Continental Philosophy (PHIL*3200) | College of Arts

Continental Philosophy (PHIL*3200)

Code and section: PHIL*3200*01

Term: Fall 2021

Instructor: R. William Valliere


Method of Delivery:

This course will be taught in-person, twice weekly. It will follow a lecture-style format.

Course Synopsis:

This course will introduce students to “Continental philosophy”—that is, philosophy from the continent of Europe, from about the year 1800 to the present. Together, we will explore what makes Continental philosophy distinct from its counterpart, “analytic,” or Anglo-American philosophy. We will also consider what European philosophy, specifically, can teach us about the nature and aims of philosophy, more broadly.

To do this, we will primarily be looking at the works of four of the most famous Continental philosophers: the so-called “Masters of Suspicion”—Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud—plus, a new addition to the pantheon—Michel Foucault. These philosophers ask us to be skeptical about the things we have been taught regarding society, human beings, and human development. They direct our attention to the hidden struggles in our lives—the struggles between competing economic classes, between competing wills, between competing practices and discourses and even, between competing parts of our own psyches.

In our readings and discussions, we will consider the following questions, among others:

  • What is society? 
  • Is society the product of human actions, or are human beings the product of their societies?
  • Can we change society? Can we change ourselves? How?
  • Is there a human nature?
  • What is history?
  • What is science?
  • What is power?
  • What is the human condition? What does it mean to be human?

This will be a reading- and writing-intensive course. It is designed for serious second- and third-year students who are interested in examining a small part of the history of Western thought over the last two centuries.

Instruction will take the form of in-person, face-to-face lectures twice weekly. Students can expect between 30 and 60 pages of reading per week, and one writing assignment per week.

Assignments & Means of Evaluation:

  • Discussion Board Posts - 10%
  • Weekly Response Papers - 60%
  • Final Essay - 30%

Required Textbooks:

None. All required texts will be provided through the library and through ARES.

Please note:  This is a preliminary web course outline only.  The Philosophy Department reserves the right to change without notice any information in this description.  The final, binding course outline will be distributed in the first class of the semester.