Existentialism - PHIL3050

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2022 to 2023.


This module provides an introduction to some of the main themes and ideas in the existentialist tradition. Texts studied will include works of philosophy and literature, for it is characteristic of this philosophical tradition to cross that divide. Students will study extracts from primary texts, usually including some of the following works: The Myth of Sisyphus (Camus), Being and Nothingness (Sartre), The Mystery of Being (Marcel), Philosophy of Existence (Jaspers), Being and Time (Heidegger), History and Truth (Ricoeur) and Thus Spoke Zarathustra (Nietzsche). The emphasis throughout will be on the philosophical significance of the ideas studied. Main themes to be studied will include: concepts of freedom, authenticity, the nature of the self, the "death of God".


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Essay 1 – 40%
Essay 2 – 50%
Seminar Performance – 10%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Camus, A. (1955). The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays [1942], trans. Justin O'Brien, New York: Vintage
Heidegger, M, (1971), 'Building, Dwelling Thinking' [1952], in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Albert Hofstadter, New York: Harper & Row
Jaspers, K. (1986). 'Existence – Existenz’ [1932], in Basic Philosophical Writings, Athens: Ohio University Press
Macquarrie, J. (1972). Existentialism: An Introduction, Guide and Assessment, Harmondsworth: Penguin
Marcel, G, (1951). The Mystery of Being: I. Reflection and Mystery [1949-50], Chicago: Henry Regnery
Sartre, J. (2000). Being and Nothingness [1943], trans. Hazel Barnes, London: Routledge

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate an understanding of existentialism and its relation to the history of philosophy;
Demonstrate an understanding of different arguments for the nature of existence according to the concepts of being, existence, freedom, finitude, anguish and death;
Think out, articulate and defend their views on some fundamental issues in moral philosophy;
Formulate and express philosophical ideas both in speech and in writing;
Engage in a close reading of some major texts of European philosophy;
Engage critically with some basic philosophical concepts and theories in contemporary ethics;
Present, orally and in writing, the theories articulated in philosophical texts and their own ideas and critical arguments in response to the texts.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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