Professor: Craig DeLancey
Practice: in section 2, Nietzsche introduces the idea
of the philistine. This is related to an idea that will be
very important to all the existentialists, and which is typically
called "authenticity". Here, Nietzsche is arguing that many
people are like this cultural philistine, who is both uncritical
of his own views, and also who "perceives around him
nothing but needs identical with and views similar to his own" (8).
Do you think that in our time, many of us suffer from such a
preconception -- that we are both uncritical of their own views and
also see only confirmation of our views? Can you give an example?
Does such behavior matter -- that is, is it important (for example,
is it harmful)? Write up your answer in a page or so and bring it
to me in class.
Reading: read sections 7 and 8 of David Strauss,
the first Untimely Meditation. Optional are sections 9-12.
We will be focussing on section 8 in our discussions.
Practice: Strauss sees in Darwin a way to propose his own
ethics, which is really just the contemporary ethics of his
Germany. Nietzsche sees in Darwin and in the death of God a
catastrophe -- in the sense that we can no longer proceed as we
have been, if we are to be honest with ourselves. Who is right?
Do Darwinism and atheism tell us anything about ethics? Write up
your answer in a page or so.
Reading: read sections 1 and 5 of Schopenhauer as Educator,
the third Untimely Meditation. Optional are sections 2-4. Read
section 5 very closely. It's the key to Nietzsche's thinking about
Practice: in Section 1, Nietzsche writes that "We are
responsible to ourselves for our own existence" (128). Look
closely at this passage. Is it fair? Are you responsible for
your existence? Do you have to do something bold and dangerous
in answer to this responsibility? Write up your answer in a page
Tentative assignments (these will be revised)
Some last thoughts about the Untimely Meditations. The method of
phenomenology, and existential phenomenology.
Hold onto your socks. Read chapter 1 of Being and Time.
I'll be out of town giving a talk.
Steinkraus Lecture. Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness: Mill's
Political Philosophy an American Ideals. 2:15 p.m. in the Historic
Lecture Hall, room 222 Sheldon.
A Nietzschean interlude. We will interrupt our studies of Heidegger
to read some of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy. This will
culminate with our viewing of the The Bacchae.
The Bacchae, 7:30 p.m.
Below are the assignment of the last time I taught Existentialism.
Our assignments will be different but some will be similar.
Here's our rough outline of the course.
1. A shamefully brief exegesis of Kierkegaard. (Week 1)
2. Nietzsche, The Geneology of Morals, parts 1 and 2. (Weeks 2-3)
3. A shamefully brief exegesis of Husserl. (Week 4)
4. Heidegger's Being in Time. (Weeks 5-8)
5. Sartre: selections from Being and Nothingness; "Existentialism is a Humanism"; "No Exit" and "The Flies." (Weeks 9-10)
6. Camus: "The Myth of Sisyphus," The Plague. (Weeks 11-12)
7. Beckett: "Waiting for Godot" and "Happy Days." (Week 13)
8. Later Heidegger: "The Question Concerning Technology." (Week 14)
Our simple assignment is:
Go to the library, and find the works of Soren Kierkegaard. Do
your best to estimate:
Write this up (it should only take a page or so).
- How many different works (books) are there by Kierkegaard?
- How many pages in total (not double counting) do you estimate there are?
- What are some of the pseudonyms that these works are written under?
Start reading part I of Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals.
Skip Nietzsche's introduction; and the editor's introduction is
Tony provided us these links to Human All Too Human by the BBC. They
are a little simplistic on some things, but interesting and have fun
biographical and visual information.
BBC's Nietzsche documentary (this one has subtitles
but seems the best quality).
BBC's Heidegger documentary
BBC's Sartre documentary
Finish reading part I of Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals.
BTW: I was talking with Dr. Wray, and he suggested that the
"English psychologists" might refer to Herbert Spencer and
his followers. This seems plausible, since Spencer wrote on
psychology and is also mentioned later in
Finish reading part II of Nietzsche's Genealogy of Morals.
Read selection from the Husserl handout. Also,
read section 7 part c of Being and Time (pages 58-63
in the M&R translation).
Reading and a homework.
* Reading: read B&T chapter 1 (pages 65-77) (you can go easy
on sections 10 and 11, since they refer to scholars you won't
know). Recommended are Polt chapters 1 and 2 (pages 1 - 21).
(In the best of all worlds, we would read the introduction to
B&T. However, given our time limitations, I'm going to skip
it. Do try to read it later, after you've become accustomed
* Homework: this will seem odd, but it is relevant. I will
collect this, and just mark it for completion, because I
want to see your answers. Your homework is to answer six
Write in complete sentences, please. Write cleanly, even if
- Suppose someone asks you, "What are you?" How
would you answer (truthfully)? (Don't try to predict
what I or anyone else might expect or might want;
just answer honestly and as unreflectively as
- How do you know you are that? (That is,
why are you confident in your answer to
- Complete the following sentence (in a way that makes
it, in your opinion, true): "I am in _________."
- Find someone else, not in this class, and
ask her or him the three questions above.
Read B&T sections 12 and 13 (chapter II, pages 78-90 in M&R).
Read B&T sections 14 and 15.
Read B&T sections 16, 17, and 18 (you should thus have read
up to page 122 now).
An assignment due at the beginning of class. This
should only take a page or so. It should be typed. Write
in complete sentences. The homework is two tasks: (1) name
one thing that is typically ready-to-hand for you, and
describe when it is ready-to-hand (I mean, under what kinds
of activities or conditions?). And (2) name one thing that
is present-at-hand for you and describe when (that is,
during which kind of activity) it is present-at-hand.
Please apply the honor system and come up with your own
example, working on your own. Don't just copy an example
from Dreyfus or Polt or -- god forbid -- Wikipedia.
Read B&T sections 27; recommended but optional is section 26
(we're skipping 19 through 24 which are interesting but take
us afield into spatiality and also a critique of Descartes's
Read B&T sections 28-32.
An assignment due at the beginning of class. This
should only take a page or two. It should be typed. Write
in complete sentences. All of these questions relate to the
discussion in the brief section 16, so you can focus upon
that section when writing this up. The homework is two
tasks: (1) name how one ready-to-hand thing became present-
at-hand through conspicuousness; (2) name how one
ready-to-hand thing became present-at-hand through
obtrusiveness; (3) name how one ready-to-hand thing became
present-at-hand through obstinancy.
For one of these examples, explain how the totality of the
towards-which of equipment became present to you in that
Read sections 35-38, and that little intro to 35 under
the label "B".
Read from B&T chapter V, sections 35 through 38.
Start on Chapter VI and read as far into that as
doing the homework allows you.
An assignment due at the beginning of class. This
should only take a page or two. It should be typed. Write
in complete sentences. This one is tough! It will require
you to do some serious phenomenology. Do your best.
Heidegger argues in section 29 that "state-of-mind" (much
better translation is Stambaugh's "attunement") is something
Dasein always has. In 30 he gives an ontical analysis of the
attunement of fear. An attunement has three features: it
discloses (shows to you) your thrownness; it discloses
being-in-the-world as a whole; and it allows for things to
"matter" to you.
You must pick another attunement (anger, boredom,
confusion -- you be the judge). In a page or two,
write up how it discloses your thrownness and your
being-in-the-world; and how it allows something to
matter to you. Hand this in at the beginning of
Read B&T sections 39-41, 43 intro, 43a, 43c, and 44b and 44c.
That's a lot, I know, but you all did say you were interested
Read B&T Division II, sections 45, 50.
When reading section 45, note: what have we left out of our
analysis of Dasein? Heidegger identifies at least two
features, which we will turn to next. Also, what do you think
it means to say existence is potentiality-for-being?
Homework! Write a brief description of an instance of
idle talk in your own life; and of curiosity (in Heidegger's
sense of inauthentic greed for the new) in your own life.
How do they arise from a they-self? Please remember I do not
accept homework by email. If you sent me a homework by
email, I treated it as idle talk.
Read B&T Division II, sections 51-53.
Read B&T Division II, sections 54-58, 60.
A short homework. Let's pressure test Heidegger. Spend half
an hour thinking about your death. You'll be sore tempted to
think about it for five minutes, but really try to think hard
and long. Imagine ceasing to exist, the world continuing
(perhaps) after you, and your projects now abandoned. How
does it make you feel about your projects, your purposes? Do
you feel like resoluteness towards death is possible? Write
up your response in a page or so. (By the way: the reason I
ask that these be typed is that I'm supposed to be ensuring
that you sometimes turn on a computer, as proof that you have
computer and information literacy. Asking that homeworks be
word-processed lets me say that actually know how to use a
word processor. Yes, I agree, that's silly. I didn't write
Exam 1. Heidegger and Nietzsche. Most of the test will
require short answers. You may bring and use your copy of
Being and Time and The Genealogy of Morals.
Topics will include but not be limited to (and so you'll be
expected to be able explain accurately but to an intelligent
- Nietzsche's history of Christian morality
- Nietzsche's concept of Resentment
- The Ubermensch
- World, Being-in-the-world
- Towards-which and for-the-sake-of-which
- Das Man
- the They-self
- Attunement ("State-of-mind")
- Idle talk, curiosity, ambiguity
- Angst ("anxiety")
- Existence, potentiality-for-being
- What it means that Dasein must die alone
- Authentic and inauthentic ways of being for Dasein
If you are looking to become a better human being over
break, then read (if you have not already done so) the
Oresteia of Aeschylus. This is the trilogy of plays
Agamenon, The Libation Bearers, and The Kindly
Ones. Every library will have them, and you can probably
find them online in fair translations. (This is deeply
relevant to Sartre's play The Flies.) Less important
(because we will watch a production) but still valuable would
be to read "Waiting for Godot," "Endgame," and "Happy Days"
by Samuel Beckett.
Read "Existentialism is a Humanism." This is ubiquitous, but
a free online translation is available at:
This is our first non-technical reading, so you should be
able to understand it pretty well before we sit down to
discuss it. While reading, ask yourself:
I might be tempted to have a quiz asking these questions, just
to welcome everyone back from their week of reading Aeschylus.
- What are the criticisms that Sartre sets
out to answer?
- What does Sartre really suspect causes
critics to dislike existentialism?
- What are the two kinds of existentialists,
according to Sartre?
- What does Sartre say all existentialists
have in common? That is, how does he define
- How does Sartre interpret and explain
"anguish" (which is a common translation for
angst and anxiety), "abandonment" and "despair"
- Why can existentialism allow a moral
- What does he mean when he says that
existentialism is a humanism? That is, what
sense of "humanisim" is he ruling out, and what
sense is he intending?
Homework. Write this up, wordprocessed. It should take a
page or more. You will interpret events in your own life
using Sartre's version of existential features. (1) What
is an example of anguish in your life? (2) What is an
example of abandonment in your life? (3) What is an example
of despair in your life? I mean, find everyday examples
that illustrate this in your own experience.
We'll keep talking about "Existentialism is a Humanism."
Time permitting, we might review some of the metaphysical
views of Sartre, to help you with our reading selection.
If you get a chance, look at:
Read our selection from Being and Nothingness.
Read Sartre's No Exit.
Come ready to describe the play, and to offer both a
Sartrean and a general existentialist interpretation of
it. Here are some questions to think about (and
wouldn't they make great pop-quiz questions?):
- Where are Garcin, Inez, Estelle? Or: where
do they think they are?
- Does it mean something that they cannot
find a mirror (a "glass")?
- What do you think of Garcin's plan to help
- Does Garcin's motive in fleeing the war
- What matters to Estelle? In herself and in
- What should we think of Garcin's goal: to
convince another he is not a coward, that he is
- Does it matter that the room is in Second
Brief homework. Where are Garcin, Estelle, and Inez? And,
for each of them, why is he or she there? ("Because they
are dead" is true, but not a very good answer. Can you say
more about why they, in particular, are in this particular
place?) Write up your answer in a typed page or two, and turn
it in at the beginning of class.
I found this: a
version of No Exit with the playwright Harold
Pinter playing Garcin. The room is VERY much not Second
Empire style; the play is interesting to see.
Also, we had (with some humor) brought up Sartre's
encounters with the crabs, and his play "The Condemned of
Altona." A brief NY
Times piece on this is here.
Read Sartre's The Flies. (You really should read
Aeschylus's trilogy of plays, The Oresteia, if you
have not done so in the past. You can get a copy of
Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, and The
Eumenides just about anywhere, and you can't really
claim to be educated without having read these.) While
reading, ask yourself (these would be good quiz questions):
- What role does guilt play for the people of Argos?
- What is the source of Zeus's power?
- Why does Zeus fear Orestes?
We'll wrap up any observations about The Flies,
discuss papers and paper format, and then I'll give you
background on Beckett. Any questions or observations
about Sartre can also be raised.
Beckett Waiting for Godot, Act I, in class.
Beckett Waiting for Godot, Act II, in class.
No class. Quest.
Alas, we should probably finish our Beckett! That should leave us
some time for discussion of Beckett.
Before class, read "The Myth of
Sisyphus." A few copies are floating around on the web; e.g.,
We will discuss background on Camus, and this work.
Soon we're going to read Camus's The Plague. There is a
decent recorded reading available also. For example, at: audible.
Obviously it's not cheaper than the paperback....
Read The Plague, part I (pages 1-64). The following
would make great pop quiz questions for me to ask you:
This is also a good day for me to accept first drafts of your
papers on this day. The paper should be 6-8 pages, on one of the
following questions, or another you arrange with me. Use the
"analytic philosophy paper format" guide. Here are some
suggested topics. You may propose others.
- What is Oran like? Where is it? On what sea or ocean?
- What does Rieux do for a living?
- What is the meaning, or what is revealed, by Rieux's
first exchange with the journalist Rambert?
- What is the first sign of plague?
- What is the meaning of the old man with the cats that
Tarrou writes about in his journal? (I mean: the old man who
spits on the cats?)
- Why are the city leaders reluctant to declare a plague?
What do you think is the significance of them trying to
ascribe to Rieux a "view" and of Rieux resisting this?
- Are Garcin, Inez, and Estelle acting in bad faith? Why?
It is easy to find conventional moral failings for the three,
but what existential failings do they have?
- What are the benefits (what problems does it solve?)
and what are the costs (what problems does it raise?) for
Heidegger's notion of being-in-the-world as a solution to
classical problems of epistemology?
- What, if any, are the similarities and differences
between Sartre's Bad Faith and Heidegger's Authenticity?
- Sartre says that Heidegger is, like him, an atheist.
Is this right? What reasons are there to think it is right?
- How do the condition and the choices of the characters
No Exit exemplify choices and difficulties that
Sartre describes in his existentialism?
- How do the condition and the choices of the characters in
The Flies exemplify choices and difficulties that
Sartre describes in his existentialism? If you're writing about
The Flies, I really believe you should take the time to
read The Libation Bearers.
- Orestes tells Zeus that it doesn't matter if Zeus
created the universe. Would Sartre's existentialism remain
the same if a god existed? Focus on one specific aspect of
his existentialism -- for example, the idea that values are
created by choice.
- How do Heidegger and Sartre balance their notions of
facticity with the claim that we are free?
- What, if any, similarities are there between Beckett's
work and existentialism? Where do they differ? (A good
thing to consider is the notion of authenticity....)
The Plague, part II (pages 65-164). While reading, ask
yourself the following questions; they'd make good pop-quiz
- What is the meaning of Paneloux's sermon? What does it
mean the plague really is?
- What is Rambert's primary goal? Contrast Rambert with
Grand -- what are their relative motivations? What are they
spending all their (free) time doing?
- What is Tarrou's proposal to Rieux? Does it mean something
that Tarrou proposes it (as opposed to, say, a government program)?
- What is Rieux's view on God and the plague?
The Plague, parts III and IV (pages 165-266). While
reading, ask yourself and be prepared to answer questions about:
- How do they now have burials during the plague?
- Why does Camus spend such detail upon the death of Othon's
- What is Paneloux's response to the child's death?
- Why do you think that people find superstition comforting?
- Why is Cottard flourishing during the plague?
- What does Rambert do when he gets a chance to escape? Why?
Similarly, what does Othon do when he can leave the stadium?
- What does Grand do when facing death?
The Plague, part V (pages 267-308). Homework: type up your
clear, brief answer(s) to the following questions, which are mostly
about section IV:
You should also think about (but need not write about) the following
- What did Tarrou mean when he said he has plague?
- Why does Tarrou say it's harder to be a man than a saint?
- What happens to Rieux's wife? What happens to Tarrou?
- The novel ends with celebration. Why? To what does Camus
mean to draw our attention?
Read Heidegger's "Question Concerning Technology." You might
bring your B&T to class, so we can review together for a few
minutes what we learned in B&T.
I've not received many peer review requests....
If you want to participate in the peer review, then
In class, we will continue our discussion of Heidegger's "Question
- send me an
email as soon as possible that lets me know you want to
participate, and in that email give me a 3 digit number (like your
street address) that you will put on your paper in lieu of a name;
- bring you paper to class with the number only on it (no name);
- I will randomly distribute them after class; and
- be ready to return them to me with comments by May 8.
Return peer review drafts!
Finishing our discussion of Heidegger's "Question Concerning
Can existentialism help us better navigate politics, or our
relation to the environment? What have we learned from
existentialism? What is existentialism?
Papers officially due. I will accept them up to the 15th without
Office hours 9:00 - 10:00 a.m. and 1:30 -- 3:00 p.m.
Final exam, in our regular classroom, 8:00 a.m. -- 10:00 a.m..
Yes, you read that right. Well, I don't write the schedules.
You may bring B&T, The Plague, No Exit, The Flies, The
Geneology of Morals, a copy of "Existentialism is a Humanism,"
your copy of "The Question Concerning Technology," and if you like
a copy of Being and Nothingness if you have one. Consider
the following as worthy of study, along with the study
questions from the midterm and any study questions concerning our
- What does Heidegger mean by "anxiety"? What does anxiety
- What does Sartre say all existentialists have in common?
That is, how does he define existentialism? Would you agree
with his definition? Why or why not?
- How does Sartre interpret and explain "anguish" (which is
a common translation for angst and anxiety), "abandonment" and
- What does Orestes mean in The Flies when he says there
is another way? What is his epiphany?
- Why don't the characters of No Exit leave the room?
- What would Sartre recommend the subjects in Milgram's
experiment do? How should they understand their situation?
- What are Vladimir and Estragon waiting for, in Waiting
for Godot? Should they keep waiting? What does it mean (that
is, what does Beckett appear to mean to assert by showing) that
they wait without any result? Would Sartre recommend we wait?
Would Heidegger? Would Nietzsche? Would Camus?
- Why does Paneloux decide he will not accept the care of a
doctor? Why does the death of Jacques Othun cause him to commit
to this? Contrast his view with Rieux's notion that the job of
a doctor is to resist the order of creation.
- What does Tarrou mean when he says (in part IV, before he
actually gets the biological plague) that he too suffered from
plague? What kind of plague?
- Nietzsche took as one of his tasks opposition to nihilism.
What is nihilism? How do Heidegger, Sartre, Beckett, and Camus
variously respond to (the possibility of) nihilism?
- Consider Heidegger's "Question Concerning Technology."
According to Heidegger: What is the essence of technology?
What is challenging forth? What is enframing? What is
Bestand (standing-reserve, inventory)? What is the possible
saving grace that may exist within techne?
- What is existentialism? Of the philosophers and writers
we've read, who is an existentialist, who is not, and why?
Frolic, with anxiety.