Term: Winter 2013
Existentialism takes as its central concern the nature of freedom and the question of how there is meaning in human life. Existentialist philosophical analyses range from studies of the basic structure of meaningful experience in general, (e.g., studies of perception, embodiment, temporality, etc.), to studies of the personal, interpersonal and political relationships and structures that are the substance of our everyday lives. We will take our primary orientation in this course from Jean-Paul Sartre’s masterpiece, Being and Nothingness, which is generally taken to be the definitive text of existentialist philosophy. We will contextualize our reading of Sartre with the reading of selected works of literature by Rainer Maria Rilke and Anne Carson. We will then turn to Martin Heidegger, possibly the most important philosopher of the past hundred years, and we will study his essays on art, history and technology (in the collection Basic Writings). We will conclude with a consideration of ethics and politics in an existentialist philosophy through a consideration of Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition.