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Sartre and Existentialism (PH332)

No philosophy has had a more pervasive impact on the wider culture in the last 70-odd years than existentialism. Film, literature, social and cultural commentary, and our very self-understanding have been greatly influenced by it. Among the most famous doctrines of existentialism are the ideas that human beings are ‘radically free’ and that a human being’s existence ‘consists not in what it is already, but in what it is not yet … Existence is the process of realizing … the aspiration we are'. (Ortega y Gasset).

This module will be devoted to a study of Jean-Paul Sartre, the key philosopher of existentialism. Partly under the influence of earlier phenomenologists, Sartre might be said to have set a new agenda for philosophy. In Sartre’s existentialism, the exploration of the texture and the structures of everyday human being in the world became a central philosophical theme in its own right. His extraordinarily original ideas influence how we live today; selfhood, consciousness, freedom and our ‘anguish’ about it, self-deception and ‘bad faith’, affectivity and the nature of the emotions, the lived body, ‘knowledge of other minds’, concrete relations with others including love and sexuality, the nature of value, and on an ‘authentic’ human existence.

The main text studied on the module will be (selections of) Sartre's central philosophical work, Being and Nothingness, supplemented on some topics by minor writings and essays of Sartre's, including ‘Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions’.


Module Director:

Peter Poellner


This module is worth 15 CATS.