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Existential Philosophy

Philosophy 336

Spring 2012, MoWeFr 1:40–2:35

Room: SS 131

A central existentialist idea is that individuals as human beings are caught between the particular stages of their lives and themselves as existing across time — in tension between being what they are and becoming what they will be. The course explores this theme through the works of Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir.

Professor: P.D. Magnus

E-mail: pmagnus

Office phone: (518) 945-8252

Office: HU-258B

Office hours: M 12:30–1:30, Tu 11:00–noon, and by appointment

Course texts

There will be several articles available on the E-reserve page for the course.

We will also be reading sections of three books:

Being and Time [BT]
Martin Heidegger
ISBN 9781438432762

Being and Nothingness [BN]
Jean-Paul Sartre
ISBN 9780671867805

The Ethics of Ambiguity [EA]
Simone de Beauvoir
ISBN 9780806501604


two in-class exams @ 25%

final exam 25%

paper 25%

Exemplary class participation will add to your grade, up to two-thirds of a letter grade.

The paper will be 6-8 pages on an assigned topic.

A rough draft will be due during Week 11 (April 13). The paper will be returned to you with comments and the final draft will be due at the last class meeting (May 7). You should turn in the rough draft along with the final.

The draft will be marked with the grade it would have received if it were a final draft. If the paper is not improved, however, the final draft will not receive this grade! If you turn in the paper unmodified, you will get one letter grade less than the grade marked on the draft.


Academic honesty: Students are encouraged to discuss issues from the course with each other and with others outside of class. However, they are responsible for their own ideas. Papers should include citations to any works cited or consulted, as well as acknowledgments of helpful interactions.

Cheating will not be tolerated.

Late papers: The paper will be considered late if it is not ready to hand in at the beginning of class on the day it is due. Each day late will result in a loss of one letter grade.

Absences: Students who will need to miss class for religious observance, away games, or for other scheduled reasons should discuss these issues with the professor at the beginning of the term. If an emergency results in absence, the student should contact the professor as soon as possible. Make-up exams will be given only for documented, excused absences.


The schedule of topics is an approximation, but the dates of papers and exams will not change.

We jan18 Introduction

Fr jan20 Existence precedes essence
read ‘Exis’ism as Humanism’ (e-res)

Mo jan23 continued

We jan25 Philosophy dramatized
read ‘No exit’ (e-res)

Fr jan27 continued


Mo jan30 Phenomenological method
suggested reading, BT 7

We feb1 The analytic of Dasein
read BT 2,9

Fr feb2 continued

Mo feb6 Handiness and objective presence
read BT 12,14,15,16

We feb8 continued

Fr feb10 Being with others
read BT 25–27

Mo feb13 Mood
read BT 29–30

We feb15 Anxiety
read BT 35,37,38,40

Fr feb17 continued

Mo feb27 Death
read BT 47,53

We feb29 continued



Mo mar5 Negation and nothingness
read BN pp. 33–44, 56–69

We mar7 Bad faith
read BN pp. 86–90, 96–116

Fr mar9 continued

mar 12,14,16 BREAK, NO CLASS

Mo mar19 The look of the other
read BN pp. 301–303, 340–355

We mar21 Freedom!
read BN pp. 619–629, 647–653, 701–711

Fr mar23 continued

Mo mar26 Implications
read BN pp. 785–798

We mar28 continued

Fr mar30 Another viewpoint
read Marcel (e-res)

Mo apr2 continued


Fr apr6, Mo apr9 NO CLASS

de Beauvoir

We apr11 Ambiguity
read EA ch. I

Fr apr13 Relations with others
read EA ch. II


Mo apr16 continued

We apr18 The positive project
read EA ch. III 1–2

Fr apr20 continued

Mo apr23 The future
read EA ch. III 3–4

We apr25 Ambiguity
Read EA Ch III 5

Fr apr27 continued
Read EA conclusion

Mo apr30, We may2, Fr may4 
To be announced

Mo may7 Conclusion

Fr may11, 10:30–12:30 Final exam