RELI3027 Existentialism and Nihilism (3 units)
What is the meaning of life? What is the contingency of human existence? What relation is there between our inner life and the outer world? How do we understand nihilism and the experience of boredom and meaninglessness? What shall we do about God or the ultimate reality? Can we really DO anything via freedom of choice? Existentialism is a profoundly active and engaged form of philosophy which flourished in the last century but still influences most intellectuals who wish to grapple with the world rather than simply watch from outside. This course is a study of the existentialists’ quest for understanding the struggle of human life and existence. It begins with a brief historical and thematic overview of the philosophical movement of existentialism: its historical background and its distinctive features in contrast with other forms of philosophy. The central problematic of nihilism is introduced and discussed in conjunction with Existentialism. Then the thought of the major existentialists (Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Camus, and Sartre) as well as their different responses to nihilism will be explored. Finally, the existentialists’ insights about the meaning of human existence and human suffering will be systematically explored and critically assessed.
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