Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: MCC 212A
Reading: read sections 1 and 2 of David Strauss,
the first Untimely Meditation. Optional are sections 4-6.
In class, we will review David Strauss, Nietzsche's background,
and then the opening of this reading.
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. Then we will
introduce the philosopher Schopenhauer.
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 it now makes it unclear how we
are to find purpose and values. 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, 5, and 6 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 these matters.
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
I know I gave you a lot of practices already! I wanted to make
you think about Nietzsche on your own. We'll have a breather while
we discuss phenomenology and start Heidegger.
Some important contextual material:
- Some last thoughts about the Untimely Meditations.
- The method of phenomenology, and existential phenomenology.
- Introductory background on Heidegger.
Hold onto your socks. Read chapter 1 of Being and Time,
along with the little introduction to part one; this is likely
pages 65-77 in your book (assuming we have the same
pagination). We are skipping the introduction, which is
valuable but about method and about Heidegger's long term goal.
I recommend that you start reading Polt if you got a copy of
You may find this first dip into Heidegger difficult -- don't
worry. Do your best, and as we become comfortable with his way
of writing, you'll find it is much easier to understand than
you might expect.
Reading: read chapter 2 of Being and Time.
This is the chapter on being in. Very important.
Reading: read chapter 3, sections 14 and 15, of Being and
Reading: read chapter 3, sections 16 and 18, of Being and
Time (section 17 is optional).
Practice: 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. Should only take a page or two.
(Note: up to now I've been giving little feedback on the
practices because I only asked for your opinions. From hereon,
I'll be asking you to correctly apply existentialist concepts, so
I'll be grading more rigorously to be sure that you know whether
you understand and can apply the concepts.)
Reading: read chapter 3, sections 19-21, of Being and
Time (sections 22-24 are optional).
Practice: 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; 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.
You can pick up your ticket to the Bacchae starting Monday. You need to go to the box office.
I'm going to the play on October 30, and encourage everyone else to go October 30. That's a Friday, and we'll be discussing Nietzsche and the play for the 3 classes before then, so the timing is good. But you can get a ticket for another night if you have a conflict with the 30th. They'll ask you about your night when you ask to pick up your ticket.
Reading: read chapter 4 of Being and
NOTE: You can pick up your ticket to the Bacchae starting
Monday. You need to go to the box office. I'm going to the play
on October 30, and encourage everyone else to go October 30.
That's a Friday, and we'll be discussing Nietzsche and the play
for the 3 classes before then, so the timing is good. But you
can get a ticket for another night if you have a conflict with
the 30th. They'll ask you about your night when you ask to pick
up your ticket.
I'll be out of town giving a talk. I recommend that you gather
still in class, and discuss Das Man and authenticity. What is
authenticity? Are you authentic? Do you ever obey Das Man? Or
do you always create your own way of being in the world?
(Remember: Das Man would sleep in on Monday, and not go to class,
'cause that'd be what the cool kids are doing.) Try as a group
to come up with some questions for me, for when I return.
I'm trying to discover what the situation is with the tickets.
I'll keep you informed.
Read sections 35-38, and that little intro to 35 under
the label "B".
Read sections of 28-31 of Being and Time. If you can
manage it, read all of chapter V.
Please note: I can't have office hours today.
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.
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?
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
Read B&T Division II, sections 51-53.
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.
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
- Nietzsche's reaction to Darwin (What does Darwin tell
us about ourselves? What are the implications for
Nietzsche of this revelation?)
- Nietzsche's idea of the Saint, Philosopher, and Artist.
See section 5 of Schopenhauer as Educator.
- World, Being-in-the-world
- Circumspection (involvement)
- Towards-which and for-the-sake-of-which
- 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
- Authentic and inauthentic ways of being for Dasein
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:
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.
- 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?
NOTE: We'll start class with a discussion of the "Heidegger
problem." This might push us a bit off schedule; we'll
1. We'll start by reviewing the midterm. I will post soon,
in the study questions, my rubric. I have already posted
midterm grades; they are approximate and very sensitive to
skipped homeworks. That is, some folks wrote very good
exams but skipped a few homeworks, and this brought their
grade down a letter. Also, if you give me a homework late,
I will get to it, but it may take me weeks to do so. I
don't rush to grade late homeworks. The midterm average
was 42. The standard deviation was 14.
2. After reviewing the midterm, 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.
3. If you get a chance, look at:
Read our selection from Being and Nothingness.
Read: Sartre's No Exit.
Practice: 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?) Most importantly: try to look at
their situation through Sartre's eyes. Give an existential
analysis of their situation. Write up your answer in a
(preferably typed) page or two, and turn it in at the
beginning of class.
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 while reading:
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.
- 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
Read: Sartre's The Flies.
Practice: A homework. Answer the following questions.
Your answer to these questions should attempt to be an
existentialist analysis. That is: apply the concepts
that Sartre has developed.
Remember please that these practices are 40% of your grade. I think
that they're very important because by practicing and applying the
concepts of existentialism, you get a deep understanding of their
meaning, and how to use these ideas. People who have consistently
done the practices are proving very adept at things like giving an
- What role does guilt play for the people of Argos?
- What is the source of Zeus's power?
- Why does Zeus fear Orestes?
(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. Also, there is a version
YouTube, though I haven't watched it....)
Read: the selection from Nietzsche's The Birth of
This will be our Nietzschean interlude. We will consider any
last thoughts about The Flies. Then, we'll interrupt our studies
of Sartre to read some of Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy.
This will culminate with our viewing of the The Bacchae.
Rumor says that Nick C will be channeling the destructive spirit
You might find this really fun! Three decent biopics by the bbc
and on our beloved Jean Paul
of these are at a few moments (especially in the narration) too
simplistic, but they're mostly very good and quite fun.
Continuing our discussion of N's B of T. Also: do
the exisentialists allow for any irrational force in human
life? If not, should they?
The Bacchae, 7:30 p.m.
Read: the selection from chapter 1 of Simone
De Beauvoir's book The Ethics of Ambiguity.
You should have been emailed a scan of selections
from the book.
Practice: in a page or less, what does De
Beauvoir mean by "ambiguity"? And what justifies
an existentialist ethics, according to De Beauvoir?
In class, we'll wrap up reflections on The Bacchae and
Nietzsche; discuss papers and paper format; and then discuss
Read: read the selection from chapter 5 of Simone De
Beauvoir's book The Ethics of Ambiguity.
Practice: in a page or less: according to De Beauvoir, is
violence ever justified? What are her reasons for her conclusions
with respect to violence?
Summary of De Beauvoir and Sartre. Some first thoughts on Camus.
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
will be excellent quiz questions for me to ask you at the
beginning of class:
This is also a good day for me to begin accepting first drafts of
your papers, if you want me to read drafts. 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).
Homework: type up your clear, brief answer(s) to the
following questions, which are mostly about section IV:
- What did Tarrou mean when he said he has plague?
- Why does Tarrou say it's harder to be a man than a saint?
While reading, ask yourself and be prepared to answer questions
- 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).
You should also think about (but need not write about) the following
- 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 the lecture by Heidegger, "The Question Concerning
Technology." I will email a copy to you, but
here also is a copy.
Homework: What is the essence of technology? What is
challenging forth? What is enframing? What is Bestand
(standing-reserve, inventory)? Why do you think that
Heidegger sees this way of understanding beings as a kind of
Continuing with the lecture by Heidegger, "The Question
Concerning Technology." And we can get a start on Becket.
30 Nov - 4 December
Beckett. Waiting for Godot. Happy Days.