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West Chester University Department of Philosophy Creating Meaning PHI 100 – Spring 2012 Instructor: Office: Office Hours: E-mail:

Dr. Robert Main Anderson Hall Rm. 328 Monday, Wednesday, Friday 9:00-9:50 am, 1:00-1:50 pm, and by appointment

Locations and Times: MWF 10:00-10:50 pm MWF 11:00-11:50 am

Main Hall 413 Main Hall 400

section 01 section 02

Required Texts: • Gordon Marino, ed. Basic Writings of Existentialism. (New York: Modern Library, 2004.). • Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons. Watchmen. (DC Comics, 1995). • Other readings to be posted on D2L or handouts. • All materials posted to D2L and distributed in class are required texts; you must print them out and bring them to class with you. Keep all these materials together in a binder or folder that you add to throughout the course (I will check periodically to ensure that you are doing this) Course Description: This course is an introduction to existentialism through film, literature, and philosophical texts. We will explore themes revolving around the question of our own freedom, ethical issues that arise in the face of personal autonomy, and the anxiety inherent in the process of creating our own meaning. Educational Objectives of the Course: 1. to promote familiarity with the main themes of existentialism in film, literature, religion and philosophy 2. to develop basic skills in identifying, defining and analyzing existential concepts such as anxiety, dread, freedom, etc. 3. to promote awareness of what philosophers do and why it matters 4. to think critically and analytically by reading, comprehending, and analyzing challenging ideas and texts 5. to demonstrate the sensibilities, understandings and perspectives of a person educated in the liberal arts tradition by acquiring a repertoire of existential thinking and its impact on history, literature and intellectual understanding 6. to make informed value decisions and ethical choices by evaluating the challenges, benefits and responsibilities of living in a world with seemingly infinite choices. Academic Integrity: All graded work is to be done by the student receiving the grade. All written assignments must be accurately documented. Plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course. Plagiarism will result in failing the assignment or the course, and will reported for further disciplinary action. It is the responsibility of each student to adhere to the university’s standards for academic integrity. Violations of academic integrity include any act that violates the rights of another student in academic work, that involves misrepresentation of your own work, or that disrupts the instruction of the course.

2 Other violations include (but are not limited to): cheating on assignments or examinations; plagiarizing, which means copying any part of another’s work and/or using ideas of another and presenting them as one’s own without giving proper credit to the source; selling, purchasing, or exchanging of term papers; falsifying of information; and using your own work from one class to fulfill the assignment for another class without significant modification. For questions regarding Academic Integrity, the No-Grade Policy, Sexual Harassment, or the Student Code of Conduct, students are encouraged to refer to the Philosophy Department’s Undergraduate Handbook, the Undergraduate Catalogue, the Ram’s Eye View, and the University website at It is your responsibility to know what is and what is not considered plagiarism. Recycling your own papers is an example of academic dishonesty. Student Athletes: If you are a student athlete, please provide me with your travel and game schedule indicating when you will need to miss class to participate in athletic events. While travel for athletics is an excused absence, you will need to make up any missed work. Students with Disabilities: In order to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (OSSD) at (610) 436-2564. If you have a letter from their office indicating that you have a disability that requires alternative academic accommodations, please present the letter to me within the first two weeks of class so that we can discuss the accommodations that you might need in this class. Emergency Preparedness: All students are encouraged to sign up for the University’s free WCU ALERT service, which delivers official WCU emergency text messages directly to your cell phone. For more information and to sign up, visit To report an emergency, call the Department of Public Safety at 610-436-3311. Conduct of Course: I aim to provide a safe environment for free discussion within my classrooms. To this end, please be courteous and treat others’ views with respect, especially when you disagree with them. You will find some of the readings for this course challenging. Do not let this discourage you. We will go over the material thoroughly in class. You are encouraged to ask questions (I really can't stress this enough); questions not only help you obtain clarification, but also facilitate discussion. Please do not come to class late or leave early except in case of unavoidable circumstances or emergencies. TURN OFF OR SILENCE ALL CELL PHONES AND OTHER ELECTRONIC DEVICES PRIOR TO ENTERING THE CLASSROOM. Texting, private conversations, doing work for other classes, etc. will result in a reduction of the student’s participation grade and you may be asked to leave the classroom. Please do not bring food into the classroom. Graded Assignments and Activities: NB: The midterm exam and existentialist project are required in order to pass the course. That means that no student who has not completed both assignments will receive a passing grade. Syllabus signature page: All students must sign and return the last page of this syllabus; all work will be returned ungraded to any student who has not done this (late penalties will apply). Questions: On the days when you are asked to submit a question, please type up your question, and post it to the class “Discussion Board” on D2L before the start of class; bring a second copy with you to use in class. Note the page in the text that raised the question for you. and attempt to answer this question as best you can in a one paragraph response. The goal is to show that you read the text well enough to ask a relevant question and worked with the material enough to see a possible answer.

3 In-Class Quizzes: Unscheduled in-class reading quizzes will be given throughout the semester. If you are absent or arrive late, they cannot be made up. I will drop the lowest grade, and a missed quiz will automatically count for this. Please don’t let this cause you too much stress. Provided you have done the reading and have attended class regularly, you will have no problem with these quizzes. Thematic Film Analysis: (3 pages typed, double spaced) 1. Take notes during the movie. Note the director, the actors and their character’s names. 2. Take time to absorb the movie…the goal is to connect what you see on the screen to themes in the class. 3. Begin your analysis with a catchy opening line. 4. Give a very brief (one paragraph) synopsis of the film 5. Find one major existential theme and carefully describe/define that theme. 6. Explain how the film depicts that theme. What imagery demonstrates it? What characters embody it? 7. Does the film’s perspective on this theme contribute to your understanding of what it means to live an authentic life? How? Existential Project- Choose from ONE of the following options: 1. Art Project- create a sample of existential art in a video, short story, poem or play 2. Traditional paper- for example, you can write an essay on one of the authors we have covered or a more extensive analysis of the film or novel or other artwork of your choice. You will be assigned one of the final six classes to do a 5-10 minute presentation of your work to date on this project. Attendance, Punctuality and Participation Policy: Attendance is mandatory. Philosophy requires active involvement; therefore, regular attendance and participation are essential to your understanding of the material, and are expected. Moreover, a portion of the final grade will be based on class participation (“participation” here refers to active involvement in the discussion; this does not mean attendance alone). I will take role at the beginning of each class session. If you come in late, it is your responsibility to alert me of your presence after class has ended. Excessive tardiness will also have a negative effect on your grade. It is your responsibility to keep up with the readings and assignments despite absence. Students who do not regularly attend will not be given the benefit of the doubt, particularly in cases where the final grade is “borderline” (e.g. between a B- and a C+). Classes are not reproducible during office hours or via email. Make-ups policy: Make-up exams will offered only in exceptional circumstances; supporting documentation (e.g. hospitalization record) will be required. Missed quizzes cannot be made-up. Late assignments will only be accepted for one week following the original due date, for half credit. Final Grade Distribution: Item

% of Final Grade





Film Analysis




Existentialist Project


Participation and Presentation


4 Creating Meaning PHI 100 – Spring 2012 I have read and agree to the policies outlined in this syllabus. I am aware that, if necessary, changes may be made to these policies (by the discretion of the instructor), but that I will be given sufficient notice in class and/or electronically (via email or D2L). Signed::______________________________________________________________________

Print name:____________________________________________________________________

5 Schedule: Date

1/23 1/25 1/27 1/30 2/1


Introduction to the course Introduction to Existentialism In-class video: Close-Up on Existentialism

Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism, pp. 336-367

Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism, pp. 336-367


Existence Precedes Essence Existentialism vs. Nihilism In-class video: Punk and Nihilism Post your question to the Discussion Board Discussion: bring one question to class

2/6 2/8 2/10

“Choose Your Own Adventure”: Freedom, Determinism and Anxiety Discussion: bring one question to class

“Free Will and Determinism”† Dostoevsky, The Grand Inquisitor, pp. 231-254

2/13 2/15 2/17

Creating Meaning Post your question to the Discussion Board Discussion: bring one question to class

Camus, p. 441- 492

2/20 2/22

In-class video: Wristcutters: A Love Story In-class video: Wristcutters: A Love Story Post your question to the Discussion Board Being and Death Discussion: bring one question to class

Heidegger, Being and Time, pp. 299-336

2/24 2/27 2/29 3/2

Existentialism, Faith and Religious Belief

3/5 3/7 3/9

Heroes and Anti-heroes Review Midterm

3/12 3/14 3/16 3/19 3/21

3/23 3/26 3/28 3/30 1

Lecture and Discussion Topics

Unamuno, pp. 257- 294

Film Response due Kierkegaard, pp. 7-39 Kierkegaard, “The Knight of Faith”†

Spring Break — No Classes Ethics (Utilitarianism and Deontology) In-Class video: Selections from The Breakfast Club Master and Slave Morality Post your question to the Discussion Board In-Class video: Selections from The Point Discussion: bring one question to class

Nietzsche, pp. 111- 187

Existentialist Ethics Post your question to the Discussion Board Discussion: bring one question to class

DeBeauvoir, pp. 413- 436

To be completed BEFORE class. † indicates a reading found on D2L.

6 Last Day for W 4/2 4/4 4/6

Creating Meaning Post your question to the Discussion Board Discussion: bring one question to class

4/9 4/11 4/13

Existentialism and the New Millennium

4/16 4/18 4/20

Existentialism and the New Millennium

Ellison, pp. 495- 505

Watchmen, Chs. I-V

Watchmen, Chs. VI-XI

4/23 4/25 4/27

In-Class presentations of projects

4/30 5/2 5/4

In-Class presentations of projects

Existentialist Projects Due Section 01 Mon. 5/7 10:30 a.m. Section 02 Wed. 5/9 10:30 a.m.