Kierkegaard, and Friedrich Nietzsche. We will conclude the semester with a look at the ethical sources and implications of existentialism.
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Fall '13: Blattner W (description, file download)
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