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Nineteenth-century precursors of existentialism:
Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard and the idea of the aesthetic, ethical, and religious spheres of existence in Either/Or and other texts. Reacting against increasing doubts among intellectuals about the foundations of religious belief, and against the complacency of institutionalised religion, Kierkegaard was led to emphasise the importance of individual faith.
Nietzsche and the death of God.Nietzsche is famous above all for declaring the 'death of God,' holding that belief in God had become intellectually untenable even if this was not yet widely realised. He suggests that this 'death' has radical consequences for morality and meaning. We then examine Nietzsche's ideas of how meaning and morality might be possible through his concepts of the overman (‹bermensch) and the eternal recurrence, which he puts forward as alternatives to nihilism.
Turning to the twentieth century, we first look at Sartre's Nausea as a philosophical text which gives the first expression to his developing existentialist ideas. Sartre's early philosophy as expressed in Being and Nothingness; special focus on his account of relations between selves and others as necessarily subject/object relations. Sartre's essay Existentialism and Humanism is his key attempt to outline an ethics based on existentialism. Does it work?
Camus. We look at Camus's concept of the absurd, its relation to atheism and to ethics; the philosophical ideas expressed in his novel The Outsider.
Beauvoir. We look at Beauvoir's The Second Sex and her 'existentialist feminism'. Does this constitute a development of existentialist ethics? How far do Beauvoir's ideas either extend or criticise those of Sartre?
Fanon. We look at Fanon's Black Skin, White Masks and his criticism of racism and colonialism. Again, does this constitute a development of existentialist ethics? And how far does Fanon extend/criticise Sartre's ideas?
Beauvoir, S. de  (1972) The Second Sex, trans. H. M. Parshley. London: Picador.
Sartre, J. P.  (1963) Nausea, trans. R. Baldick. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Sartre, J. P.  (1974) Existentialism and Humanism, trans. P. Mairet. London: Metheun.
Sartre, J. P.  (1958) Being and Nothingness: An Essay on Phenomenological Ontology, trans. H. E. Barnes. London: Routledge.
Camus, A.  (1982) The Outsider, trans. J. Laredo. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Camus, A.  (1955) The Myth of Sisyphus, trans. J. O'Brien. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Fanon, F.  (2008) Black Skin White Masks, trans. R. Philcox. New York: Grove Press.
Kierkegaard, S.  (1992) Either/Or: A Fragment of Life, trans A. Hannay. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Nietzsche, F. [1882/1887] (2001) The Gay Science, trans. J. Nauckhoff. Cambridge University Press.
Nietzsche, F. [1883-1885] (1961) Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One, trans. R. J. Hollingdale. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
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