Existentialism and its Critics

Subject 161-220 (2009)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2009. Search for this in the current handbook

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject is not offered in 2009.

Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Thirty two contact hours per semester: two 1-hour lectures per week for the first 11 weeks and a 1-hour tutorial per week beginning the third week of semester
Total Time Commitment: 3 contact hours/week, 5 additional hours/week. Total of 8.5 hours per week.
Prerequisites: A least one first-year single-semester philosophy subject, or permission from the Head of School or subject coordinator.
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: None
Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the Disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Student Support and Engagement Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Overview, Learning Outcomes, Assessment and Generic Skills sections of this entry.

It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the University's programs. Students who feel their disability may impact on meeting the requirements of this subject are encouraged to discuss this matter with a Faculty Student Adviser and Student Equity and Disability Support: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/disability


Assoc Prof Christopher Cordner


Subject Overview: This subject is concerned with the tension between the freedom implied by consciousness and the constraints imposed by nature, culture and society. Freedom of thought and action arises from our capacity for reflection and imagination. And yet as natural, social and historical beings we appear as selves to be constrained by our biological and psychological needs and our social and historical position. The extent to which these factors constrain or merely influence our lives will be examined. The first half of the subject will be a study of key themes in Sartre's Being and Nothingness, particularly his account of human freedom. We will then consider the consequences for such freedom from consideration of Althusser's account of ideology and Foucault's account of power. On completion of the subject, students should be able to recognise the distinctive nature of philosophical problems and their significance for other areas of thought; know how to go about working through such problems; be in a position to engage with more philosophical material and to apply their philosophical skills in other disciplines.
Objectives: Students who successfully complete this subject will
  • understand Sartre's account of the freedom of the self;
  • appreciate the alternative positions of Althusser and Foucault;
  • be able to compare and contrast the different positions.
Assessment: A written assignment of 500 words 10% (due early in the semester), a written assignment of 1500 words 40% (due mid-semester), a 2-hour written examination (not open-book) 47% (held at the end of semester) and tutorial participation 3%.
Prescribed Texts: A subject reader will be available.
Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills: Students who successfully complete this subject will
  • recognize the distinctive nature of philosophical problems and their significance for other areas of human thought;
  • know how to go about working through philosophical problems;
  • be in a position to engage with more advanced philosophical material in a wide range of areas;
  • be able to bring philosophical skills to bear upon their studies in other disciplines;
  • have improved their ability to engage with complex texts;
  • develop skill in the critique of arguments.
Related Course(s): Diploma in Arts (Philosophy)
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Philosophy
Philosophy Major

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