PHL314 Existentialism
Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: MCC212A

Current Assignments
22 February
Reading: read chapter 3, section 18, of Being and Time. (Section 17 is recommended but is optional.)

Practice: This is on BlackBoard. In section 16, Heidegger introduces three new technical terms for how something ready-to-hand can become present-at-hand for us. These are "conspicousness" (when some equipment breaks), "obtrusiveness" (when some equipment is absent) and "obstinacy" (when some equipment is in the way).
Do some phenomenology. When for you has some ready-to-hand bit of equipment become conspicuous and therefore present-at-hand for you? Describe this. And: how did the uses (the "towards which" and significance) of that equipment become clear to you when the equipment became conspicuous?
Do the same twice more, describing a case of obtrusiveness and a case of obstinacy.
25 February
Reading: read sections 26 and 27 (you should read all of chapter 4, but I appreciate that you're busy!) of Being and Time.

The remainder of chapter 3 is very interesting and important but we are skipping it just becuase we have so much we want to cover together. But I recommend you read it if you have the time to do so.

Optional/Extra-credit Assignment: answer the question on Blackboard, which is: Heidegger claims that Dasein is for the most part Das Man. What do you think this "Das Man" is? Can you explain it in your own words?

Tentative Assignments
27 February
Reading and assignment: read sections 28-30 of chapter 5 of Being and Time.

1 March
Reading: read sections 31-32 of chapter 5 of Being and Time.
4 March
Read sections 35-38.
6 March
Read B&T sections 39-41, 43 intro, 43a, 43c, and 44b and 44c. I know that's a lot--but the most important part is section 40; make sure you read at least that.

Practice! This is on BlackBoard. 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?
8 March
Read B&T Division II, sections 45 and 50.

Practice:. This is on BlackBoard. 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 (other than the ones that we have discussed, which were anger, boredom, and fear). 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.
11 March
Read B&T Division II, sections 45 and 50.
13 March
Read B&T Division II, sections 51-53.

15 March
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. This can be handed in at class or via BlackBoard.

18-24 March
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.

25 March
Midterm. Heidegger and Nietzsche. Most of the test will require short answers. You may bring and use your copy of Being and Time and any text by Nietzsche (such as our reader). You may not use class notes or any secondary sources (such as 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
  • Nietzsche's history of Christian morality
  • Nietzsche's concept of Resentment
  • The Ubermensch
  • Dasein
  • World, Being-in-the-world
  • Circumspection
  • Ready-to-hand
  • Present-at-hand
  • Towards-which and for-the-sake-of-which
  • Significance
  • Being-with
  • 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
  • Resoluteness
  • Authentic and inauthentic ways of being for Dasein
  • What it means to say Dasein is: being-in, being-in-the-world, fallen, a they-self.
27 March
Read "Existentialism is a Humanism." This is ubiquitous, but a free online translation is available at: (If you want to see the French, a version is here.) 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. Answer the questions on BlackBoard (which are: 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.)

Fun video: A video by the BBC on Sartre. I don't agree with all of it. (Weird fact! Sartre, Camus, and Heidegger all worked in meteorology before becoming philosophers! I need to find out if Simone de Beauvoir at least had a barometer.)
29 March
Read our selection from Being and Nothingness.

1 April
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 each other?
  • Does Garcin's motive in fleeing the war matter?
  • What matters to Estelle? In herself and in others?
  • What should we think of Garcin's goal: to convince another he is not a coward, that he is good?
  • Does it matter that the room is in Second Empire style?
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.

3 April
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?

5 April
We'll wrap up any observations about The Flies, discuss papers and paper format, and then I'll give you background on Beauvoir. Any questions or observations about Sartre can also be raised.

8 April
Read Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 1.
10 April
Read Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 2.
Answer the question on blackboard!
12 April
Read Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 3, subsections 1&2. This chapter is where SdB develops her positive theory of existentialist ethics. Pay very close attention. Does she have a convincing argument that we are invested in the freedom of others?
15 April
Read Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 3, subsections 4-5, and the conclusion. (Chapter 3, section 3 is interesting but a little tangential to what we are discussing; read it if you have the time.)
17 April
Read "Absurd Reasoning" from The Myth of Sisyphus
19 April
Read "Absurd Man" from The Myth of Sisyphus

A fun video to listen to: Viggo Mortensen reads a translation of Camus's 1946 speech in New York, "The Human Crisis," from the 40s. You may decide the skip the introduction, which is 11 and 1/2 minutes long.
22 April
Read "Absurd Creation" & "The Myth of Sisyphus" from The Myth of Sisyphus
24 April
Read Selection from The Rebel. I've posted it in BlackBoard and emailed it.

You can hear Camus's voice here as he accepts the Nobel prize.
26 April
Read selection from Franz Fanon.
29 April
The Camus/Sartre/Beavoir battle!
1 May
Beckett Waiting for Godot, Act I, in class.
3 May
Beckett Waiting for Godot, Act II, in class.
15 May
Final exam in our classroom, 10:30 am -- 12:30 pm.