Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: CC 212A
This class is an introduction to existentialism, and to the questions
with which the existentialist movement was concerned. Existentialism
was a movement in 20th Century Continental philosophy which developed
new methods of philosophy aimed to reveal the everyday nature of
experience and of human existence; and which shared a set of concerns
about the purpose of human being and the relation of this purpose to
the nature of other kinds of being. Existentialism produced one of the
most interesting and challenging philosophers of its time -- Martin
Heidegger -- and also was in various ways influential in 20th Century
Our approach will be roughly historical. We will start with Nietzsche
as a philosopher who first articulated some (but not all) of the concerns
that the existentialists shared. Then after a brief review of Husserl,
we will spend the bulk of the course discussing the first half of Heidegger's
Being and Time. We will follow this with a look a few of Heidegger's
later essays, some of the essays and plays of Sartre, and the literary works
of Camus and Beckett.
If you have a disabling condition which may interfere with your
ability to successfully complete this course, please contact the
Disability Services Office.
We will read a lot of material. There is simply no way to study
existentialism without being willing to struggle with some difficult
texts. If you won't read, don't take this course. Please
understand: I want you to take this course and I think that this
course is about some of the most exciting topics you can study -- but
it is just too hard to understand if you are not willing to put in the
time to do a lot of reading.
The following texts should be available in the book stores and are
required for the course:
F. Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals.
The following text is not required but is very highly recommended and
should be available in the book stores:
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time.
J. P. Sartre, No Exit and Other Plays.
Albert Camus, The Plague.
Richard Polt, Heidegger.
There will also be short readings on reserve. These will likely include:
A selection from Kierkegaard
I'm still looking for some suitable short works by Husserl, so will likely
expand this list also.
Sartre, "Existentialism is a Humanism"
Heidegger, "Letter on Humanism"
Heidegger, "The Question Concerning Technology"
Beckett, "Waiting for Godot"
Assignments and exams
You will have two exams, periodic (nearly weekly) reading quizes or
homeworks, two very short papers, and a class presentation (just a
time when you'll be responsible to lead discussion on a section of
text). The exams will ask basic questions about the theoretical
aspect of the philosophies we will study. The papers will ask you to
explain and perhaps apply some of the insights or methods of
The weekly quizes or homeworks are to provide you with the chance to
grapple with the readings in a critical way. For many readings I will
post reading questions to consider while you read. Something very
like some of these posted questions might then appear as questions on
I regret that I cannot accept homework by email. Also, I delete
all the following emails unanswered: "I missed class today, can you
tell me everything you said?" "I don't have the book, can you type up
the problems/readings and email them to me?" "I know you don't accept
homework by email, but can I email my homework to you until I come to
class sometime and give you the hardcopy then or because that was
cheaper for me than printing?"
The raw grade will be determined in the following way:
Exams: 30% (15% each)
If we skip the presentations, that 10% will go to quizes and assignments.
Class quizes and assignments: 20% (evenly divided among quizes or
Class presentation: 10%
Papers: 40% (20% each)
See my grading policy for an explanation
of how I turn the raw grade into a final grade.
If you miss an exam and have an excused absence for the day you miss
the exam, you may make it up, by special appointment with me, when you
are able to come back to class. It is your responsibility to arrange
any make-up exams as soon as you know you are going to miss the
exam. Otherwise you may lose the opportunity to take the test, since I
cannot give make-up exams after the class has gone over the
Here is how you secure an excused absence: Only prior notification
with credibly documented or easily verifiable reasons (e.g., medical
visits to Mary Walker, documented participation in official sporting
events, etc.) will result in excused absences. You must notify in
writing, call, or email me prior to your absence from class. You must
notify the Philosophy Dept. secretary, Jane Santore, before you are
going to be absent, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at
x2249. However, you must make sure she knows your name, the number of
the course, the date, and your easily verifiable reason, along with a
request to forward the information to me. It is better to give your
information to me, except when you are unable to communicate with my
phone or email for some reason.
Please hold onto all of your assignments and exams. Sometime before
the end of the semester I recommend that you ask me to review the
grades that I have recorded to make sure that I have not made any
College Policy on Intellectual Integrity
Intellectual integrity on the part of all students is basic to
individual growth and development through college course work. When
academic dishonesty occurs, the teaching/learning climate is seriously
undermined and student growth and development are impeded. For these
reasons, any form of intellectual dishonesty is a serious concern and
is therefore prohibited.
The full intellectual integrity policy can be found at
In addition to the listed office hours, I encourage you to make
appointments. I am available quite a bit. Please try to come to
office hours with specific questions in mind. You can of course come
with a general request for help, but it is always helpful if you spend
a little time thinking about how I can best help you out.
Pre-Reading and Additional Readings
I get often asked what other things might be helpful to read or what
can be read before class starts. Here are some suggestions.
Before class, over break, you might consider reading:
I wouldn't try reading Heidegger before class -- it might be
- Nietzsche's Untimely Meditations: Schopenhauer as Educator
- Sartre's No Exit
- Beckett's Waiting for Godot
- Camus's The Plague.
Additional reading which you might try, in
a rough order of relevance:
- The Oresteia, by Aeschylus.
- The Illiad, The Odyssey. Homer's works are important to the some
of the works we will read.
- Doesteovsky, The Brother's Karamazov.
- Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche.
- The Rebel and The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert
- Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra.
- Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell, will give you
background to some of Camus's context.
- Christopher Hedges, War is a Force that Gives us
- Mark Wrathall, How to Read Heidegger.
By the end of this class, you should know:
- Nietzsche's notion of genealogy and his views on
human purpose and Christian morals;
- the basic concepts of Husserl's phenomenology;
- the basic concepts of Heidegger's existentialism
(e.g., Dasein, being at hand, present at hand, existential,
existentiell, ontic, ontology, world, homelessness,
- Sartre's basic concepts of existentialism;
- how to interpret Sartre's plays, Camus's novels,
and Beckett's plays in light of existentialist concepts.
I will frequently update an online schedule of readings and
assignments. It is your responsibility to check the www pages for
the class at least every other day!