Fall 2017: Phl 421 – Jean-Paul Sartre

Revolutionaries and bourgeois intellectuals in a motor boat…

General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

Class Meetings

Days: MW
Time: 12:40 PM – 2 PM
Place: A 302 Wells Hall


Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Place: 518 South Kedzie Hall
Hours: MW, 11am-12pm, 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)



Here are the handouts that I passed out in class: BeingNegativity 1Negativity 2Bad FaithTemporalityThe For-ItselfKnowledge and the LookFreedom 1Marxist Critical pointsMaterialism and Revolution


Aug 30, Introduction
Meszaros, Phases of Sartre’s Development (distributed in class)
Gardner, Overview of Themes (distributed in class)

Sep 4, Labor Day
No class
The Itinerary of a Thought (D2L)
Sartre at Seventy: An Interview (get it here)

Sep 6, Sartre as an Intellectual
Existentialism is a Humanism (only read the lecture)

Sep 11, Subjectivity and Action
Existentialism is a Humanism (only read the lecture)

Being and Nothingness

Sep 13, Being
Being and Nothingness, 3-33
Definitely study sections I+II

Sep 18, Being
Being and Nothingness, 3-33
Definitely study sections III+VI

Sep 20, Negation
Being and Nothingness, 33-56 (sections I+II+IV)

Sep 25, Negation
Being and Nothingness, 56-86 (section V)

Sep 27, Bad Faith
Being and Nothingness, 86-119
(jump over the passage in which S discusses psychoanalysis, pp.90-96)

Oct 2, Immediate Structures of the For-Itself
Being and Nothingness, 119-159 (sections I-III)

Oct 4, Temporality
Being and Nothingness, 159-187 (= section I, at least read up to p.175)

Oct 9, Knowledge and Others
Being and Nothingness, 238-249 and 301-315 and 340-360

Oct 11, The Look
Being and Nothingness, 360-401

Oct 16, Freedom and Action
Being and Nothingness, 559-591

Oct 18
No class
Gordon, White and Black Bodies in Bad Faith (D2L) and Morris, Sartre on Objectification. A Feminist Perspective (D2L)
Sartre, Being and Nothingness, 734-765 (and ask yourself why Sartre’s concept of possession and appropriation would be critiziced by Marxists)

Oct 23, Freedom and Action
Being and Nothingness, 591-619

Oct 25, Freedom and Facticity
Being and Nothingness, 619-654
Presenter: Nicole

Oct 30,
no class

Nov 1,
no class

Nov 6, Freedom and Facticity
Being and Nothingness, 654-712
Presenter: Logan

From Existentialism to Existentialist Marxism

“Our comprehension of the Other is never contemplative; it is only a moment of our praxis, a way of living – in struggle or in complicity” (Sartre)

Nov 8, The Revolutionary
Materialism and Revolution (D2L)
Presenter: Brett

Nov 13, Marxism and Existentialism
Search for a Method, ch.1, 3-35
Presenter: Bethany

Nov 15, Marxism and Existentialism
Search for a Method, ch.2, 35-85
Presenter: Danielle

Nov 20, Progressive-Regressive Method
Search for a Method, ch.3, 85-124
Presenter: John L

Nov 22
No class

Nov 27, Conclusions
Search for a Method, ch.3, 124-167
Presenter: Greg

Political Existentialism

“And this too is genocide: you cut a sovereign state into two parts; you occupy one of the two halves, and rule there by terror; you ruin the enterprise achieved at such a price by the other half and, by means of calculated investments, you keep it nicely at heel.” (Sartre)

Nov 29, Class and Party
France: Masses, Spontaneity, Party (D2L)
On Maoism (D2L)
The Maoists in France (D2L)
Presenter: Sean

Watch some background material on the 1968 situation in France: [here] and [here] and [here] and [here]

Dec 4, The Falsohood of Liberal Democracy
Elections: A Trap for Fools (D2L)
Preface to Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth (D2L)
Vietnam: Imperialism and Genocide (D2L)
Presenter: Charlie

Background: read Mohandesi’s comments on Kevin Burns’ new PBS documentary on the Vietnam War in Jacobin [here]; background material on Fanon by Lewis Gordon [here]; the Vietnam Tribunal [here]; a look back at the Russell Tribunal [here]; Agent Orange that killed almost half a million of Vietnames [here]; a recent NYT report on the Dark Shadow of Agent Orange [here]; also check Gabriel Rockhill on how to think about violence critically in the context of the Antifa [here] and [here] and [here, fast forward to min 16]

Dec 6, Wrap Up
Justice and the State

Dec 12, (day of final exam)
Final paper due by Dec 12 at 12:45pm via D2L dropbox


Course Description

“Everything is political; that is, everything questions society as a whole and ends up disputing it.” (Sartre)

In this course we will examine and discuss the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre who is, without doubt, the most important French philosopher of the 20th Century, and the only philosopher who should properly be called an “Existentialist.” Sartre was a true genius who was at home in all genres: he wrote philosophical texts, novels, plays, pamphlets, biographies, and newspaper articles. In the first part of this class we will read large portions of his massive and difficult early work “Being and Nothingness,” after which we will read central texts of his attempt to bring together his phenomenological Existentialism with a certain strand of Marxism, including a few of his political texts on revolution and colonialism.

Background information: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sartre/  and https://youtu.be/RpHbXRdMjl8

Sartre with Simone de Beauvoir and Che during their visit to Cuba


This is a 400-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 continental philosophy. In any case, you should not take this class if you are not an avid reader.

Course Goals

This class should students help to understand

  • the overall structure of the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Sartrean key concepts, such as freedom, responsibility, bad faith, existentialist Marxism, and political existentialism
  • how to read major works of philosophy


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.

Sartre – The last intellectual

Required Texts

  • Sartre, Being and Nothingness
  • Sartre, Search for a Method
  • Sartre, Existentialism is a Humanism
  • additional pdfs of essays related to politics, violence, Fanon, revolutionary Marxism, and colonialism will be made available via D2L

No digital editions, please! Material on D2L should be printed out

Highly Recommended Companion For this Class

  • Flynn, Thomas, Sartre. A Philosophical Biography, Cambridge University Press 2014
  • McBride, William L., Sartre’s Political Theory, Bloomington: Indiana University Press 1991

Course Requirements

  • daily reading and studying
  • oral presentation (might be a group presentation)
  • 1 final paper
  • 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)

Oral Presentation (overview of assigned reading)

Each student has to prepare one oral presentation for class. The presentation should cover the reading for class. The presentation should contain [a] a list of main points and claims, [b] concepts that are unclear, [c] intelligent questions about the readings. You should distribute a handout.

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, but probably will not be passed out in advance. Quizzes cannot be made up (except in cases mentioned below).

Homework Assignments

From time to time I might 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.

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 paper 50 points
participation 20 points
Homework assignments and
unannounced reading quizzes and group assignments
20 points
oral presentation 20 points
handout for oral presentation 10 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).

Note on Cell Phones

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off. That’s the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

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.

The Spartan Code of Honor

Student leaders have recognized the challenging task of discouraging plagiarism from the
academic community. The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) is proud to be launching the Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge, focused on valuing academic integrity and honest work ethics at Michigan State University. The pledge reads as follows:

“As a Spartan, I will strive to uphold values of the highest ethical standard. I will practice honesty in my work, foster honesty in my peers, and take pride in knowing that honor is worth more than grades. I will carry these values beyond my time as a student at Michigan State University, continuing the endeavor to build personal integrity in all that I do.”

The Spartan Code of Honor academic pledge embodies the principles of integrity that every Spartan is required to uphold in their time as a student, and beyond. The academic pledge was crafted with inspiration of existing individual college honor codes, establishing an overarching statement for the entire university. It was formally adopted by ASMSU on March 3, 2016, endorsed by Academic Governance on March 22, 2016, and recognized by the Provost, President, and Board of Trustees on April 15, 2016.

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.