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Existentialism

Purpose of Course  showclose

Existentialism is a philosophical and literary movement that first was popularized in France soon after World War II by figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. The roots of this movement can be traced back to the religious writings of Blaise Pascal in the seventeenth century and those of Søren Kierkegaard in the nineteenth century. The common thread that unites existentialists is a focus on existence, particularly the concrete existence of individual human beings. Unlike rationalist thinkers such as René Descartes and G.W. F. Hegel, existentialists reject the premise that human beings are primarily rational creatures who live in an ordered, well-designed universe. They also do not believe that the answers to life’s challenges can be solved through thoughtful consideration and reasoned deliberation. Instead, existentialists view human beings as creatures whose reason is subordinate to human passions and anxieties, and who exist in an irrational, absurd, and insignificant universe. In such a universe, existentialists argue, one struggles to become the best person one can be given one’s religious, historical, cultural, economic, and personal circumstances.

Existentialists emphasize the human being’s place in a complex set of circumstances in order to highlight the uniqueness and individuality within each of us. They stress the role of the human body in all of our acts and decisions, arguing that the mind cannot exist without the body (in contrast to the majority of rationalists, who assert that the mind is separate from the body). In addition, existentialists consider whether absolute individual freedom is possible; and if so, what the consequences of such freedom might be for our sense of responsibility to ourselves, to others, and to God. They also consider the consequences of the existence or nonexistence of God, and what either possibility means for our sense of freedom and responsibility. More than anything, existentialists reflect on human beings’ anxiety over and dread of death, and consider the consequences to our individual lives of coming to terms with the inevitability of death.

In this course, you will explore the major figures and works of the existentialist movement from a historical perspective. You will study, in sequence, the works of Blaise Pascal, Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus. Successful completion of the course means that you will be able to identify, analyze, and distinguish among the major themes and figures in the history of existentialism. Most importantly, you will be able to recognize the contributions existentialist thinkers have made to our contemporary understanding of human existence and humanity’s place in the cosmos.

Course Information  showclose

Welcome to PHIL304. General information about this course and its requirements can be found below.
 
Course Designer: Carlos A. Sanchez, Professor Nicholaos Jones
 
Primary Resources: This course draws on a range of different free, online educational materials, with primary use of the following materials:
Requirements for Completion: In order to successfully complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all of its assigned materials, including readings, lectures, and web media assignments. In addition, you also will need to complete and pass the Final Exam.
 
Please note that you will receive an official grade only on your Final Exam. However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to complete and review all the materials in this course.
 
In order to pass this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the Final Exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.
 
Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of approximately 116.5 hours to complete. Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on the unit overall, as well as time advisories for each subunit and individual assignment. It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then set goals for yourself. For example, unit 1 should take you approximately 8.25 hours to complete. Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1 and 1.2 (estimated at 3 hours) on Monday night; subunit 1.3 (estimated at 3.25 hours) on Tuesday night; subunit 1.4 (estimated at 2 hours) on Wednesday night, etc.
 
Tips/Suggestions: Some of the materials and assignments included in this course cover complex ideas and dense, comprehensive texts requiring that you build and synthesize concepts. Carefully read each assigned text, taking notes as you go and pausing to review concepts when necessary. Similarly, you may want to pause assigned lectures to ensure that you understand the ideas presented. If you find yourself struggling to understand any of the materials in this course, you may find it useful to re-read certain texts or take time to review your notes from previous units as you progress through new material. Your course notes also will serve as a useful tool for review as you study for your Final Exam.
 
Because the approach of this course is historical, you will find that some of the most important concepts – for instance, the concept of existence itself – have evolved with the passage of time. Reviewing your notes from previous units will be extremely helpful in such cases. You may also find it useful to explore further some of the primary resources used in this course, such as The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
 
If you find the philosophical conversations about death in this course particularly fascinating, you may also want to explore Saylor's PHIL201: The Philosophy of Death.

Learning Outcomes  showclose

Upon successful completion of this course, you will be able to:
  • Define the term existentialism;
  • Name the key philosophical figures who have played a role in the history of existentialism;
  • Explain the basic themes of existentialist thought;
  • Distinguish the various approaches taken toward basic themes in existentialist philosophy as they are argued by different key figures within the movement;
  • Compare and contrast common existentialist themes as they have been treated by different key figures within the movement;
  • Summarize the unique contributions made to existentialist philosophy by each of the key figures within the movement; and
  • Identify the contributions of existentialism – particularly the works of French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir – to the history of feminist thought. 

Course Requirements  showclose

In order to take this course you must:
 
√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability and/or permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g., Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft Office files and documents (.doc, .docx, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Be competent in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

Unit Outline show close


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  • Unit 1: Blaise Pascal  

    Since the term existentialism was not used to describe a philosophical movement until the twentieth century, it is anachronistic to call Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) an existentialist. However, his concern with the limitations of human existence (or finitude, in philosophical terms); the presence of constant change, uncertainty, and suffering in the progress of human life; and the irrationality of human beings’ actions has persuaded many philosophers that he is, at the very least, a precursor to the existentialist movement. Pascal was a mathematical genius whose father counted among his friends the French rationalist philosopher and “father” of modern philosophy, René Descartes. In 1654, after a severe bout with depression, Pascal had a religious experience. He entered a monastery and dedicated the rest of his life to defending the Christian faith against its critics. Pascal’s most famous work, written as a defense, or apology, of Christianity that included meditations on suffering, sin, and faith, was published posthumously as the Pensées (translated as “thoughts”). This unit will introduce you to Pascal and the Pensées and give you an overview of Pascal’s “proto-existentialism,” which provided a foundation for philosophical themes – including contingency (or the uncertainty of future events), anti-rationalism, and individual existence – with which many existentialists would grapple a few hundred years later.

    Unit 1 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 1 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 1.1 Existentialism: An Overview  
  • 1.1.1 What Is Existentialism?  
    • Reading: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Information: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Steven Crowell’s “Existentialism”

      Link: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Information: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Steven Crowell’s “Existentialism” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read Dr. Crowell’s overview of existentialism. As you read, make a list of the different themes that existentialist thought deals with – for instance, the concepts of freedom, essence, and value. This list of existentialist themes will serve as an informal guide to you as you encounter and build upon the recurring philosophical ideas found throughout this course. Please note that this article also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 1.1.2 and 1.1.3, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions to help guide your review of this article.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.1.2 Which Thinkers Are Included in the Existentialist Movement?  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, please review section 2 (titled “‘Existence Precedes Essence’”) and section 4 (titled “Politics, History, Engagement”) of Dr. Crowell’s article. Reviewing these sections should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.1.3 The Founders of Existentialism: Pascal and Kierkegaard  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, please review section 1 (titled “The Emergence of Existence as a Philosophical Problem”) of Dr. Crowell’s article. Reviewing these sections should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.2 Pascal’s Life  
  • 1.2.1 As a Mathematician  
    • Reading: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Information: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Desmond Clarke’s “Blaise Pascal”

      Link: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Information: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Desmond Clarke’s “Blaise Pascal” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read Dr. Clarke’s article on the life and works of Blaise Pascal. As you read, consider the role that Pascal’s particular brand of Christianity plays in his rather negative view of human nature. Pay special attention to section 6 of the article, titled “Pascal and Human Existence.” Then, ask yourself whether you agree that it is correct and/or justified to call Pascal an “existentialist.”

      Please note that this article also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 1.2.2 and 1.2.3, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions to help guide your review of this article.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.2.2 As a Philosopher  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, please review section 3 (titled “Free Will”), section 4 (titled “Theory of Knowledge”), and section 5 (titled “Ethics and Politics”) of Dr. Clarke’s article. Reviewing this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.2.3 As a Theologian  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, please review section 1 (titled “Life and Works”) and section 2 (titled “Nature and Grace”) of Dr. Clarke’s article. Reviewing this article should take approximately 15 minutes.

  • 1.3 The Pensées: A Portrait of Man  
  • 1.3.1 Pascal’s Idea of the Contingency of Human Life  
    • Lecture: Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton’s “Ben Rogers on Pascal’s Pensées

      Link: Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton’s “Ben Rogers on Pascal’s Pensées (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the Philosophy Bites website. Then, click on the link titled “Listen to Ben Rogers on Pascal’s Pensées” and listen to the interview. Take notes as you listen, paying particular attention to the discussion of Pascal’s characterization of the human experience. Consider answering the following question: Why does Pascal think of human life as contingent, solitary, and corrupt?

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 1.3.2, 1.3.3, and1.3.4, found below, as well as part of subunit 1.4 and all of subunit 1.5. You can refer to those subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your listening during this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.3.2 Pascal’s Critique of Reason and of Descartes  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: What is Pascal’s critique of reason and the rationalism of Descartes? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 1.3.3 Pascal’s View that the Heart Has Its Reasons  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: What does Pascal mean when he says that the heart has its reasons? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 1.3.4 Pascal’s View that Human Beings Are Destined To Suffer  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: Do you agree with Pascal’s sentiment that humans beings are destined to suffer? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 1.4 Pascal’s Wager  

    Note: Some of the material you need to know for this subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.3.1.

  • 1.4.1 The First Choice of the Wager: To Believe in God and Risk Heaven  
    • Reading: Oregon State University: Bill Uzgalis’ version of Pascal’s Pensées

      Link: Oregon State University: Bill Uzgalis’ version of Pascal’s Pensées (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access Pascal’s Pensées. Then, scroll down and read paragraph 233, in the section titled “Section III: The Necessity of the Wager.” As you read, attempt to draw a diagram showing your various choices for belief, as outlined by Pascal. Because, according to Pascal, the fate of your eternal soul rests on your belief or lack of belief in God, consider following potential consequences: What if you believe in God and God does exist? What if you believe in God and God does not exist? By the same token, what if you do not believe in God and God does exist? What if you do not believe in God and God does not exist? Ultimately, the “wager” that Pascal proposes should make the potential consequences of the choice to believe or not to believe very clear.

      Please note that this section also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunit 1.4.2, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for an additional study question to help guide your note-taking.

      Reading this section, taking notes, and diagramming should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 1.4.2 The Second Choice of the Wager: To Not Believe in God and Risk Hell  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, look again at your diagram of Pascal’s wager. What do you think is the worst that could happen if you choose that you do not believe in God and it turns out that God does, in fact, exist? Spend approximately 15 minutes reviewing your diagram and considering this question.

  • 1.5 Pascal’s Religious Existentialism  

    Note: The material you need to know for this subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 1.3.1, found above. Please review this material and consider answering the following question: If God exists, why does Pascal believe that we are destined to suffer in this life? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • Unit 1 Assessment  
  • Unit 2: Søren Kierkegaard  

    Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813–1855) was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian, and social critic, widely considered a founding figure in existentialism. Convinced that the Christian faith, as it was generally practiced, had lost its way, Kierkegaard was a fierce critic of religious dogma. Kierkegaard believed that a human being’s relationship with God must be hard-won, a matter of devotion and suffering. According to Kierkegaard, a person becomes a committed, responsible human being by making difficult decisions and sacrifices. The force of Kierkegaard’s philosophy rests in the notion that human life is paradoxical and absurd and that to confront this absurdity is to become truly human (a theme that is taken up again by Albert Camus, as discussed in Unit 8 of this course). This unit will introduce you to Kierkegaard’s life and religious philosophy, as well as provide you with an overview of themes in Kierkegaard’s writings that serve as cornerstones for what would be called existentialism by later philosophers discussed in this course – particularly Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. These key existentialist themes include the notions of commitment and responsibility, absurdity, anxiety, and authenticity. 

    Unit 2 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 2 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 2.1 On Kierkegaard and the Pseudonyms  
  • 2.1.1 Who Was Kierkegaard?  
    • Lecture: Internet Archive: Dr. Walter Kaufmann’s “Kierkegaard and the Crisis in Religion”

      Link: Internet Archive: Dr. Walter Kaufmann’s “Kierkegaard and the Crisis in Religion” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the webpage, which features philosopher Walter Kaufmann’s lectures on Kierkegaard. Click on the audio player at the right of the webpage to play “Kierkegaard Part One” and then “Kierkegaard Part Two.” Please listen to both parts of the lecture. After listening to this lecture, consider answering the following questions: What is the problem with the way in which Christianity is practiced in contemporary society, according to Kierkegaard? Is it even possible to be a Christian in the radical sense suggested by Kierkegaard? What does Kierkegaard mean when he says that Christianity is founded on a paradox?

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 2.1.2 and 2.1.3, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture, taking notes, and answering the study questions should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.1.2 Walter Kaufmann on Kierkegaard  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, review the way in which Kaufmann defines Kierkegaard’s notion of despair as a “wrong relation to oneself.” Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this concept and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.1.3 Existentialism in Kierkegaard  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, review Kierkegaard’s notion of “inward deepening” as it is discussed in the lecture. Consider answering the following question: How does Kierkegaard formulate his view that individual existence is a category? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.2 Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling”  
  • 2.2.1 The Concept of Hard Faith  
    • Reading: Claremont School of Theology: Religion-Online.org’s version of Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling

      Link: Claremont School of Theology: Religion-Online.org’s version of Søren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. As you read and take notes, consider answering the following questions, focusing on Chapters 3 through 5: What is the distinction that Kierkegaard draws between the aesthetic and the ethical? What does Kierkegaard mean when he says “for religion is the only power which can deliver the aesthetical out of its conflict with the ethical”? What is the religious?

      Please note that this work also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 2.2.2-2.2.5, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional guidelines and study questions to aid your review of this work.

      Reading this work, taking notes, and answering the study questions should take approximately 3 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.2.2 The Story of Abraham and Isaac: Abraham as a Model of Faith  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, think about Abraham’s decision to sacrifice his son. Consider answering the following questions: Why is Abraham so willing to do this? How does Kierkegaard justify Abraham’s behavior? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.2.2.1 The Theological Suspension of the Ethical  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, jot down your thoughts about what Kierkegaard means by the “teleological suspension of the ethical.” Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this concept and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.2.2.2 The Knight of Faith  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: What makes Abraham a “knight of faith,” according to Kierkegaard? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.2.3 The Ethical and the Religious  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, write down definitions for Kierkegaard’s notions of “the aesthetical,” “the ethical,” and “the religious” as they are used in Chapters 3 through 5. Be sure to include the differences among these concepts in your notes. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these concepts and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.2.4 The Leap of Faith  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following questions: When is the leap of faith necessary, according to Kierkegaard? Could you, or would you, make such a leap? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.2.5 Infinite Resignation and the Place of Reason  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, reflect on the reading as a whole. Consider answering the following question: Is there a place for reason and reasoned argument within Kierkegaard’s view of life? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.3 Kierkegaard’s Idea of the Sickness unto Death  
  • 2.3.1 Against Systems: Hegel and Descartes  
    • Lecture: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 29: Kierkegaard on the Self”

      Link: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 29: Kierkegaard on the Self” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and then click on the audio player at the top of the webpage to listen to this discussion of Kierkegaard’s The Sickness unto Death. As you listen to the lecture, consider answering the following questions: What is Kierkegaard’s “three-step system,” as discussed in the lecture? How is this system relevant to you as an existing human being?

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 2.3.2, 2.3.2, and 2.3.4, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.3.2 The Sickness Is Not unto Death  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: What does Kierkegaard mean when he says that “the sickness is not unto death”? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.3.3 Death  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider what Kierkegaard is trying to communicate with the story of Lazarus. In particular, note the distinction that Kierkegaard draws between spiritual death and physical death. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these concepts and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.3.4 Despair  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, recall philosopher Walter Kaufmann’s definition of despair in subunit 2.1 of this course. Consider the distinction between authentic and inauthentic despair, according to Kierkegaard. How is despair related to the tension, in human existence, between the finite and the infinite? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.4 Kierkegaard’s Concepts of Subjectivity and Becoming  
  • 2.4.1 The Stages of Life’s Way  
    • Reading: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Information: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. William McDonald’s “Søren Kierkegaard”

      Link: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Information: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. William McDonald’s “Søren Kierkegaard” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Dr. McDonald’s article on Kierkegaard. As you read, jot down the different stages of life’s way, according to Kierkegaard. Then, list examples that illustrate a person’s being in any one of these stages.

      Please note that this article also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 2.4.1.1-2.4.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional study questions and instructions to guide your review of this article.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 2.4.1.1 The Aesthetic  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider whether or not you have ever been in Kierkegaard’s aesthetic stage. If you have, what was that like? If you have not, would you want to be? Why or why not? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.4.1.2 The Ethical  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider whether or not you are now in Kierkegaard’s ethical stage. If you are, what does being in this stage involve for you? If you are not, would you want to be in this stage? Why or why not? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.4.1.3 The Religious  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider whether or not Kierkegaard’s religious stage is a possibility for you. If it is not, consider your reasons. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering your answer and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.4.2 Truth is Subjectivity  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 2.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: What does Kierkegaard mean when he says that “truth is subjectivity”? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 2.4.3 The Crowd Is Untruth  
    • Reading: PhilosophicalSociety.com’s version of Søren Kierkegaard’s “The Crowd Is ‘Untruth’”

      Link: PhilosophicalSociety.com’s version of Søren Kierkegaard’s “The Crowd Is ‘Untruth’” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this short excerpt by Kierkegaard. As you read, consider what it means to “flee for refuge into the crowd,” according to Kierkegaard. Then, extend Kierkegaard’s discussion by considering other ways in which might we flee into the crowd. Be sure to list and explain your examples.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 2 Assessment  
  • Unit 3: Fyodor Dostoevsky  

    Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky (1821–1881) was a Russian novelist, journalist, and essayist whose literary works are foundational texts in the history of existentialism. Dostoevsky (sometimes spelled Dostoyevsky) explored the loneliness and desperation of the human condition. He viewed the human condition as constrained by social, political, and economic institutions and limited by God, whose existence, Dostoevsky argued, imposes limits on human existence. This unit will guide you in an exploration of the main existentialist themes in Dostoevsky’s literary works, paying special attention to the concepts of human freedom and moral responsibility in Notes from the Underground (1864) and “The Grand Inquisitor” (1880).

    Unit 3 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 3 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 3.1 Dostoevsky on the Problem of Freedom  
  • 3.1.1 What Is Permitted vs. What Is Not Permitted  
    • Reading: Russiapedia: Aleksandr Bondarenko’s “Prominent Russians: Fyodor Dostoevsky”

      Link: Russiapedia: Aleksandr Bondarenko’s “Prominent Russians: Fyodor Dostoevsky” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on link above and read Bondarenko’s article, which introduces Dostoevsky. As you read, pay particular attention to the details of Dostoevsky’s imprisonment.

      Please note that this article also covers material you need to know for sub-subunit 3.1.2, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for additional study questions to help guide your review of this article.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Lapham’s Quarterly: Dr. Terry Eagleton’s “Freedom by Necessity”

      Link: Lapham’s Quarterly: Dr. Terry Eagleton’s “Freedom by Necessity” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on link above and read literary critic Terry Eagleton’s essay on Dostoevsky. As you read, note the different ways in which Dr. Eagleton defines freedom as it appears in the works of Dostoevsky. Pay particular attention to the way in which Eagleton applies the lessons learned in his readings of Dostoevsky to the American way of life.

      Please note that this essay also covers material you need to know for sub-subunit 3.1.2 and subunit 3.6, found below. You can refer to those subunits for additional study questions to help guide your review of this essay.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.1.2 Human Beings Desire Absolute and Total Freedom  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider Dr. Eagleton’s essay and ask yourself what the human desire for absolute and total freedom means. Consider also answering the following questions: Can we be absolutely and totally free? What gets in the way of our absolute and total freedom? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 3.1.3 Human Limitations  
  • 3.2 Dostoevsky on Revolution  
  • 3.2.1 Refusing Our Limitations  
  • 3.2.2 Making Oneself What One Is  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the article assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the ways in which revolutionary action can fulfill a person’s sense of self and identity. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this prompt and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 3.3 Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground”  
  • 3.3.1 Underground Man Is Totally Free  

    Note: The assignment for sub-subunit 3.3.1, below, may either be read as a text version or listened to as an audio recording. The two resources below provide you with links to either option. Please note that you need to choose only ONE of these two options – the text version or the audio recording – to complete the assignment for sub-subunit 3.3.1.

    • Reading: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground

      Link to text: FyodorDostoevsky.com’s version of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground (PDF)
      Link to audio: LibriVox’s audiobook version of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground (MP3)

      Instructions: First, choose whether you’d like to read or listen to Notes from the Underground, and then click on one of the two links above to select your preferred option.  For the audio version, scroll down the webpage and click on the links leading to the MP3 files of the book, titled “Underground – Part 1” and “Underground – Part 2.” As you begin reading or listening, pay close attention to the Underground Man’s opinion of himself.  As you progress, consider whether the Underground Man is as maladjusted as he makes himself out to be. Could he simply be insane? Also consider Dostoevsky’s anti-rationalism throughout the work and his suspicion of others who tout human reason as superior to human will. Finally, consider the following question as you near the end of the novel: Why is Underground Man unable to make those decisions that are so easy for the rest of us to make?

      Please note that this work also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunit 3.3.2, found below.  You can refer to that sub-subunit for additional study questions to help guide your review of this work.

      Reading this work, taking notes, and answering the study questions should take approximately 4 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.3.2 Underground Man Is in Perpetual Revolt  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the coursework assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following questions: Given what the Underground Man says about himself at the start of the book, how is Underground Man in revolt against himself? In his critique of (according to him) narrow-minded people and the masses, Underground Man seems to be in revolt against nature – how is this so? Ultimately, Dostoevsky’s Underground Man feels as if he is in a revolt against nature’s laws. Pay close attention to how this and other types of revolt are illustrated by Dostoevsky in this work. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these study questions and concepts and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 3.4 Dostoevsky on Morality  
  • 3.4.1 There is No Rational Organization for Human Happiness  
    • Reading: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “Fyodor Dostoevsky on the Problem of Evil”

      Link: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “Fyodor Dostoevsky on the Problem of Evil” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on link above and read this excerpt. As you read, you will reach the following line in the text: “I think if the devil doesn’t exist, but man has created him, he has created him in his own image and likeness.” What do you think Dostoevsky intends to convey in this line?

      Please note that this reading also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 3.4.2 and 3.4.3, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your review of this reading.

      Reading this excerpt, taking notes, and answering the study question should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: This work is in the public domain.

  • 3.4.2 Human Beings Must Follow Their Whims  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the excerpt assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following question: What does it mean to say that human beings must follow their whims? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 3.4.3 The Laws of Reason Are an Illusion  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the excerpt assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, upon finishing the text, consider the following question: What does it mean to say that the laws of reason are an illusion? Notice that in this respect, Dostoevsky has a lot in common with Pascal and Kierkegaard; namely, a suspicion of reason. Create a list of the most common philosophical features shared by the three thinkers. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and composing your list.

  • 3.5 Dostoevsky on Reason  
  • 3.5.1 There Is No Reason; There Are Only “Reasoners”  
    • Reading: Vancouver Island University: Dr. Russell McNeil’s “Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

      Link: Vancouver Island University: Dr. Russell McNeil’s “Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on link above and read this essay. Dr. McNeil’s essay focuses on Dostoevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment – in particular, its main character, Raskolnikov. As the work’s protagonist, Raskolnikov is a proud and rational being who must face the consequences of his actions. Considering Dostoevsky’s anti-rationalism, as illustrated in the assignments for the last few subunits of this course, in what way does Dr. McNeil characterize Raskolnikov as representing reason and rationalism?

      Please note that this essay also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunit 3.5.2, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for additional study questions to help guide your review of this essay.

      Reading this essay and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.5.2 Life Is Totally Subjective and Human Beings Are Totally Free  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the essay assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.5.1, found above. As you review the essay, consider answering the following questions: Is total freedom compatible with intellectual pride? How can reason get in the way of freedom? Or, how can reason make freedom possible? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 3.6 Dostoevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor”  
  • 3.6.1 Difficult Freedom(s)  

    Note: Please review Dr. Terry Eagleton’s essay, “Freedom by Necessity,” assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.1.1 of this course, before proceeding to the material below.

    • Reading: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “The Grand Inquisitor”

      Link: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov: “The Grand Inquisitor” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor,” which is a parable relayed by one of the characters in Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. As you read, consider answering the following questions: Why is Jesus on trial? What is he accused of? List the temptations Jesus faced, according to the Grand Inquisitor. Then, sketch the main argument against Jesus, as presented by the Grand Inquisitor.

      Please note that this reading also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 3.6.1.1-3.6.1.4, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional study questions to help guide your review of this reading.

      Reading this excerpt and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Gregory B. Sadler’s “Existentialism: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘The Grand Inquisitor’”

      Link: YouTube: Gregory B. Sadler’s “Existentialism: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘The Grand Inquisitor’” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on link above and watch this lecture by Dr. Sadler. As you watch, pay special attention to Dr. Sadler’s description of Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor.” Then consider the following question: What are the Grand Inquisitor’s faults?

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 3.6.1.1-3.6.1.4, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional study questions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture, and taking notes and the consideration of the study question, should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 3.6.1.1 Freedom as Exhibited by Jesus Christ  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture and excerpt assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.6.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: Why do you think Jesus is silent for most of the time as the Grand Inquisitor speaks? Spend approximately 10 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 3.6.1.2 Freedom as Exhibited by a Person of Superior Will (the Inquisitor)  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture and excerpt assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.6.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: Why does the Grand Inquisitor think that he is a person of superior will? Spend approximately 10 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 3.6.1.3 The Three Temptations of Christ  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture and the excerpt assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.6.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: How does Dostoevsky suggest that Christ’s rejection of the temptations place an unbearable burden, and an unreachable ideal, on humankind? Spend approximately 10 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 3.6.1.4 Human Suffering Is a Fact; Religion an Ideal  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture and excerpt assigned beneath sub-subunit 3.6.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: Why does Ivan, who is telling us the story of the Grand Inquisitor, reject God’s absolute power? Spend approximately 10 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • Unit 3 Assessment  
  • Unit 4: Friedrich Nietzsche  

    An unapologetic critic of culture, society, religion, and philosophical dogma (philosophical beliefs that his predecessors and contemporaries accepted without question), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) is arguably one of the most important thinkers of the past two centuries. Like all existentialists, Nietzsche denounced the universalistic tendencies displayed throughout the history of Western philosophy; that is, the tendencies of philosophers to assert that what they knew or believed or discovered should be considered true for everyone and for all time. According to Nietzsche, there is no such thing as a universal truth that is true for everyone and for all time. Instead, Nietzsche argued that what was true from one person’s perspective might not be true from another person’s perspective (a philosophical idea known as perspectivism). For Nietzsche, all human perspectives are valid in the quest for truth. This emphasis on the significance of individual points of view underscores Nietzsche’s belief in the priority of individuality, the value of suspicion and skepticism, and a rejection of rationalism in the quest for truth. These values are existentialist themes shared by Nietzsche’s predecessors and successors alike. In this unit, you will explore Nietzsche’s version of existentialism and analyze his theory of values and morality.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 4 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 4.1 Nietzsche’s Critique of Metaphysics  
  • 4.1.1 Deconstructing the History of Philosophy  
    • Lecture: Internet Archive: Dr. Walter Kaufmann’s “Nietzsche and the Crisis in Philosophy”

      Link: Internet Archive: Dr. Walter Kaufmann’s “Nietzsche and the Crisis in Philosophy” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access philosopher Walter Kaufmann’s lectures on Kierkegaard. Click on the audio player at the right of the webpage to listen to “Nietzsche Part One” and then “Nietzsche Part Two.” Please listen to both parts of the lecture. As you listen to Dr. Kaufmann, list the attributes of Nietzsche’s Superman (or Overman). Consider answering the following questions as the lecture plays: What is the “crisis” to which Kaufmann refers? In what way is Nietzsche’s critique of traditional philosophy also a critique of religion? Be sure to pay close attention to Kaufmann’s description of Nietzsche’s critique of traditional theories of knowledge.

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunit 4.1.2, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for an additional study question to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.1.2 The “Thing-in-Itself”  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider answering the following question: Is knowledge of rationalist philosophy’s “thing-in-itself” possible, according to Nietzsche? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.2 Nietzsche’s Idea of Perspectivism  
  • 4.2.1 Nietzsche’s Perspectivism  
    • Reading: 3 Quarks Daily: Dave Maier’s “What Kind of Perspectivist is Nietzsche?”

      Link: 3 Quarks Daily: Dave Maier’s “What Kind of Perspectivist is Nietzsche?” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Dave Maier’s article on Nietzsche’s perspectivism. As you read, consider the following questions: What is perspectivism? How is perspectivism a critique of scientific objectivity and the philosophical demand for universality? Are all perspectives valid, or are some perspectives true while others are not?

      Please note that this article also covers material you need to know for sub-subunits 4.2.2, 4.2.3, and 4.2.4, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional study questions to help guide your review of this article.

      Reading this article, taking notes, and answering the study questions should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.2.2 There Are No Facts; There Are Only Interpretations  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the article assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following questions: What does it mean to say that there are no facts, only interpretations? What is an interpretation? Reflect on the notion that language mediates our interactions with the world and with other human beings. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and concepts and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.2.3 A God’s-Eye View  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the article assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider how Nietzsche criticizes traditional philosophy’s idea that the study of philosophy can help us discover universal, eternal truths. Then, consider the following question that Maier puts forth in his article: “Why then does Nietzsche suggest that using more perspectives makes our ‘objectivity’ more ‘complete’?”  Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.2.4 Absolute Knowledge Is Impossible  

    Note: Some of the material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the article assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.2.1, found above.

  • 4.3 Nietzsche’s Critique of Dogma  
  • 4.3.1 Nietzsche’s Critique of Socrates  
  • 4.3.2 The Death of God  
    • Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science: “Parable of the Madman”

      Link: Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science: “Parable of the Madman” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read this passage from Nietzsche’s book The Gay Science. As you read, pay special attention to how Nietzsche uses the phrase “God is dead” and what this statement refers to specifically.

      Please note that this passage also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 4.3.2.1 and 4.3.2.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your review of this passage.

      Reading this passage and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.3.2.1 The Idea of the Death of God Is Not a Theological View  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the passage assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.3.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, please pay attention to the ways in which Nietzsche’s remark about the death of God is not a theological statement – that is, it is not about religion. How exactly is Nietzsche’s pronouncement that God is dead not a religious statement? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.3.2.2 The Role of the Death of God in the Theory of Value  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the passage assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.3.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following questions: How is Nietzsche’s proclamation that “we have killed [God]” a condemnation of religion, and particularly a critique of those Western values passed down from Christianity? In other words, is God really dead, or are the values and commitments we derived from God’s existence dead? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these study questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.3.3 Nietzsche’s Liberal Nihilism  
    • Lecture: Internet Archive: Dr. Allan Bloom’s “Nietzsche Lecture 1983”

      Link: Internet Archive: Dr. Allan Bloom’s “Nietzsche Lecture 1983” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the webpage featuring Dr. Bloom’s lecture. Then, go to the top right of the webpage and click on the audio player to listen to the first and second parts of Bloom’s lecture. As you listen to the lecture, consider the following questions: What is Nietzsche’s nihilism? What does Dr. Bloom mean by the phrase liberal nihilism?

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.4 Nietzsche’s Idea of Morality  
  • 4.4.1 The Social Construction of Morality  
    • Lecture: Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton’s “Christopher Janaway on Nietzsche on Morality”

      Link: Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton’s “Christopher Janaway on Nietzsche on Morality” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the Philosophy Bites website. Then, click on the link titled “Listen to Christopher Janaway on Nietzsche on Morality” and listen to the interview. As you listen to the interview, play close attention to the discussion of what Nietzsche means when he says that there has been a slave revolt of morality. How is Nietzsche’s argument a condemnation of Christianity? What does this argument say about some of our most important moral concepts, such as good and bad, or good and evil?

      Please note that this lecture also covers material you need to know for sub-subunits 4.4.1.1 and 4.4.1.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.4.1.1 Master vs. Slave Morality  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, make a list of the differences between slave morality and master morality, as suggested by Nietzsche. Spend approximately 15 minutes composing your list and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.4.1.2 The Herd Mentality  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.4.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following questions: How does society suppress our instincts, according to Nietzsche? What does guilt have to do with our morality? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these study questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.4.2 The Social Construction of Values  
  • 4.4.3 On Power  
    • Lecture: Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton’s “Brian Leiter on Nietzsche Myths”

      Link: Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton’s “Brian Leiter on Nietzsche Myths” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the Philosophy Bites website. Then, click on the link titled “Listen to Brian Leiter on Nietzsche Myths” and listen to the interview. As you listen, consider the following questions: What are the specific myths regarding Nietzsche that are discussed here? Pay close attention to Dr. Leiter’s explanation as to why these Nietzsche myths took hold during the first decades of the twentieth century.

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 4.4.3.1 and 4.4.3.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions to guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.4.3.1 The Overman  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.4.3, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider Dr. Leiter’s deconstruction of the Nietzsche myths, noting in particular Nietzsche’s characterization of the Overman, or Superman. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this concept and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.4.3.2 The Will To Power  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.4.3, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following question: What is the will to power, according to Nietzsche? Write a short description of Nietzsche’s notion of the will to power as it is described in the interview with Dr. Leiter. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and writing your answer.

  • 4.4.4 Resentment as the Ground for Morality  
    • Reading: Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals

      Link: Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals. Please read the book’s first essay, titled “Good and Evil, Good and Bad,” beginning on page 6, followed by the second essay, titled “Guilt, Bad Conscience, and Related Manners,” beginning on page 27. As you read, pay particular attention to Nietzsche’s account of how values and morals are created. Then, consider the following questions: According Nietzsche, what is the origin of the concept “good”? What is the origin of the concept “evil”? How have these concepts changed through history? What precipitated that change? Finally, how does resentment become creative?

      Please note that this work also covers material you need to know for sub-subunit 4.4.5, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for additional study questions to help guide your review of this work.

      Reading these essays and taking notes should take approximately 3 hours and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Lecture: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 11: Nietzsche’s Immoralism: What Is Ethics, Anyway?”

      Link: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 11: Nietzsche’s Immoralism: What Is Ethics, Anyway?” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and then click on the audio player at the top of the webpage and listen to this discussion of The Genealogy of Morals. As you listen to the lecture, reflect on how morality and perspectivism intersect. Consider the following questions: Are there absolute moral imperatives that we must all adhere to, according to Nietzsche? How does the Bible’s moral imperative “thou shall not kill” fit in with Nietzsche’s idea of morality?

      Please note that this lecture also covers material you need to know for sub-subunit 4.4.5, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for additional study questions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.4.5 On the Genealogy of Morals  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the chapters and lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.4.4, above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following questions: How have the terms bad, evil, and good evolved, according to Nietzsche? And how does Nietzsche predict the restoration of these terms to their original meaning? In other words, what must happen in order for this restoration to take place? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these study questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 4.5 Nietzsche’s Idea of Eternal Recurrence  
  • 4.5.1 Those Who Cower and Those Who Affirm  
    • Reading: The University of Washington: Constantin Behler’s version of Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science

      Link: The University of Washington: Constantin Behler’s version of Friedrich Nietzsche’s The Gay Science (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access excerpts from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science. Read the section titled “Aph. 341: The Greatest Weight.” As you read, consider the following question: If you were confronted with the question of eternal recurrence, what would you do?

      Please note that this excerpt also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunit 4.5.2, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for an additional study question to help guide your review of this excerpt.

      Reading this excerpt and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 4.5.2 Saying “Yes” to Life Is the Highest Value  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the excerpt assigned beneath sub-subunit 4.5.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following question: How is the aphorism in this reading intended to place the reader in a position to say “yes” to life? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • Unit 4 Assessment  
  • Unit 5: Martin Heidegger  

    Martin Heidegger’s (1889-1976) extensive and illuminating meditations on what he described as the ontological “question of being” established his reputation as one of the most original and important philosophers of the twentieth century. Like other philosophers commonly referred to as existentialists today, Heidegger refused to associate his own thinking with the term existentialism. However, his focus on human existence, anxiety, death, and authenticity – themes shared by both his predecessors (Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, and Nietzsche) and his contemporaries (Sartre and Camus) – place him at the center of this movement. In this unit, you will explore Heidegger’s thought, especially the philosophy of existence that he introduced in his most famous work, Being and Time (1927).

    Unit 5 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 5 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 5.1 Heidegger, Catholicism, and Phenomenology  
  • 5.1.1 Heidegger’s Seminary Years  
    • Reading: The European Graduate School: “Martin Heidegger – Biography”

      Link: The European Graduate School: “Martin Heidegger – Biography” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read this short biography of Martin Heidegger. Pay particular attention to the different “turns” Heidegger makes throughout his life, noting the reasons behind these turns.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.1.2 Phenomenology  
    • Web Media: YouTube: Bryan Magee’s “The Great Philosophers - Hubert Dreyfus on Husserl and Heidegger”

      Link: YouTube: Bryan Magee’s “The Great Philosophers - Hubert Dreyfus on Husserl and Heidegger” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch these videos, which feature an interview with the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus discussing Husserl and Heidegger. Note that the full video is divided into 5 clips of 10 minutes each. As you watch the interview, consider the following questions: What is phenomenology? How does Heidegger appropriate the methods of phenomenology?

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 5.1.3 and 5.1.4, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.1.3 Encounters with Edmund Husserl  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.1.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, pay particular attention to Dreyfus’ description of Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology. Note also Dreyfus’ discussion of the relationship between Heidegger and Husserl. Spend approximately 15 minutes reviewing these details of the lecture and looking over any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 5.1.4 The Development of Existenzphilosophie  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.1.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider Dreyfus’ characterization of Heidegger’s ontology – that is, his theory of being. Consider the following question: How did Heidegger react to the Cartesian tradition of philosophy (i.e., the philosophical tradition relating to the works of rationalist René Descartes), according to Dreyfus? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 5.2 Heidegger’s Being and Time  
  • 5.2.1 Dasein and the Ontological Question  
    • Reading: Dr. Roderick Munday’s “Glossary of Terms in Being and Time

      Link: Dr. Roderick Munday’s “Glossary of Terms in Being and Time (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access an online glossary of terms that you can use to assist your reading of Heidegger’s Being and Time. Spend some time scrolling through the list of entries, which will help you to better understand the material assigned later in this course.

      Please note that this glossary also covers some of the material you need to know for sub-subunits 5.2.2-5.2.6, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your use of this glossary.

      Studying this glossary and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Carnegie Mellon University: Dr. Robert Cavalier’s “Overview of Being and Time as a Whole”

      Link: Carnegie Mellon University: Dr. Robert Cavalier’s “Overview of Being and Time as a Whole” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read this webpage. As you read, write down those concepts that seem most important to your study of the work – for instance, Heidegger’s notion of Dasein. Refer to the glossary in sub-subunit 5.2.1, found above, to clarify the most difficult terms as you read.

      Please note that this webpage also covers some of the material you need to know for sub-subunits 5.2.2-5.2.6, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your review of this webpage.

      Reading this webpage and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Lecture: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 32: Heidegger: What is Being?”

      Link: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 32: Heidegger: What is Being?” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the webpage for a discussion about the ideas of Martin Heidegger. Click on the audio player link at the top of the webpage to listen to the discussion. Please pay particular attention to the different ways in which Heidegger’s concept of being is defined throughout. Write down all the different characterizations of being that you encounter in the discussion.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.2.2 The Worldhood of the World  

    Note: Some of the material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.2.1, found above.

    • Lecture: Internet Archive: The University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lectures 5 and 6”

      Link: Internet Archive: The University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lectures 5 and 6” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access an archive of collected lectures by philosopher Hubert Dreyfus on Heidegger and his works. Click on lecture 5 to launch the audio player and listen to the first half of the lecture; then, click on lecture 6 to listen to the second half of the lecture. In this lecture, Dr. Dreyfus discusses Heidegger’s idea of the “worldhood of the world.” As you listen to the lecture, pay particular attention to what the world is, according to Heidegger. What makes the world the world?

      Listening to these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.2.3 Heidegger’s Critique of Descartes  

    Note: Some of the material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.2.1, found above.

    • Lecture: Internet Archive: The University of California, Berkeley: Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lectures 7 and 8”

      Link: Internet Archive: The University of California, Berkeley: Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lectures 7 and 8” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the archive of collected lectures by Dr. Hubert Dreyfus on Heidegger and his works. Click on lecture 7 to launch the audio player and listen to the first half of the lecture; then click on lecture 8 and listen to the second half of the lecture. As you listen to Dr. Dreyfus’ lecture, consider the following questions: What is Heidegger’s main issue with the philosophy of René Descartes? How is René Descartes’ philosophy doomed from the start, according to Heidegger? What does Heidegger suggest as a starting point for any philosophical investigation?

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 5.2.3.1 and 5.2.3.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.2.3.1 The Ego Has No Priority  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.2.3, found above. For this sub-subunit, pay special attention to Heidegger’s idea that the ego has no priority. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this concept and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 5.2.3.2 Consciousness Is Not the Absolute Fact  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.2.3, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider how Heidegger’s critique of Descartes is really a critique of all philosophy that came before Heidegger. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this idea and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 5.2.4 Understanding  

    Note: Some of the material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.2.1, found above.

    • Lecture: Internet Archive: The University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lecture 15”

      Link: Internet Archive: The University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lecture 15” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the archive of collected lectures by Dr. Hubert Dreyfus on Heidegger and his works. Scroll down to lecture 15 and click on it to launch the audio player and listen to the lecture. As Heidegger attempted to revolutionize philosophy, he also tried to re-define some of its most important concepts, such as the idea of understanding. Pay close attention to the way in which Heidegger does this. As you listen to this lecture, note the distinction that Dr. Dreyfus makes between primordial understanding and basic understanding.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.2.5 Care  

    Note: Some of the material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.2.1, found above.

    • Lecture: Internet Archive: The University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lectures 20 and 21”

      Link: Internet Archive: The University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lectures 20 and 21” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access an archive of collected lectures by Dr. Hubert Dreyfus on Heidegger and his works. Scroll down and click on lecture 20 to launch the audio player and listen to the lecture; then click on lecture 21 and listen to the second lecture. As you listen, consider the following questions: What is meant by the term care, according to Heidegger? How is Heidegger’s notion of care different from how the idea is commonly understood? What role does care play in Heidegger’s analysis of our own being?

      Listening to these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.2.6 Truth  

    Note: Some of the material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the readings assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.2.1, found above.

    • Lecture: The University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lecture 24”

      Link: The University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus’ “Philosophy 185 – Heidegger: Lecture 24” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the archive of collected lectures by philosopher Hubert Dreyfus on Heidegger and his works. Scroll down and click on lecture 24 to launch the audio player and listen to this lecture. As you listen to the lecture, consider Heidegger’s notion of truth. What is it about this notion of truth that makes it radically different from the ways in which you might commonly think of truth?

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.3 Heidegger’s Philosophy of Existence  
  • 5.3.1 Death  
  • 5.3.2 Authenticity  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 5.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, after you have read the encyclopedia section on Heidegger’s views about death, consider how we avoid thinking about our own death. Consider also answering the following questions: How is our avoidance of thinking about our own death related to what Heidegger calls authenticity and inauthenticity? When are we at our most inauthentic, according to Heidegger? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these study questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • Unit 5 Assessment  
  • Unit 6: Jean-Paul Sartre  

    Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–1980) is the public face of existentialism. His works, both fictional and philosophical, resoundingly affirm the existentialist priority of concrete, situated, and historical human existence. He stresses the value of choice, responsibility, and authenticity in human self-fashioning. Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964 – an honor he refused because he maintained that it conflicted with his professional, personal, and political commitments. This unit will introduce you to Sartre’s contributions to existentialist philosophy while simultaneously highlighting Sartre’s place in the movement’s history. In particular, you will explore how Sartre expanded on existentialist themes dealt with by his predecessors – for example, the notions of authenticity, anxiety, and freedom.

    Unit 6 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 6 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 6.1 Sartre’s Development  
  • 6.1.1 The Value of Edmund Husserl’s Theory of Intentionality  
    • Lecture: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 47: Sartre on Consciousness and the Self”

      Link: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 47: Sartre on Consciousness and the Self” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access this webpage about the ideas of Sartre. Then, click on the audio player at the top of the webpage and listen to the entire discussion. As you listen to the discussion, note the manner in which Sartre uses the idea of consciousness. Consider the following questions: When are we aware of our consciousness? In other words, when do we become self-aware?

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunit 6.1.2, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for additional instructions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.1.2 The Transcendental Ego  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 6.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the manner in which the lecture’s discussants define Sartre’s notion of transcendence. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this notion and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 6.2 Sartre’s Existentialism  
  • 6.2.1 Being and Nothingness  
    • Reading: The University at Albany, State University of New York: Dr. Ron McClamrock’s “Final Lecture on Sartre”

      Link: The University at Albany, State University of New York: Dr. Ron McClamrock’s “Final Lecture on Sartre” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the text of Dr. McClamrock’s lecture on Sartre. Read the lecture, and focus in particular on Dr. McClamrock’s remarks regarding Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. As you read, pay special attention to Sartre’s notion of bad faith. Consider the following question: Taking Sartre’s view on this concept, what are some of the ways that human beings might find themselves in bad faith?

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 6.2.1.1 and 6.2.1.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Reading this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.2.1.1 Consciousness Is Not a Thing; It Is a “No-Thing”  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 6.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, note the manner in which Sartre characterizes consciousness as a nothingness. What does it mean to say that consciousness is a nothingness? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this idea and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 6.2.1.2 The “For Itself” and the “In-Itself”  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading assigned beneath sub-subunit 6.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the differences between what Sartre calls the “for-itself” and the “in-itself.” Make a list of the differences between these two concepts. Spend approximately 15 minutes composing your list and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 6.2.2 “Existentialism Is a Humanism” (1945)  
    • Reading: Marxists Internet Archive’s version of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism Is a Humanism”

      Link: Marxists Internet Archive’s version of Jean-Paul Sartre’s “Existentialism Is a Humanism” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read Sartre’s 1946 lecture titled “Existentialism Is a Humanism.” As you read, note the reasons Sartre argues that existentialism is a humanism. Also pay close attention to the criticisms of existentialism that Sartre addresses, making a list of each criticism and how Sartre counters them. Consider the validity of these criticisms and whether you agree with any of them. Sartre argues that existentialism does not lead to isolationism and quietism, but rather that existentialism conceives the human subject as always in the world, with others. Pay close attention to how Sartre lays out and justifies this argument.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately three hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.2.3 Themes in Sartre’s Existentialism  
  • 6.2.3.1 Despair  
    • Reading: Rhode Island School of Design: Donald Keefer’s version of Jean Paul Sartre’s “The Wall”

      Link: Rhode Island School of Design: Donald Keefer’s version of Jean Paul Sartre’s “The Wall” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read Sartre’s short story, “The Wall.” As you read, focus your attention on the way in which the story illustrates the main existential themes of freedom, commitment, despair, and choice.

      Please note that this reading also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 6.2.3.2, 6.2.3.3, and 6.2.3.4, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional study questions to help guide your review of this reading.

      Reading this story and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

  • 6.2.3.2 Freedom  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 6.2.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following question: What does freedom mean to Sartre’s narrator by the end of the story? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 6.2.3.3 Commitment  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 6.2.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following question: What does Sartre’s narrator discover about his commitments and the way in which he prioritized them before his current predicament? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 6.2.3.4 Choice  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 6.2.3.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following question: Is the narrator blameworthy for the outcome of the choice he makes at the end of the story? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 6.3 Sartre’s Idea that “Existence Precedes Essence”  
  • 6.3.1 God Does Not Exist  
    • Lecture: Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton’s “Mary Warnock on Sartre’s Existentialism”

      Link: Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton’s “Mary Warnock on Sartre’s Existentialism” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the Philosophy Bites webpage for a discussion with philosopher Mary Warnock on Sartre’s existentialism. Click on the link titled “Direct download,” below the short description of the discussion, and listen to the interview. As you listen, pay particular attention to Warnock’s analysis of Sartre’s claim that God does not exist and the role that Sartre assigns to this revelation for the sake of our everyday human affairs.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.3.2 There Is No Human Nature  
    • Lecture: Internet Archive: Dr. Walter Kaufmann’s “Sartre and the Crisis in Morality”

      Link: Internet Archive: Dr. Walter Kaufmann’s “Sartre and the Crisis in Morality” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access philosopher Walter Kaufmann’s lecture on Sartre. Click on the audio player at the top right of the webpage to listen to both parts of Kaufmann’s lecture, titled “Sartre Part One” and “Sartre Part Two.” As you listen, pay particular attention to Sartre’s view of the idea that existence precedes essence.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.4 Sartre on Our Greatest Burden  
  • 6.4.1 The Burden of Freedom  
    • Reading: Zenwatt: Rob Harle’s “Condemned To Be Free”

      Link: Zenwatt: Rob Harle’s “Condemned To Be Free” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this article. While the emphasis on human freedom is one of the cornerstones of existentialist thought, Sartre goes a step further and argues that we are “radically free.” This is because, as we saw in subunit 6.3 of this course, Sartre believes that God does not exist. This radical freedom, however, is a burden, according to Sartre. As you read Harle’s article, consider the manner in which Sartre characterizes radical freedom as humanity’s greatest burden.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 6.4.2 Sartre’s Critique of Mass Society: “Hell Is Other People”  
    • Reading: Internet Archive: Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit”

      Link: Internet Archive: Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on link above. On the left hand-side of the webpage you will see a window titled “View the book.” Click on the link titled “PDF” within this window to download and read Sartre’s play. In it, Sartre produces his famous phrase “hell is other people.” As you read, consider why Sartre would suggest that “hell is other people” and how this notion relates to the aspects of Sartre’s philosophy that you have learned about so far in this course.

      Reading this play and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 6 Assessment  
  • Unit 7: Simone de Beauvoir  

    A novelist, social critic, and philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) extended Sartre’s existentialism to the realm of the social and the political, developing an existentialist ethics and a feminist philosophy that would have a lasting influence on the feminist political movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Like existentialists before her, de Beauvoir emphasized the centrality of individual freedom to human existence. But unlike existentialists before her, she argued that individual freedom was possible only on the condition that others were free. In other words, equitable social relations are necessary for a meaningful freedom, according to de Beauvoir. In this unit, you will learn about de Beauvoir’s existentialist ethics and her existential feminism.

    Unit 7 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 7 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 7.1 de Beauvoir’s Life with Sartre  
  • 7.1.1 The Influence of Sartre’s Existentialism  
    • Lecture: LearnOutLoud.com and WBGH Forum Network: Dr. Hazel Rowley’s “Tete-A-Tete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre”

      Link: LearnOutLoud.com and WBGH Forum Network: Dr. Hazel Rowley’s “Tete-A-Tete: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre” (Flash)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and watch this lecture by biographer Hazel Rowley on the relationship between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre. As you watch the lecture, pay special attention to Dr. Rowley’s description of the ways in which de Beauvoir influenced Sartre’s philosophy and the ways in which Sartre influenced de Beauvoir’s philosophy.

      Please note that this lecture also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunit 7.1.2, found below. You can refer to that sub-subunit for additional instructions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 7.1.2 de Beauvoir’s Critique of Sartre  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 7.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider how de Beauvoir’s criticism of Sartre helped shape her own existentialist philosophy. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this relationship and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 7.1.3 de Beauvoir as a Feminist  
  • 7.2 de Beauvoir’s Existentialist Ethics  
  • 7.2.1 The Importance of the Social Sphere  
  • 7.2.1.1 The Role of the Other  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 7.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider what or who the Other is, according to de Beauvoir. Also consider the following question: What is the role of the Other in individual human existence? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 7.2.1.2 Responsibility for the Other  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 7.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, ask yourself whether we have any responsibility toward the Other, and if so, what exactly that responsibility is. Is this a responsibility that we can ignore? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 7.2.2 The Ethics of Ambiguity  
    • Reading: Northampton Community College: Harold Weiss’ version of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity: “Chapter 1: Ambiguity and Freedom”

      Link: Northampton Community College: Harold Weiss’ version of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity: “Chapter 1: Ambiguity and Freedom” (PDF)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Chapter 1 from de Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity. As you read, pay special attention to de Beauvoir’s critique of Marxism. How does de Beauvoir frame her critique? Consider the strengths and weaknesses of her argument.

      Please take note that this reading also covers material you need to know for sub-subunits 7.2.2.1 and 7.2.2.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions to help guide your review of this reading.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 7.2.2.1 What Is Ambiguity?  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 7.2.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider how de Beauvoir begins the first chapter of her book by discussing the concept of ambiguity. Jot down a brief definition of de Beauvoir’s characterization of ambiguity and the way in which de Beauvoir uses it in her argument. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this concept and composing your definition.

  • 7.2.2.2 Ambiguity Characterizes Human Existence  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the material assigned beneath sub-subunit 7.2.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following question: How does ambiguity characterize human existence, according to de Beauvoir? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 7.3 de Beauvoir’s Feminist Existentialism  
  • 7.3.1 de Beauvoir as a Feminist Pioneer  
  • 7.3.2 The Second Sex  
    • Reading: Marxists Internet Archive’s version of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex: “Introduction: Woman as Other”

      Link: Marxists Internet Archive’s version of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex: “Introduction: Woman as Other” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read this introduction to de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. As you read, pay close attention to the historical story de Beauvoir gives about the development of woman as “the Other” of man.

      Please note that this article also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 7.3.2.1, 7.3.2.2, and 7.3.2.3, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for further instructions and study questions to help guide your review of this article.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 7.3.2.1 Woman Is the Other of Man  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 7.3.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider what is meant by de Beauvoir’s idea that woman is “the Other” of man, as laid out in her introduction to The Second Sex. Spend approximately 15 minutes considering de Beauvoir’s development of this idea and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 7.3.2.2 “Woman” Is an Abstract Concept  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 7.3.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following questions: What is an abstract concept, according to de Beauvoir? How is woman an abstract concept? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 7.3.2.3 One Becomes “Woman”  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the lecture assigned beneath sub-subunit 7.3.2, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider how, according to both Sartre and de Beauvoir, no one is born with a predetermined essence: You become who you are. What does de Beauvoir mean when she suggests that a person is not born a woman, but rather becomes one? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this idea and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 7.3.2.4 The “Feminine” Is a Social Construction  
  • 7.3.4 de Beauvoir’s Applied Existentialism  
    • Lecture: Duke University’s Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature: Amy Atkins’ “Silencing Simone: Between Frantz Fanon and the Second Sex”

      Link: Duke University’s Center for Philosophy, Arts, and Literature: Amy Atkins’ “Silencing Simone: Between Frantz Fanon and the Second Sex” (iTunes U)

      Also available in:
      Duke University On Demand (Flash)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access iTunes U, and then click on the link titled “View in iTunes” beside lecture 8, titled “Silencing Simone: Between Frantz Fanon and the Second Sex.” Philosopher and psychiatrist Franz Fanon was a fierce critic of colonialism and the violence that came with it – including both physical and conceptual violence (the way in which language has been used to oppress, marginalize, and hurt others). As you watch this lecture, consider how Atkins characterizes the differences and similarities between Fanon and de Beauvoir. Finally, consider the following question: In what ways does existentialism (de Beauvoir’s, in this case) encourage or lead to revolutionary action?

      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Unit 7 Assessment  
  • Unit 8: Albert Camus  

    Albert Camus (1913–1960) was an Algerian writer and intellectual who refused to be called a philosopher because he did not believe that human reason was capable of systematizing human experience in all of its nuances. He was a friend and, later, a critic of Sartre, and his works manifest concerns similar to those of Sartre. Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. In this unit, you will explore Camus’ existentialism through an examination of his book The Stranger and his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” (both published in 1942), which highlight the absurdities of human existence and, interestingly enough, the absurdity of existentialism itself if the philosophy is taken to an extreme. You also will develop an appreciation of the manner in which Camus represents the synthesis of existentialist thinking since Pascal.

    Unit 8 Time Advisory   show close
    Unit 8 Learning Outcomes   show close
  • 8.1 Camus’s Philosophy Through Literature  
  • 8.1.1 Camus’s Suspicion of Philosophical Systems  
    • Reading: Nobelprize.org: Albert Camus’ “1957 Nobel Prize in Literature Acceptance Speech”

      Link: Nobelprize.org: Albert Camus’ “1957 Nobel Prize in Literature Acceptance Speech” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read Camus’ 1957 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. As you read, consider the following question: To what extent does this speech represent Camus as a philosopher, rather than solely as an author of fiction?

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Reading: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Information: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Ronald Aronson’s “Albert Camus”

      Link: Stanford University, Center for the Study of Language and Information: The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Dr. Ronald Aronson’s “Albert Camus” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read Dr. Aronson’s encyclopedia article on the life and works of Albert Camus. As you read, pay special attention to Camus’ criticism of the existentialists. Consider the following question: Why is Camus critical of both the existentialists as a group of philosophers as well as the term existentialism itself?

      Please note that this article also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 8.1.2 and 8.1.3, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional instructions and study questions to help guide your review of this article.

      Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 8.1.2 Camus’s Critique of Reason  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the encyclopedia article assigned beneath sub-subunit 8.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, following your reading of Dr. Aronson’s article, consider further Aronson’s description of Camus’ critique of reason. What is the impossible, according to Camus? In what ways does reason drive us to pursue the impossible? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this critique and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 8.1.3 Human Freedom Is Guaranteed with the Absence of God  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the encyclopedia article assigned beneath sub-subunit 8.1.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, characterize the role that the absence of God plays in Camus’ thinking. How is this feature of Camus’ thinking similar to the thinking of Sartre? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 8.2 “The Myth of Sisyphus”  
  • 8.2.1 Life Is Absurd  
    • Reading: New York University: Julia Keefer’s version of Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”

      Link: New York University: Julia Keefer’s version of Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus” (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access and read Camus’ essay. As you read, consider how Camus associates Sisyphus’ struggle with the struggles of the human condition. What do we learn from the myth of Sisyphus, according to Camus?

      Please note that this essay also covers the material you need to know for sub-subunits 8.2.1.1 and 8.2.1.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional study questions to help guide your review of this essay.

      Reading this essay and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Lecture: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 4: Camus and the Absurd”

      Link: The Partially Examined Life: Mark Linsenmayer et al.’s “Episode 4: Camus and the Absurd” (MP3)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above to access the webpage about Camus and his ideas. Click on the audio player at the top of the webpage and listen to the discussion. As you listen, consider the following questions: According to Camus, what is the absurd? In light of Camus’ argument, in what ways is Sisyphus’ plight absurd? How is life absurd? Is it possible to escape the absurdity of our condition? If so, how?

      Please note that this lecture also covers material you need to know for sub-subunits 8.2.1.1 and 8.2.1.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional study questions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Listening to this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Lecture: YouTube: The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship: Dr. Stephen Hicks’ “Albert Camus & ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, Clip 1” and “Albert Camus & ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, Clip 2”

      Link: YouTube: The Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship: Dr. Stephen Hicks’ “Albert Camus & ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, Clip 1” (YouTube) and “Albert Camus & ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, Clip 2” (YouTube)

      Instructions: Please click on the links above to access and watch both parts of Dr. Hicks’ lecture on Camus and “The Myth of Sisyphus.” When discussing Sisyphus, who is immortal but lives a meaningless life, Dr. Hicks asks us what would make an immortal life meaningful. Reflect on this question as you watch the video.

      Please note that this lecture also covers material you need to know for sub-subunits 8.2.1.1 and 8.2.1.2, found below. You can refer to those sub-subunits for additional study questions to help guide your review of this lecture.

      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

  • 8.2.1.1 Suicide  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading and both lectures assigned beneath sub-subunit 8.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following question: Of the many ways in which to battle the absurdity of life, why is suicide not an option, according to Camus? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering this study question and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 8.2.1.2 Sisyphus Is the Absurd Hero  

    Note: The material you need to know for this sub-subunit is covered by the reading and both lectures assigned beneath sub-subunit 8.2.1, found above. For this sub-subunit, consider the following questions: Why is Sisyphus an absurd hero? What has Sisyphus done that sets an example for all of us, according to Camus? Spend approximately 15 minutes considering these study questions and reviewing any relevant notes you may have taken on the topic.

  • 8.3 The Stranger  
  • 8.3.1 Themes  
    • Reading: Washington State University: Dr. Michael Delahoyde’s “Study Notes: Camus, The Stranger

      Link: Washington State University: Dr. Michael Delahoyde’s “Study Notes: Camus, The Stranger (HTML)

      Instructions: Please click on the link above and read Dr. Delahoyde’s study notes before progressing to the next assignment, in which you will watch a film version of The Stranger. Refer back to these notes when necessary as you progress through Camus’ novel.

      Reading these notes and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Web Media: YouTube: Luchino Visconti’s The Stranger

      Link: YouTube: Luchino Visconti’s The Stranger (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the link above to watch Visconti’s film adaptation of Camus’s seminal novel, The Stranger. As you watch, keep Dr. Delahoyde’s study notes from the subunit above in mind. Also consider the following questions: What is the main character’s crime? Why has he committed this crime, and why does he think that his defense of the crime is simple? Note how themes from Camus’s “The Myth of Sisyphus” re-appear here.

      Watching this film and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

    • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Robert Solomon’s “Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Part I” and “Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Part II”

      Link: YouTube: Dr. Robert Solomon’s “Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Part 1” (YouTube) and “Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Part 2” (YouTube)
       
      Instructions: Please click on the links above and listen to both parts of the lecture by Dr. Solomon on Albert Camus’ The Stranger. As you listen to the lecture, consider the following questions: What does Dr. Solomon mean when he characterizes Meursault, the main character in The Stranger, as a “blank character”? How does Meursault’s emptiness lead him to murder a man? Consider also Dr. Solomon’s reflections on reason and the emotions in Part 2 of his lecture. What is the significance, according to Dr. Solomon, of Meursault’s failure to cry at his mother’s funeral? What role does this event play in Meursault’s murder trial?

      Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.

      Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpages above.

      The Saylor Foundation does not yet have materials for this portion of the course. If you are interested in contributing your content to fill this gap or aware of a resource that could be used here, please submit it here.

      Submit Materials

  • 8.3.2 A Philosophy of the Absurd  
  • Unit 8 Assessment  
  • Final Exam  

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