Topic Name Description
Course Introduction Page Course Syllabus
Page Course Terms of Use
1.1: Existentialism: An Overview URL Stanford University: Dr. Steven Crowell's "Existentialism"

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.

1.2: Pascal's Life URL Stanford University: Dr. Desmond Clarke's "Blaise Pascal"

Read this 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."

1.3: The Pensées: A Portrait of Man URL Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton's "Ben Rogers on Pascal's Pensées"

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 questions: Why does Pascal think of human life as contingent, solitary, and corrupt? What is Pascal's critique of reason and the rationalism of Descartes? What does Pascal mean when he says that the heart has its reasons? Do you agree with Pascal's sentiment that humans beings are destined to suffer?

1.4: Pascal's Wager URL Pascal's "Pensées"

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. Further questions to consider: 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? If God exists, why does Pascal believe that we are destined to suffer in this life? 

2.1: On Kierkegaard and the Pseudonyms URL Dr. Walter Kaufmann's "Kierkegaard and the Crisis in Religion"

Click on the audio player to play "Kierkegaard Part One" and then "Kierkegaard Part Two." After listening to this lecture, answer 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? How does Kierkegaard formulate his view that individual existence is a category? 

2.2: Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling" URL Søren Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling"

Read Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling. As you read and take notes, answer 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?

Also do the following: Think about Abraham's decision to sacrifice his son. Answer the following questions: Why is Abraham so willing to do this? How does Kierkegaard justify Abraham's behavior? Jot down your thoughts about what Kierkegaard means by the "teleological suspension of the ethical."  What makes Abraham a "knight of faith," according to Kierkegaard? 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. When is the leap of faith necessary, according to Kierkegaard? Could you, or would you, make such a leap? Is there a place for reason and reasoned argument within Kierkegaard's view of life? 

2.3: Kierkegaard's Idea of the Sickness unto Death URL Mark Linsenmayer et al.'s "Kierkegaard on the Self"

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? What does Kierkegaard mean when he says that "the sickness is not unto death"? 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?

2.4: Kierkegaard's Concepts of Subjectivity and Becoming URL Stanford University: Dr. William McDonald's "Søren Kierkegaard"

Read this 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. 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? 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? Consider whether or not Kierkegaard's religious stage is a possibility for you. If it is not, consider your reasons. What does Kierkegaard mean when he says that "truth is subjectivity"?

2.5: The Crowd Is Untruth URL Søren Kierkegaard's "The Crowd Is 'Untruth'"

Read this short excerpt. 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.

3.1: Dostoevsky on the Problem of Freedom URL Aleksandr Bondarenko's "Prominent Russians: Fyodor Dostoevsky"

Read this article, which introduces Dostoevsky. As you read, pay particular attention to the details of Dostoevsky's imprisonment.

URL Dr. Terry Eagleton's "Freedom by Necessity"

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. Ask yourself what the human desire for absolute and total freedom means. Can we be absolutely and totally free? What gets in the way of our absolute and total freedom? 

URL Yale University: Dr. Robert-Louis Jackson's "Dostoevsky in the Twentieth Century"

Read Dr. Jackson's journal article. As you read, ask yourself what the author means by calling Dostoevsky a "contemporary" writer. Note the ways in which Dr. Jackson believes Dostoevsky is relevant today.

3.2: Dostoevsky on Revolution Page Marco Ceccarelli's "Revolutionary Self-Fulfillment? Nihilism, Terrorism and Self-Destruction in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's The Devils"

Read this article. As you read, jot down definitions of nihilism, terrorism, and self-destruction, as they are suggested by Ceccarelli. Also consider the ways in which revolutionary action can fulfill a person's sense of self and identity.

3.3: Dostoevsky's "Notes from the Underground" URL Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from the Underground

As you read, 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? 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.

3.4: Dostoevsky on Morality URL The Brothers Karamazov: "Fyodor Dostoevsky on the Problem of Evil"

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? 

What does it mean to say that human beings must follow their whims? 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.

3.5: Dostoevsky on Reason URL Vancouver Island University: Dr. Russell McNeil's "Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment"

Read this essay, which 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, in what way does Dr. McNeil characterize Raskolnikov as representing reason and rationalism? Is total freedom compatible with intellectual pride? How can reason get in the way of freedom? Or, how can reason make freedom possible? 

3.6: Dostoevsky's "Grand Inquisitor" URL Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov: "The Grand Inquisitor"

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. Why do you think Jesus is silent for most of the time as the Grand Inquisitor speaks? How does Dostoevsky suggest that Christ's rejection of the temptations place an unbearable burden, and an unreachable ideal, on humankind? Why does Ivan, who is telling us the story of the Grand Inquisitor, reject God's absolute power? 

Page Gregory B. Sadler's "Existentialism: Fyodor Dostoevsky's 'The Grand Inquisitor'"

Watch this lecture. 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?

4.1: Nietzsche's Critique of Metaphysics URL Dr. Walter Kaufmann's "Nietzsche and the Crisis in Philosophy"

Listen to "Nietzsche Part One" and then "Nietzsche Part Two." 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. Is knowledge of rationalist philosophy's "thing-in-itself" possible, according to Nietzsche? 

4.2: Nietzsche's Idea of Perspectivism URL Dave Maier's "What Kind of Perspectivist is Nietzsche?"

Read this 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? 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. 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'?"

URL St. Olaf College: Nate Olson's "Perspectivism and Truth in Nietzsche's Philosophy: A Critical Look at the Apparent Contradiction"

Read this article. Consider the following questions: What is the apparent contradiction referred to by Olson? Do you think Olson is correct and/or justified in this argument?

4.3.1: Nietzsche's Critique of Socrates URL Dr. Volker Gerhardt's "Philosophizing against Philosophy: Nietzsche's Provocation of the Philosophical Tradition"

Read this article. Pay special attention to section 3, titled "Socrates, the Disavowed Hero." As you read, consider the following question: How is Nietzsche's critique of traditional philosophy a critique of Socrates and the Socratic tradition?

4.3.2: The Death of God URL Friedrich Nietzsche's The Gay Science: "Parable of the Madman"

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. 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? 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? 

4.3.3: Nietzsche's Liberal Nihilism URL Dr. Allan Bloom's "Nietzsche"

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?

4.4.1: The Social Construction of Morality URL Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton's "Christopher Janaway on Nietzsche on Morality"

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? Also, make a list of the differences between slave morality and master morality, as suggested by Nietzsche. How does society suppress our instincts, according to Nietzsche? What does guilt have to do with our morality? 

4.4.2: The Social Construction of Values Page Friedrich Nietzsche's On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense

Read Nietzsche's 1873 essay On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense. As you read, consider the following questions: How are values socially constructed, according to Nietzsche? And, more importantly, why are they constructed in this way?

4.4.3: On Power URL Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton's "Brian Leiter on Nietzsche Myths"

Listen to this 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. Consider Dr. Leiter's deconstruction of the Nietzsche myths, noting in particular Nietzsche's characterization of the Overman, or Superman. 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.

4.4.4: Resentment as the Ground for Morality URL Friedrich Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals

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? 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?

URL Mark Linsenmayer's "Nietzsche's Immoralism: What Is Ethics, Anyway?"

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?

4.5: Nietzsche's Idea of Eternal Recurrence URL Friedrich Nietzsche's The Gay Science

Read the section titled "Aph. 341: The Greatest Weight." As you read, consider the following questions: If you were confronted with the question of eternal recurrence, what would you do? How is the aphorism in this reading intended to place the reader in a position to say "yes" to life? 

5.1: Heidegger, Catholicism, and Phenomenology URL The European Graduate School: "Martin Heidegger Biography"

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.

Page "Hubert Dreyfus on Husserl and Heidegger"

Watch these videos, which feature an interview with the philosopher Hubert Dreyfus discussing Husserl and Heidegger. As you watch the interview, consider the following questions: What is phenomenology? How does Heidegger appropriate the methods of phenomenology? 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?

5.2.1: 'Dasein' and the Ontological Question URL Dr. Roderick Munday's "Glossary of Terms in Being and Time"

Use this glossary 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.

URL Carnegie Mellon University: Dr. Robert Cavalier's "Overview of Being and Time as a Whole"

Read this article. 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.

URL Mark Linsenmayer's "Heidegger: What is Being?"

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.

5.2.2: The Worldhood of the World URL University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus' "Heidegger: Lectures 5 and 6"

Listen to the lectures 5 and 6. In these lectures, 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?

5.2.3: Heidegger's Critique of Descartes URL University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus' "Heidegger: Lectures 7 and 8"

Listen to lectures 7 and 8. 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?

5.2.4: Understanding URL University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus' "Heidegger: Lecture 15"

Listen to lecture 15. 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.

5.2.5: Care URL University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus' "Heidegger: Lectures 22"

Listen to lecture 22 from the 7:30-minute mark to the end. Although the track is called "Reality I," lecture 22 begins Dreyfus' discussion of Heideggerian care. The lecture sequence and the track names are mismatched. 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?

5.2.6: Truth URL University of California, Berkeley: Dr. Hubert Dreyfus' "Heidegger: Lecture 25"

Listen to lecture 25. Although the track is called "Introduction I," lecture 25 considers Heidegger's notion of truth. The lecture sequence and the track names are mismatched.  What is it about this notion of truth that makes it radically different from the ways in which you might commonly think of truth?

5.3: Heidegger's Philosophy of Existence URL Stanford University: Dr. Michael Wheeler's "Martin Heidegger: Death"

Read this article. As you read, pay special attention to the description of how Heidegger claims that we avoid thinking about our own death in our everyday lives. 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?

6.1: Sartre's Development URL Mark Linsenmayer's "Sartre on Consciousness and the Self"

Listen to this 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?

6.2.1: "Being and Nothingness" URL The University at Albany, State University of New York: Dr. Ron McClamrock's "Final Lecture on Sartre"

Read this 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? What does it mean to say that consciousness is a nothingness? Also consider the differences between what Sartre calls the "for-itself" and the "in-itself." Make a list of the differences between these two concepts. 

6.2.2: "Existentialism Is a Humanism" (1945) URL Jean-Paul Sartre's "Existentialism Is a Humanism"

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.

6.2.3: Themes in Sartre's Existentialism URL Stanford University: Dr. Thomas Flynn's "Jean-Paul Sartre"

Read Dr. Flynn's article on Sartre. As you read, pay special attention to section 4, titled "Ethics." Note how authenticity is achieved, according to Sartre. Also note how Sartre's ethics are related to his politics.

URL Jean Paul Sartre's The Wall

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. What does freedom mean to Sartre's narrator by the end of the story? What does Sartre's narrator discover about his commitments and the way in which he prioritized them before his current predicament? Is the narrator blameworthy for the outcome of the choice he makes at the end of the story?

6.3.1: God Does Not Exist URL Philosophy Bites: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton's "Mary Warnock on Sartre's Existentialism"

Listen to this 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.

6.3.2: There Is No Human Nature URL Dr. Walter Kaufmann's "Sartre and the Crisis in Morality"

Listen to both parts of this lecture. As you listen, pay particular attention to Sartre's view of the idea that existence precedes essence.

6.4.1: The Burden of Freedom URL Rob Harle's "Condemned To Be Free"

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.

6.4.2: Sartre's Critique of Mass Society: "Hell Is Other People" URL Jean-Paul Sartre's "No Exit"

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.

7.1: de Beauvoir's Life with Sartre URL Wikipedia: "Simone de Beauvoir"

Read this article. Pay special attention to how de Beauvoir influenced Sartre's philosophy and the ways in which Sartre influenced de Beauvoir's philosophy. Also consider how de Beauvoir's criticism of Sartre helped shape her own existentialist philosophy.

URL Duke University: Dr. Linda Zerilli's "Reading Beauvoir in the 21st Century"

Listen to Lecture 2, titled "Reading Beauvoir in the 21st Century." As you watch the lecture, consider the relationship between existentialism (as discussed in the previous units and subunits of this course) and feminism.

7.2.1: The Importance of the Social Sphere URL Stanford University: Dr. Debra Bergoffen's "Simone de Beauvoir"

Read this article on de Beauvoir. As you read, pay attention to the discussion of de Beauvoir's literary fiction and the way in which it served as a vehicle for her philosophical ideas. What is the role of the Other in individual human existence? 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? 

URL Duke University: Dr. Linda Zerilli's "Living with the Other's Pain: The Problem of Empathy in Simone de Beauvoir's Le sang des autres"

Listen to Lecture 4, titled "Living with the Other's Pain: The Problem of Empathy in Simone de Beauvoir's Le sang des autres." As you watch this lecture, pay special attention to King's characterization of "the problem of empathy" in de Beauvoir's work. Write a brief description of this problem, and note how de Beauvoir attempts to solve it.

7.2.2: The Ethics of Ambiguity URL Simone de Beauvoir's The Ethics of Ambiguity: "Chapter 1: Ambiguity and Freedom"

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. Jot down a brief definition of de Beauvoir's characterization of ambiguity and the way in which de Beauvoir uses it in her argument. How does ambiguity characterize human existence, according to de Beauvoir? 

7.3.1: de Beauvoir as a Feminist Pioneer URL Duke University: Dr. Linda Zerilli's "What Is Woman? The Second Sex and the Republic"

Listen to lecture 3, titled "What Is Woman? The Second Sex and the Republic." As you watch this lecture, recall Sartre's famous insight into the idea that essence precedes existence. What role does this idea play in de Beauvoir's critique of the concept of woman?

7.3.2: The Second Sex URL Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex: "Introduction: Woman as Other"

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. What is an abstract concept, according to de Beauvoir? How is woman an abstract concept? Also 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? 

7.3.3: The "Feminine" Is a Social Construction URL Duke University: Dr. Emily Apter's "'Sex' and 'Gender': Philosophical Untranslatables"

Listen to lecture 5, titled "'Sex' and 'Gender': Philosophical Untranslatables." As you watch the lecture, note the differences between sex and gender as they are suggested by Dr. Apter. How are these concepts "untranslatable," according to Apter?

7.3.4: de Beauvoir's Applied Existentialism URL Duke University: Amy Atkins' "Silencing Simone: Between Frantz Fanon and the Second Sex"

Listen to 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?

8.1: Camus' Philosophy Through Literature URL Albert Camus' "1957 Nobel Prize in Literature Acceptance Speech"

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?

URL Stanford University: Dr. Ronald Aronson's "Albert Camus"

Read this 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? What is the impossible, according to Camus? In what ways does reason drive us to pursue the impossible? Also 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?

8.2: "The Myth of Sisyphus" URL Albert Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus"

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? Of the many ways in which to battle the absurdity of life, why is suicide not an option, according to Camus? Why is Sisyphus an absurd hero? What has Sisyphus done that sets an example for all of us, according to Camus?

URL Mark Linsenmayer's "Camus and the Absurd"

Listen to this 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?

Page Dr. Stephen Hicks' "Albert Camus & 'The Myth of Sisyphus'"

Watch this 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.

8.3.1: Themes URL Washington State University: Dr. Michael Delahoyde's "Study Notes: Camus, The Stranger"

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.

Page Luchino Visconti's The Stranger

Watch Visconti's film adaptation of Camus' seminal novel, The Stranger. As you watch, keep Dr. Delahoyde's study notes 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' "The Myth of Sisyphus" re-appear here.

Page Gregory B. Sadler's "Existentialism: Albert Camus, The Stranger"

Listen to this lecture. As you listen, consider the following questions: What does it mean for the character of Meursault, the main character in The Stranger, to be considered a "blank character"? How does Meursault's emptiness lead him to murder a man? What is the significance of Meursault's failure to cry at his mother's funeral? What role does this event play in Meursault's murder trial?

8.3.2: A Philosophy of the Absurd URL Stanford University: Dr. Robert Harrison's "Albert Camus - A Conversation with Jean-Marie Apostolidès"

Listen to episode 80, titled "Albert Camus - A Conversation." As you listen to this lecture, consider the role that personal biography played in shaping Camus' philosophy. Refer to the previous units of this course and reflect on how intimately the philosophy of existentialism is tied to Camus' biography.

Course Feedback Survey URL Course Feedback Survey