Themes from Existentialism
Course enrollment will be available for this course once it is scheduled.
By far the most popular philosophy course at Brown, this course on existentialist philosophy (taught by the current chair of the philosophy department) provides a unique introduction to philosophical thinking, by applying the methods of philosophical analysis and argumentation to questions and issues confronting all human beings: What is the meaning of a life with the distinctive characteristics of human life? What is the significance of morality in such a life?
What do the need for love, or the susceptibility to shame, anxiety, or boredom, tell us about the human condition? What does it mean to be oneself? The course aims to deepen the students' engagement with these questions, by developing their capacity to analyze critically ordinary beliefs and intuitions about these questions, formulating with clarity and sophistication the problems they pose, and developing well-argued responses to these problems.
The course aims to deepen the students' engagement with such questions by developing their capacity to analyze critically their initial views about them, formulating with clarity and sophistication the problems these views might pose, and progressively refining these views so as to resolve these problems. Readings will come from prominent existentialist philosophers, as well as from contemporary sources. In the process of examining such existential questions, the students should expect to develop their capacities for analysis, argumentation, and intellectual creativity, as well as their writing and debating skills. Such capacities are indispensably useful well beyond the practice of philosophy; indeed, they are essential preconditions for successful undergraduate studies.
The course aims primarily to develop conceptual literacy about matters of personal existential significance. Conceptual literacy is the capacity to analyze with depth and critical rigor inchoate ordinary beliefs and intuitions about a topic, to formulate with clarity and sophistication the problems they pose, and to develop well-argued responses to these problems.