Professor: Craig DeLancey
Office: MCC 212A
An overview of the course. We will think of our study within
the following framework:
- Pre-existentialism: Nietzsche, Dostoevsky
- Method: Husserl's phenomenology and the Hermeneutic Circle
- de Beauvoir
- early Camus
- Applications: Fanon
- Contrasts: Beckett
- Post-existentialism: late Camus
- SPECIAL FOCUS: the politics and political theories (and
big public political fights!) of the existentialists.
Read the handout I gave you from Nietzsche.
Genealogy of Morals part 1 before class.
Genealogy of Morals part 2 before class.
Totally optional: you may also find interesting these interviews with German scholar J. P. Stern on Nietzsche.
CLASS ONLINE: Given the apocalyptic snow predictions, let's meet
online. Here is the link:
We'll discuss the method of the existentialists. Please note, on BlackBoard are
some easy questions about The Genealogy of Morals, which will help you practice
recall of his basic distinction. I'm also adding an extra-credit problem!
Reading: Read the selection from Husserl that is available on
BlackBoard. It is called "The Idea of Phenomenology."
You need only read pages 1-5; the remaining pages are optional.
Practice:Answer the questions on BlackBoard about Nietzsche.
Extra practice (deadline 2/11): Here's an extra-credit problem.
Read selection, "The Grand Inquisitor," from The Brother's
Karamazov. Or: watch the Gielgud dramatization that is here. An
online readable version is at: here.
Answer the question on BlackBoard which is:
"What is the primary criticism that the Inquisitor makes of Jesus?"
Apologies! I have conflicts today and will have to move my
office hours to Wednesday (which will then at least be in
person!). I hope that's OK! Email me if you want to talk today,
though, and I can make some time between appointments!
We begin Being and Time! Read section 9 of chapter 1 (we
are going to skip the introduction of the book; also, sections 10 and
11 of chapter 1 are optional reading). Bring the book to class--we are
going to examine the text closely together.
Practice:There are some questions on Blackboard.
FYI: an alternative perspective on Heidegger from Dreyfus:
Bert Dreyfus lecturing on Heidegger I
I don't agree with some of Dreyfus's interpretation of Heidegger,
but it's interesting and valuable.
Bert Dreyfus lecturing on Heidegger II
Bert Dreyfus lecturing on Heidegger III
Office Hours: I will have office hours in my office from
3:00 - 4:30. First in-person hours! Sorry I have too many meetings.
Office hours 9-11 are at:
Reading: read chapter 2 of Being and Time (both
sections 12 and 13). This is a short chapter, fear not!
14 & 16 February
Practice: There are some questions on Blackboard.
A few of you wrote to me that the questions are hard! Some
hints: remember he is using "present-at-hand" as term for
the kinds of things that are not Dasein, like rocks or chairs.
How do those things interact with each other? Not through
planned actions, for example--they don't plan! Nor through
concerns or hopes or other kind of relations Dasein can have.
And also: if
we know about objects through theories, for example, then is
that how we first come to understand those things and interact
with them? If a small child uses a spoon, do they first have
to have a theory about spoons, how spoons work, etc? And you
may have a theory about how your bicycle works, but do you
use that theory to ride your bicycle? Finally, remember that
ontical features of you (as a Dasein) are facts that are particular
to you; ontological features of you (as a Dasein) are things shared
by all other Dasein.
Reading: read chapter 3, sections 14-16, of Being and Time.
Practice on BlackBoard: 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
Reading: read chapter 3, section 18, of Being
and Time. (Section 17 is recommended but is optional.)
Practice: This is on BlackBoard. In section 16, Heidegger
introduces three new technical terms for how something
ready-to-hand can become present-at-hand for us. These are
"conspicuousness" (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. And: 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.
Class is online today. Here's the link for class:
Office hours online from 3:00 - 4:30 pm, here's the link:
Reading: read sections 26 and 27 (you should read all of
chapter 4, but I appreciate that you're busy!) of Being and
The remainder of chapter 3 is very interesting and important but
we are skipping it just because we have so much we want to cover
together. But I recommend you read it if you have the time to do
Optional/Extra-credit Assignment: answer the question on
Blackboard, which is: Heidegger claims that Dasein is for the
most part Das Man. What do you think this "Das Man" is? Can you
explain it in your own words?
Hey, I want to point out that this is as hard as it gets. Heidegger
will get easier, and everyone we read after Heidegger is much easier
to understand. So, work hard and you will understand Heidegger, and
then you'll be well prepared to understand Sartre, Beauvoir, Camus
Reading: read sections 29-30 of chapter 5 of Being and Time.
I'll have office hours from 3:00 - 4:30 pm in my office in MCC212A.
I screwed up! Mina pointed out the extra-credit on section 27 was
not up on BlackBoard. I fixed that! Try to do it this week if you can.
Reading: read sections 31-32 of chapter 5 of Being and Time.
Read sections 35, 36, 38.
Practice! This is on BlackBoard. 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 section 40! Super important section! If you can face
up to the eternal return and be authentic, then also read
41, 43a, 43c, and 44b and 44c.
Practice:. This is on BlackBoard. 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 (other than the
ones that we have discussed, which were anger, boredom, and
fear). 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.
Read B&T Division II, sections 45, 50, 52, 54, and 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
(for a while) 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. This can be handed in at class
or via BlackBoard.
Before class, read "Existentialism is a Humanism." Answer the
questions on BlackBoard.
Before class, read "Existentialism is a Humanism." Answer the
questions on BlackBoard.
Midterm. Heidegger and Nietzsche and a tiny bit of Sartre. Most of the test will
require short answers. You may bring and use your copy
of Being and Time and "Existentialism is a Humanism."
You may not use class notes or any secondary sources.
Topics will include but not be limited to (and so you'll be
expected to be able explain accurately but to an intelligent
An interesting video of Heidegger,
30 years after Being and Time.
- Nietzsche's response to nihilism
- The Ubermensch
- The eternal return
- World, Being-in-the-world
- Towards-which and for-the-sake-of-which
- Das Man
- the They-self
- Attunement ("State-of-mind")
- Idle talk, curiosity, ambiguity
- Angst ("anxiety")
- Existence, potentiality-for-being
- What it means that Dasein must die alone
- Authentic and inauthentic ways of being for Dasein
- What it means to say Dasein is: being-in, being-in-the-world,
fallen, a they-self.
- Sartre's concepts of Anguish, Abandonment, and Despair.
Read: The Flies
Practice: answer the questions on BlackBoard about The Flies.
- What role does guilt play for the people of Argos?
- What is the source of Zeus's power?
- Why does Zeus fear Orestes?
Read the selection from Sartre's Being and Nothingness
before class. Get a start on No Exit also!
Read Sartre's No Exit.
Practice: answer the questions on BlackBoard.
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:
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?) These questions on are BlackBoard. There are also
some EC questions about The Flies.
- 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
I found this: a
version of No Exit with the playwright Harold
Pinter playing Garcin. The room is not in Second
Empire style; the play is interesting to see; I very much
disagree with the director's choice to have it end in laughter.
Also, we had (with some humor) brought up Sartre's
encounters with the crabs, and his play "The Condemned of
Altona." A brief NY
Times piece on this is here.
Reading: get a start on The Ethics of
Ambiguity, and read chapters 1 and 2. I know it's a
long part, but it's not hard!
Homework: answer the question online about The
Ethics of Ambiguity.
Read Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 3.
This chapter is where SdB develops her positive theory of
existentialist ethics. Pay very close attention. Does she
have a convincing argument that we are invested in the freedom
Re-read section 28 of Being and Time.
Office hours 2:00-4:00 at
Read "The Myth of Sisyphus," which is the short
epilogue to the book by that name. We'll introduce
Re-do: If you want to rewrite any of the answers on your midterm, you may do so and turn
them in during class this day (just a write up of your answer can be handed in to me). Answer
the question correctly, but also explain what
you did wrong in your previous answer, and why you got confused. Hand in your test
and the new answers. I'll give you extra-credit. Just hand them in at the beginning of class
like a homework.
Read "The Myth of Sisyphus."
This is the final essay of a book-length essay called The Myth of Sisyphus.
A copy is on BlackBoard. It's about 3 pages long--very short.
A fun video to listen to:
reads a translation of Camus's 1946 speech in New York,
"The Human Crisis." You might decide the skip the
introduction and background, which is 16 minutes and 18
Office hours 9:00-11:00 am at
Quest. There's a philosophy session from 11:00 - 12:00 in MCC210.
Why not join us for an hour!
I will have in-person office house in MCC212A from 1-3 pm. This will be instead of
my Thursday office hours.
Read the selection from The Rebel that's on BlackBoard.
Reading: "The Communist Manifesto" before class.
Skip the preface(s); read the preamble and parts I and II.
I recommend also the short section IV. An online version can be found at
In class: What is existentialism?
Then: existentialism and Marxism.
Last thoughts on Marx. Can an existentialist be a Marxist?
Then: a discussion of The Rebel. The Big Public Fight.
Office hours 2-4 at: https://meet.google.com/uza-dokd-hic?authuser=0&pli=1.
The philosophy club will meet at 5:30pm to watch an episode of Black Mirror
called "Nosedive" in MCC room 242. The episode focuses on what social media and the quest
for popularity and social acceptance can do to people. Room TBA.
I'll be in Arizona giving a talk and attending talks at a conference.
We'll have some asynchronous online classes this week! Here is your
assignment for the week:
You can answer this question in groups of any size! That is, you can hand in a paper
with any number of co-authors. I'm recommending you get together in our
class periods and discuss and debate how to answer the question. Why not write one
paper from all of you? You can give it to me in class on Monday.
- Read Dirty Hands. This is in the collection that we
used of Sartre's plays. It is also on reserves in the library. There
are also various editions in the stacks.
- Read Sartre's introduction to Fanon's book. Optional but very
highly recommended is to read Fanon's essay "On Violence." This is
- Write a short (e.g., 3 pages should be enough) answer to the following
question: What is Sartre's view on political violence? Does Sartre's view
about violence and revolution change from
when he writes Dirty Hands (first staged in 1948) to when he writes
his introduction to Fanon's book The Wretched of the Earth (in 1961)?
Cite specific passages or examples from the texts to make your case. How
does either view (if they differ) cohere with existentialism? If his views
changed, is the change consistent with existentialism?
The Sartre-Camus-Beauvoir battle. Also, we'll discuss your thoughts about Sartre's
views on violence--is this straight-forward consequentialism?
I'll have office hours in my office MCC212A from 3:00 -- 4:00 pm.
Office hours online 9-11 am at:
Reading: The Fall pages 3-41. Ask ourselves: is the Judge Penitent a thing?
This book is very mysterious! I want us to try to figure it out together. Bring your copy to class so we can read along together.
The library has a copy in the stacks PQ2605.A3734 C513 1960, and also a copy on reserves. Every used bookstore has a hundred copies.
Don't annoy me by skipping this one.
DeLancey office hours 3-5 pm at
Reading: The Fall pages 42-97.
Reading: The Fall pages 98-end.
The infamous letters on consent, if we can find a copy!
Then, we'll start with "Waiting for Godot."
Other explorations of The Absurd: Waiting for Godot.
No reading! We'll watch it in class.
Then: whither existentialism?