345-102-MQ, Existentialism and the Meaning of Life
This class introduces and surveys the major philosophers and writers who have been labeled as Existentialist, and who present themes which characterize the Existentialist worldview. The term “existentialism” does not refer to a specific philosophic school, but to a way of understanding the human condition. Does my life have meaning or purpose? What does it mean to be human? How can I live morally when it is clear that the world is so often a place of despair, inequality, and confusion? From Kierkegaard to Sartre to Nietzsche, the Existentialists illuminate and face up to the absurdities of human life. As we shall see, Existentialists disdain the neat and set answers to life offered by religion, science, reason, mass culture, and our current preoccupation with technology, comfort, and security. Instead, they insist that the only meaning to be found in life is that which starts from a real encounter with one's self. An authentic life is thus only possible when lived with a passion and sincerity.