Fall for 2017-2018
Existentialism was a twentieth-century philosophical and literary movement that diagnosed and responded to a cultural crisis in meaning. It emerged in a historical moment when faith in traditional sources of orientation and value in life – whether in nature, God, or human reason – was fading. In response, existentialists proposed that human beings have no pre-given nature or purpose, and that this is a fact from which humans unconsciously flee. But, through intimate and vivid descriptions of everyday human existence, they argued that meaning in life is something that human life can create. This semester, we will trace the historical origins of Existentialism and the crises of meaning it responds to. Then, we will explore descriptions of existential experiences, such as confrontations with anxiety, death, and the absurd. Finally, we will explore various existentialist’s own accounts of meaningful living. Class texts will be drawn from authors including José Ortega y Gasset, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Albert Camus, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ralph Ellison, Franz Fanon, and Simone de Beauvoir. We will also watch and discuss several existentialist films. Students will be assessed on the basis of three six-page formal papers, regular, informal reading reflections, and class participation
Prerequisites: One of PHIL 010, 020, 098, or 099.
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Fall '17: Rees, J (description)
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