Spring 2016: Phl 220 – Existentialism

sartre che

General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

Class Meetings

Days: MW
Time: 12:40 PM – 2 PM
Place: A228 Wells Hall


Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 518 South Kedzie Hall
Hours: M 5-6pm, W 2:30-3pm, and by appointment

Other Contact

E-mail: lotz@msu.edu
Home Phone: please ask
Webpage: https://christianlotz.wordpress.com


You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department (SK 503)


General Introduction (via Tillich)

Jan 11, General Introduction: Existentialism, Conscience, Faith

Jan 13, General Introduction: Existentialism, Conscience, Faith
Please read Tillich, The Courage to be, chapter 1, subsection 1+2

Jan 18,
no class
Prepare Tillich

Jan 20, Anxiety
The Courage to Be, chapter 2

Jan 25, Being Oneself
The Courage to Be, chapter 5

Jan 27, Faith
The Courage to Be, chapter 6

Faith and Action (Kierkegaard)

Feb 1, Abraham
Fear and Trembling, pp.1-26
[Snider, Kransz]

Feb 3, Anxiety and Passion
Fear and Trembling, pp.27-53
[de Vries, Chance]

Feb 8, The Religious Suspension of the Ethical
Fear and Trembling, pp.54-67

Feb 10, Absolute Duty
Fear and Trembling, pp.68-81
[Alalouf, Shantz]

Conscience and Responsibility (Bonhoeffer)

Feb 15, Film

Feb 17, The Individual and the Good, Intro Bonhoeffer
Ethics, pp.1-15 (Christ, Reality, and Good); pp. 25-38  (Ethics as Formation)

Feb 22, Concrete Ethics
Ethics, pp. 44-47 (Ethics as Formation); pp.145-153 and pp.158-166, History and Good [1]
[Scheuer, Staiger]

Feb 24, Responsibility
Ethics, pp.167-214, esp. pp.177-206, History and Good [2]
[Wiesner, Bonds]

Feb 29, Responsibility
Ethics, pp.167-214, esp. pp.177-206, History and Good [2]

Mar 2, Film

Mar 7
Spring Break

Mar 9
Spring Break

Freedom and Action (Sartre and Beauvoir)

Mar 14, Existence
Existentialism is a Humanism, pp. 17-54
[Reihanian, McBride]

Mar 16, Freedom and Others
Existentialism is a Humanism, pp. 17-54
[Schiff, Kowal]

Mar 21, Freedom
Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 1
[Rall, Hawks]

Mar 23, Others
Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 2
[Harris, Ostrowski]

Mar 28, Freedom and Liberation
Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 3.1-3.3
[Bellingar, Abalo]

Mar 30, Action
Ethics of Ambiguity, chapter 3.1-3.3
[Cortese, Baltusis]

Apr 4, Film
Sartre and Beauvoir

Racial Oppression, Colonization, and Liberation (Sartre and Fanon)

Apr 6, Sartre and Fanon
Sartre, Materialism and Revolution (via email); Sartre, Preface to Fanon (via email)
[Johnson, Lee]

Apr 11, no class

Apr 13, Language
Sartre, Materialism and Revolution
Black Skin, White Masks, chapter 1
[Khan, Wagster]

Apr 18, The Colonized
Black Skin, White Masks, chapter 2-3
[Chard, Haberlein]
Final assignment passed out in class

Apr 20, The Colonized
Black Skin, White Masks, chapter 4-5

Apr 25, Lived Experience
Black Skin, White Masks, chapter 5

Apr 27, Wrap up, Film
Concerning Violence

May 4, (day of final exam)
Final paper due by May 4 at 10:20am via D2L dropbox

Course Description

“Those who believe do not escape.”

In this class we will discuss central aspects of Existentialism by focusing on faith, ethics, and social-political issues. We will try to uncover the strong connection between existentialist thought and Protestantism, which was very influential for the popularity of Existentialism during the 20th Century. We will not follow the “standard” Anglo-American view of Existentialism, i.e., we will not discuss Heidegger and Nietzsche. Check the Stanford Encyclopedia entry for an introduction to the general background of this class. One goal of this class is to demonstrate that resistance to subsuming the individual under some kind of “abstract” ethical or political regime is key to understanding existential thought.


This is a 200-level course in philosophy and, as such, contains difficult material and requires mature students. If you are not willing to study dense written material, listen to unusual lectures, and discuss ideas in an organized fashion, then you should not take this class. This class though can be taken by students without prior knowledge in philosophy. You should not take this class if you are not an avid reader.

Course Goals

This lecture class should students introduce to

  • the origin of modern Existentialism in Protestantism
  • an existential concept of faith
  • the concept of ethical dilemmas
  • the conflict between morality and religion
  • existentialist conceptions of freedom, violence, and action
  • existentialism in a racialized world
  • basic concepts used by existentialists


Students should be aware of the fact that this course is based on difficult texts. Accordingly, this class requires self-responsible learners and an intense confrontation with the primary text. Accordingly, if you are not excited about the prospect of a daily confrontation with abstract and historical reflections, then you should not take this class. This class is not based on a set of fixed knowledge and, as such, is not based on a behavioral idea of education; rather, we will try to learn together and critically examine the material. The instructor of this class does not have anything to teach, but much to learn.

Required Texts

No digital editions, please!

Course Requirements

  • daily reading and studying (around 5-10 pages, up to 50 per week)
  • 1 thesis statement (short assignment, systematic summary of the readings)
  • 1 final assignment
  • 5 response sheets
  • homework assignments and spontaneous assignments in class; unannounced reading quizzes
  • participation


The class and my lectures are solely based on the texts selected for class and require a thorough study and preparation of the material. I will primarily lecture on the readings, which will help you to more fully understand the texts. Therefore it is not sufficient for students to come to class without having prepared the texts. And indeed, in the assignments you have to demonstrate whether you have appropriately prepared the readings selected for each lecture.


Every academic misconduct, such as plagiarism, will – without exception – lead to a failing grade in class. Check the Ombudsman’s page (see also note below on plagiarism):  https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/


To get a good grade in this class, regular attendance is required. I will not call roll. Hence, it is up to you to come to class or not.However, if you do not come to class on a regular basis and participate in the class discussion, it is impossible for you to achieve a good grade in this class; so coming to class is your responsibility and your call. If you choose to attend class, please come on time, turn off cell phones and other electronic devices that interfere with your (and others’) concentration, have the reading prepared and be ready to participate. If you are not prepared, do not bother showing up. It is a sign of disrespect to your peers and the instructor to attend class unprepared. If you miss class, it is your responsibility to obtain class notes from a fellow student and to catch up on reading. Nevertheless, please be aware that you should not make me responsible for a failure that results out of your decision. You should be aware that chances to master this class are minimal, if you do not show up for class or if you do not prepare the readings (=studying).


Thesis Statement (brief overview of assigned reading)

Each student has to prepare one thesis statement for class. The thesis statement should contain [a] a list of main points and claims, [b] concepts that are unclear, [c] intelligent questions about the readings. Students who prepare the thesis paper need to send their thesis papers by 6pm (the day before class) per email to me, bring copies for everyone to class and be prepared to briefly present their statement (this will rarely happen). The thesis statement is limited to one page and you must use the following prepared document:

Download thesis statement form

Reading Quizzes

Given recent negative experience with student’s unwillingness to read and study primary material, I might assign reading quizzes. Questions might be passed out in advance. Quizzes cannot be made up (except in cases mentioned below).

Homework Assignments

From time to time I will send out via email weekend homework assignments; usually a short writing prompt in relation to either lecture or video material online, or in relation to our readings. Given that these homework assignments are always due on Mondays, I will not accept late turn-ins. There is plenty of time for you to respond to the task, given that I usually send this out on time.

Unannounced Assignments

There might be – from time to time – spontaneously assigned group assignments in class. Students who do not attend class (and have no medical documentation) will lose all points.

Response Sheets

Every student is asked to submit up to 5 class response sheets during the semester. Please download the form here (plus: print it out five times and add it to your class folder). Response sheets must be submitted at the end of a class session. I do not accept late turn ins or turn ins by email.

Download response sheet (I will only accept answers that are given on this form)


Students are not allowed to turn in response sheets during the last week of class!

Make-Up Assignments

Students who need to miss assignments for excusable reasons, such as a death in their families, MSU related business, emergency weather conditions, or medical reasons, must inform me ahead of time, and will be permitted to make up assignments. I will only accept official doctor notes (no faxes, no emails) or letters from other professors. Unfortunately I am unable to accept any other reasons than those mentioned.

Course Evaluation


1 final take-home assignment 20 points
Reading quizzes 10 points
Homework assignments and
unannounced group assignments
25 points
1 thesis statement (use form) 10 points
participation 10 points
response sheets (use form) 25 points
100 points


4.0 (=A) 100 – 93
3.5 92 – 87
3 (=B) 86 – 82
2.5 81 – 77
2 (=C) 76 – 72
1.5 71 – 65
1.0 (=D) 64 – 60
0.0 < 60

GENERIC SYLLABUS (might not be applicable to each class)

Laptop/Cell Phone/Tablet Policy

You are not permitted to use laptops or cell phones in class, unless needed for medical reasons. Flat devices, such as tablets, are permitted if you have purchased the literature required for class electronically. Please do not text under the table. Cell phones should be removed from tables. Failure to follow this policy will lead to unannounced assignments in class or loss of points (at the digression of the instructor).

Class Attendance

As mentioned above, I do not employ in my classes a class attendance policy. Having said this, you should be aware that class attendance is very important. When engaging in a philosophical and humanistic dialogue it is necessary to be an active and present participant in the ongoing discussion. If you miss class please do not email me asking if you missed anything important. Every class is important. You should get a study buddy for the class; a student in class who will inform you of what you missed. If you miss a class you can come to my office hours or make an appointment to discuss the material, providing you have read the material and you simply want to see if your understanding of the material is on target. Time in office hours will not be used to repeat the class lectures.

Grading Criteria + Paper Writing Tips

Check out this page for grading criteria, example of assignments, etc.

Online Research Sources

Unfortunately, some people think that the internet as such is a reliable source of information. If you decide to use online sources for additional information or your paper then do not just use one of the common internet search engines, such as Google; rather, use reliable academic sources, such as Britannica Online, or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The Internet Ecyclopedia of Philosophy isn’t very good, but still acceptable. Check out MSU’s library resources! And, as with other sources, you must cite any online sources to which you refer in your essay.

Writing Center Information

MSU’s writing center offers excellent help on all matters regarding writing and learning. Check the website at http://writing.msu.edu for an overview and hours. For more information, please call 517.432.3610 or send an e-mail to writing@msu.edu.

Grief Absence Policy

I follow MSU’s general grief absence policy, which can be found here.

Integrity of Scholarship and Grades (Plagiarism)

The following statement of University policy addresses principles and procedures to be used in instances of academic dishonesty, violations of professional standards, and falsification of academic or admission records, herein after referred to as academic misconduct. [See General Student Regulation 1.00, Protection of Scholarship and Grades.]

Academic Honesty

Article 2.3.3 of the Academic Freedom Report states that “The student shares with the faculty the responsibility for maintaining the integrity of scholarship, grades, and professional standards.” In addition, the (insert name of unit offering course) adheres to the policies on academic honesty as specified in General Student Regulations 1.0, Protection of Scholarship and Grades; the all-University Policy on Integrity of Scholarship and Grades; and Ordinance 17.00, Examinations. (See Spartan Life: Student Handbook and Resource Guide and/or the MSU Web site: www.msu.edu) Therefore, unless authorized by your instructor, you are expected to complete all course assignments, including homework, lab work, quizzes, tests and exams, without assistance from any source. You are expected to develop original work for this course; therefore, you may not submit course work completed for another course to satisfy the requirements for this course. Students who violate MSU rules may receive a penalty grade, including but not limited to a failing grade on the assignment or in the course. Contact your instructor if you are unsure about the appropriateness of your course work. (See also https://www.msu.edu/~ombud/)

Plagiarism, from the Ombudsman’s page

Plagiarism (from the Latin plagiarius, an abductor, and plagiare, to steal) is defined by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on Misconduct in Research (take that!) as “ . . . the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit.”

Accidental or Unintentional
One may not even know that they are plagiarizing.  It is the student’s responsibility to make certain that they understand the difference between quoting and paraphrasing, as well as the proper way to cite material.

Here, students are well aware that they are plagiarizing.  Purposefully using someone else’s ideas or work without proper acknowledgment is plagiarism.  This includes turning in borrowed or bought research papers as one’s own.

Turning in the same term paper (or substantially the same paper) for two courses without getting permission from one’s instructor is plagiarism.

SIRS Evaluations

Michigan State University takes seriously the opinion of students in the evaluation of the effectiveness of instruction and has implemented the Student Instructional Rating System (SIRS) to gather student feedback (https://sirsonline.msu.edu). This course utilizes the online SIRS system, and you will receive an e-mail during the last two weeks of class asking you to fill out the SIRS web form at your convenience. In addition, participation in the online SIRS system involves grade sequestration, which means that the final grade for this course will not be accessible on STUINFO during the week following the submission of grades for this course unless the SIRS online form has been completed. Alternatively, you have the option on the SIRS website to decline to participate in the evaluation of the course. We hope, however, that you will be willing to give us your frank and constructive feedback so that we may instruct students even better in the future. If you access the online SIRS website and complete the online SIRS form or decline to participate, you will receive the final grade in this course as usual once final grades are submitted.

Social Media and Sharing of Course Materials

As members of a learning community, students are expected to respect the intellectual property of course instructors. All course materials presented to students are the copyrighted property of the course instructor and are subject to the following conditions of use:

  1. Students may record lectures or any other classroom activities and use the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  2. Students may share the recordings with other students enrolled in the class. Sharing is limited to using the recordings only for their own course-related purposes.
  3. Students may post the recordings or other course materials online or distribute them to anyone not enrolled in the class with the advance written permission of the course instructor and, if applicable, any students whose voice or image is included in the recordings.
  4. Any student violating the conditions described above may face academic disciplinary sanctions.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students with disabilities should contact the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities to establish reasonable accommodations. For an appointment with a counselor, call 353-9642 (voice) or 355-1293 (TTY)

Drops and Adds

The last day to add this course is the end of the first week of classes. The last day to drop this course with a 100 percent refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). The last day to drop this course with no refund and no grade reported is (see Academic Calendar). You should immediately make a copy of your amended schedule to verify you have added or dropped this course.

Note on Attendance

Students who fail to attend the first four class sessions or class by the fifth day of the semester, whichever occurs first, may be dropped from the course.


%d bloggers like this: