CC 325 C - Existentialism
3 or 4 Credits
TR 11:50-1:05 pm - Professor Carson

Most human beings believe in things that seem to make life meaningful. Many of us seem to think there is such a thing as genuine beauty, love, courage, the goodness of deep friendships, and a purpose for our lives, perhaps given by a god. But, what if reality itself is inherently meaningless? If there is really nothing more to this universe than matter in motion, then aren’t these things we find so meaningful simply indulgent fantasies? Is it possible to live with authenticity and resoluteness in the face of such a void? Further, if God doesn’t exist, can one’s life really have any purpose at all? What does it mean to be free in a causally determined universe? How can one live authentically as oneself amidst the mindless flow of mass society and the depersonalizing effects of technology? Is it possible to transcend this flow, and make of one’s own life a living work of art? In this course we examine some of the 19th and 20th century ‘existentialist’ philosophers, theologians and literary figures who addressed all of these questions with deep passion and insight. Such figures include Søren Kierkegaard, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, Miguel de Unamuno, Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus, among others. We will engage in both critical and personal reflection on the philosophical themes common to these thinkers, and we will explore how their insights, and the crucial questions raised above, find living expression in 20th century literature and film.