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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Wendy A. Wiseman
CHID 250
Seattle Campus

Special Topics: Introduction to the History of Ideas

Examines a different subject or problem from a comparative framework. Satisfies the Gateways major/minor requirement. Offered: AWSp.

Class description

This course, Existentialism and Religion, will begin with the problem of suffering in the Book of Job, leap to the rationalist philosophies of Descartes and Hegel, and to the "fathers" of Existentialism of the 19th century, Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche. We will then engage the 20th century rejection of modern scientific optimism and its narrow view of life in the thought of Sartre, Fanon, Camus, Heidegger, Tillich, and Buber.

Student learning goals

Students will hone the art of "reading well," which is to say with patience, care, and imagination.

Students will acquire a deep familiarity with the basic concerns of the loosely defined movement known as Existentialism; these include: suffering, freedom, creativity, death, dissilusionment with past ideals, "authenticity," and the interplay between morality and political engagement.

Students will be able to write thesis-driven essays that combine logical modes of argumentation, textual fidelity, and original thinking.

Students will be given solid grounding to pursue similar issues in modernist and post-moderinist philosophy, literature, and visual arts (particularly cinema).

Students will have the opportunity to view classic films reflecting existentialist themes for extra credit, creating an oppportunity for sophisticated and profound film criticism.

Students will gain respect for the revolutionary quality of this movement in light of religious concerns of the "absence of God."

General method of instruction

Lecture style Tues, Wed, Thurs on assigned texts, all from original sources. Informal enough to welcome questions and comments at any point during lecture. Sections on Fridays for more intimate engagement with texts and themes.

Recommended preparation

As this is an introductory course, there are no prerequisites, but it would be a good idea to read the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on "Existentialism," and to very basically familiarize yourself with the key figures listed above. Knowledge of basic Western history is presupposed, as is some degree of passion for literature.

Class assignments and grading

Students will write 2 page essays each week on the assigned readings, take a written midterm and final, and submit a final paper or project.

Attendance, weekly essays, exams, and final project.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Wendy A. Wiseman
Date: 02/26/2008