Phenomenology and Existentialism

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
20 October 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

In this module, we will explore Heidegger's critique of Western rationality, and ask what, if any, is the positive role of philosophy in the later work. Specifically, we will inquire into the nature of Heidegger's anti-foundationalism: What remains of the Being and Time project in the later works and what is abandoned? Does the late work surrender to quietism, or even mysticism? If not, what is the task of philosophy and the place of rationality more generally?

To answer these questions, we will investigate some of the overarching themes of the late work: the critique of metaphysics and especially of the principle of sufficient reason, the attempt to recover non-metaphysical ways of thinking by returning to pre-Socratic thinkers, and the role of history in the determination of our understanding of being.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To gain familiarity with major themes, methods, figures and texts from the phenomenological movement.

  • To develop mastery of key concepts from phenomenological philosophy, including intentionality, psychologism, noema; protention; retention; ecstatic temporality; enpresenting.

  • To understand phenomenology both as a historical tradition and as an ongoing multi-disciplinary project.

  • To present research orally to the seminar group and fielding questions.

  • To write a well-researched paper on an issue covered in the module.

Module learning outcomes

Skills for your Professional Life (Transferable Skills)

By the end of this 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.

Module information

Heidegger is best known for his 1927 book, Being and Time, in which he attempts to ground philosophy in a phenomenological account of human existence. In the coming decades, however, Heidegger's thought would undergo what has been called 'the turn', consisting of a sweeping critique of the philosophical tradition and a radical re-orientation of the content, method, and style of his philosophy.

However, these late works are among the most exegetically challenging texts of the 20th century, and how we are to understand the specifics of this re-orientation remains controversial. Some commentators believe that Heidegger's critique of metaphysics is so forceful and pervasive that it amounts to a complete disavowal of the Being and Time project and a renunciation of the possibility of finding ultimate foundations or even rational explanations.

Learning and teaching methods

The module will be delivered via:

  • One 1-hour lecture per week.
  • One 1-hour seminar per week.

Week 8 is a Reading Week.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   4000 word essay   16/01/2024   

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.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Wayne Martin, email:
PHAIS Postgraduate Queries:



External examiner

Dr Alexander Golob
King's College London
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 14 hours, 14 (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), module, or event type.


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