Existentialism and Phenomenology
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Undergraduate: Level 6
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
06 September 2023
Requisites for this module
This module explores two deeply related philosophical traditions that came to prevalence in the 19th and 20th centuries – existentialism and phenomenology. Existentialism is a philosophical movement associated with thinkers and writers as diverse as Sartre, Nietzsche, Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Camus, Heidegger, and Kierkegaard – though not all of figures grouped under that heading accepted that designation.
Broadly speaking, however, Existentialism is unified by the belief that human existence cannot be adequately understood using the traditional categories provided by the philosophical tradition or the natural sciences. In light of this belief, many existentialists were committed to profound disruptions in the style in which philosophy is to be practiced – turning to poetry and literature to capture the nature of the human instead.
Existentialism is also unified in its commitment to take seriously the first-person quality of experience – arguing that purely third-personal categories fail to capture the nature of human existence as it is lived. For this reason Existentialism has close ties to Phenomenology, which is a philosophical methodology defined by its insistence on examining meaning as it is experienced first-personally in order to uncover the structural necessities governing the possibility of those meaningful experiences.
Briefly put, Phenomenology questions how experience can show up as meaningful. This module is dedicated to one or both of these philosophical approaches and/or the relationship between the two.
This year's version of the module is dedicated to the phenomenological philosophy of perception. We will focus on Merleau-Ponty's account of perception as embodied existence. We will examine how he sees perception as arising within a 'field' or situation, as 'kinaesthetic' (moving) and as spatio-temporal. In his account the body is both sexual and expressive, as well as being the basis for our relations with others.
By the end of the module students should be able in their essay and exam work to:
* summarise in their own words central discussions in Existentialism and Phenomenology; in doing so, develop the ability to establish logical - and other- connections between various parts of these discussions and therefore become able to present well thought-out syntheses in their essays; acquire the critical skills necessary to such an approach; develop the ability to analyse complex philosophical discussions and become more critical towards the assumptions that underlie them.
By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:
1. define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
2. seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
3. process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
4. compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure;
5. write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications;
6. be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them;
7. think 'laterally' and creatively - see interesting connections and possibilities and present these clearly rather than as vague hunches;
8. maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position if shown wrong;
9. think critically and constructively.
Incoming Study Abroad students must have already taken two Philosophy modules at their home institution.
This module will involve weekly lectures and seminars. There will also be Reading Weeks when no teaching will take place, exact details to be confirmed.
This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.
Assessment items, weightings and deadlines
|Coursework / exam
||In Class Reading Quizzes TOTAL
||Essay (2500 words)
Exam format definitions
- Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
- In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
- In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
- In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary,
for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.
Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Irene McMullin, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHAIS General Office - 6.130; email@example.com.
Dr Josiah Saunders
Available via Moodle
Of 27 hours, 27 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).
* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.
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