PHL314 Existentialism
Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: MCC212A

Current Assignments
25 September
Reading and assignment: read sections 28-30 of chapter 5 of Being and Time. I'll post some questions for you on BlackBoard asap.

Watch!: this is pretty good. Give it a watch.

Tentative assignments (these will be revised)
27 September
Reading: read sections 31-32 of chapter 5 of Being and Time.
29 September
Read sections 35-38.
2 October
Read B&T sections 39-41, 43 intro, 43a, 43c, and 44b and 44c.

Practice! 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, das Man?
4 October
Read B&T Division II, sections 45 and 50.

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 class.

6 October
Read B&T Division II, sections 51-53.

9 October
Read B&T Division II, sections 54-58, 60.

Practice: 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.

BTW: note that in section 60, the paragraph that falls over pages 343-344 (297 in the German) is a paragraph summarizing what Dasein is.

11 October
Midterm. Heidegger and Nietzsche. Most of the test will require short answers. You may bring and use your copy of Being and Time and The Untimely Meditations. You may not use class notes or any secondary sources (such as the Dreyfus book or the Holt book).

Topics will include but not be limited to (and so you'll be expected to be able explain accurately but to an intelligent roommate):
  • Nietzsche's response to nihilism
  • Dasein
  • World, Being-in-the-world
  • Circumspection (involvement)
  • ontic vs ontological
  • Ready-to-hand
  • Present-at-hand
  • In-order-to
  • Towards-which and for-the-sake-of-which
  • Significance
  • What it means to say Dasein is: being-in, being-in-the-world, fallen, a they-self.
  • Das Man
  • Attunement ("State-of-mind")
  • Idle talk, curiosity, ambiguity (which together constitute fallenness)
  • Angst ("anxiety")
  • Existence, potentiality-for-being
  • What it means that Dasein must die alone
  • Resoluteness
  • Authentic and inauthentic ways of being for Dasein
13 October
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:
  • 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 existentialism?
  • 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 judgment?
  • 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?
Practice. 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.

NOTE: We'll start class with a discussion of the "Heidegger problem." This might push us a bit off schedule; we'll see.