Spring 2021: Iah 231a – Existential Problems of Human Life

Edvard Munch, The Scream, Lithograph, 1895

General information


Here is more information about Prof. Lotz

TA: Jeffrey Davis, PhD Candiate in Philosophy, e-mail: davis245 (at) msu.edu

Class Meetings

Days: M/W
Time: 3 PM – 4:50 PM
Place: ZOOM (link is posted on D2L)


Hours: MW, 1pm-2pm (ZOOM link is posted on D2L), and by appointment (Lotz)
Hours: TF, 1pm-2pm, and by appointment (Davis)
Phone: 517.355.4490 [dept.])
Office: 518 S. Kedzie Hall

Other Contact

E-mail: lotz@msu.edu
Home Phone: please ask
Webpage: http://christianlotz.info


You will find my box in the front office of the philosophy department


Jan 11, Covid-19
No class

Jan 13, Covid-19
No class

Jan 18, MLK Day
No class


Jan 20, Introduction

Section I: Anxiety & Loss

Sunday assignment 1 due (Jan 24)

Jan 25, Being, Non-Being, Anxiety
Tillich, The Courage to Be, Ch.1, 1-17 (subsections on courage/fortitude&Stoics) and Ch.2, 32-64

Jan 27,  The Courage to Be
Tillich, The Courage to Be, Ch.2, 32-64

Sunday assignment 2 due (Jan 31)

Feb 1, The Courage to Be
Tillich, The Courage to Be, Ch.2, 32-64

Feb 3, The Courage to Be
Tillich, The Courage to Be, Ch.4, 86-113

Sunday assignment 3 due (Feb 7): on Freud!

Feb 8, The Courage to Be
Tillich, The Courage to Be, Ch.5, 113-155

Feb 10, Loss and Depression
Freud, Mourning and Melancholia (D2L)

Sunday assignment 4 due (Feb 14); no assignment, please read again Freud

Feb 15, Loss and Depression
Freud, Mourning and Melancholia (D2L)

Feb 17, War and Death
Freud, Thoughts on the Times on War and Death (D2L)

Section II: Being

Sunday assignment 5 due (Feb 21)

Feb 22, The Failure of our Modern Societies
Fromm, To Have or To Be?, Introduction + chapter 1-2

Feb 24, Happiness, Having and Being
Fromm, To Have or To Be?, chapter 4+5

Group Assignment 1

Mar 1
No class

Mar 3
No class

Sunday assignment 6 due (Mar 7): on chapters 6 & 7 !!

Mar 8, Having and Being
Fromm, To Have or To Be?, chapter 4+5

Mar 10, Having and Being
Fromm, To Have or To Be?, chapter 6+7

Section III: Freedom

Sunday assignment 7 due (Mar 14)

Mar 15, Freedom
De Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity, I

Mar 17, Others
De Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity, II

Group Assignment 2

Sunday assignment 8 due (Mar 21)

Mar 22, Liberation
De Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity, III.1-2

Guest Instructor: Chase Halsne, PhD Candidate

Mar 24, Action
De Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity, II.3

No Sunday Assignment due on Mar 28!

Mar 29, Reflection Day
No class
Prepare Fromm, Escape from Freedom

Section IV: Escape from Freedom

Mar 31, Freedom
Fromm, Escape from Freedom, ch.1-2

Sunday assignment 9 due (Apr 4): on Fromm

Apr 5, Freedom and Modernity
Fromm, Escape from Freedom, ch.4

Apr 7, Escape Mechanisms
Fromm, Escape from Freedom, ch. 5.1

Sunday assignment 10 due (Apr 11)

Apr 12, Escape Mechanisms
Fromm, Escape from Freedom, ch. 5.2&5.3

Apr 14, Freedom and Democracy
Fromm, Escape from Freedom, ch.7
(last chance to submit a response sheet)

Apr 19, Last class
Wrap Up

Apr 21,
No class

Final Take-Home Due
Wednesday, April 28, 10am
(day of final exam)

Course Description

In this course we will examine and discuss selected aspects of what it means to be human, from a general philosophical, humanist, and social-psychological perspective, i.e., we will not address the issue from a scientific or biological point of view. Instead, the assumption is that the most central aspects of what it means to be human need to be discussed from a more general perspective. One of the assumptions of the course is that the experience of death and dying, the confrontation with freedom, as well as the experience of anxiety in the context of what it means to live an “authentic life” are central “experiences” that define (modern) human experience. You should be aware that the main sources of this class come from philosophy, theology, and social psychology. Accordingly, expect a high level of intellectual engagement and maturity.

Twenty years after my own graduation, I have come gradually to understand that the liberal-arts cliché about “teaching you how to think” is actually shorthand for a much deeper, more serious idea: “Learning how to think” really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what you think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because if you cannot exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed. Think of the old cliché about “the mind being an excellent servant but a terrible master.” This, like many clichés, so lame and unexciting on the surface, actually expresses a great and terrible truth. It is not the least bit coincidental that adults who commit suicide with firearms almost always shoot themselves in the head. And the truth is that most of these suicides are actually dead long before they pull the trigger. And I submit that this is what the real, no-bull- value of your liberal-arts education is supposed to be about: How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default-setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out. (David Foster Wallace, This is Water)

IAH Course Goals

The mission of Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities is to help students become more familiar with ways of knowing in the arts and humanities and to be more knowledgeable and capable in a range of intellectual and expressive abilities.  IAH courses encourage students to engage critically with their own society, history, and culture(s); they also encourage students to learn more about the history and culture of other societies.  They focus on key ideas and issues in human experience; encourage appreciation of the roles of knowledge and values in shaping and understanding human behavior; emphasize the responsibilities and opportunities of democratic citizenship; highlight the value of the creative arts of literature, theater, music, and arts; and alert us to important issues that occur among peoples in an increasingly interconnected, interdependent world. The goals of IAH courses are to assist students to

  • Cultivate habits of inquiry and develop investigative strategies from arts and humanities perspectives;
  • Explore social, cultural, and artistic expressions and contexts;\
  • Act as culturally aware and ethically responsible citizens in local and global communities.
  • Critically assess, produce, and communicate knowledge in a variety of media for a range of audiences; and
  • Recognize and understand the value of diversity and the significance of interconnectedness in the classroom and beyond.

Specific Course Goals

This lecture class should students introduce to

  • how to think about fundamental aspects of what it means to be human
  • think more clearly about the role of anxiety, death, freedom, and escape mechanisms
  • the distinction between “having something” and “being someone”


  • This class will be taught via ZOOM in a classical humanist fashion. I will talk about the readings and we will have discussions about the issues discussed in the texts.
  • The primary text will be the absolute focus of this class; we will read slowly passages together.
  • Our ZOOM sessions require you to be polite and attentive; as such, I do not want you to turn off your microphone, which, in turn, should make it easier for you to focus on the class session. Please make sure that you are in a quiet spot (at a desk or a table), and that you enter our meetings on time.
  • Please use a headset, which helps us create a more “intimate” atmosphere; headset microphones usually remove background noise; inexpensive headsets can easily be found online. If you can’t afford a headset (or don’t want to use one), then please try to use at least headphones or ear buds.
  • If multiple participants are speaking, and if they also use external speakers to hear the meeting audio, there can be an echo loop. Zoom uses echo cancellation to address this problem. However, headset/headphones/earbuds will eliminate this problem.
  • Please also do not turn off your camera (unless your internet connection is very slow), as this will also help everyone focus on our class session and eliminate distractions.
  • Please do not use your phone for ZOOM sessions.
  • Please do not use your phone for reading the material. This is a class based on reading and reflection. It is simply impossible to study texts selected for class via such a small screen.
  • Set ZOOM to “gallery view” (instead of “speaker view”), as this makes it easier to see everyone in class (i.e., not only the speaker).


Real learning is not properly measured by multiple-choice tests; especially since in the humanities there is no specific content of a sort that may be covered well in standardized examinations, which every student in the humanities should be expected to master. Instead, you will – hopefully – come to recognize that this class is about a general intellectual reflection on our contemporary world that requires concepts and critical reflections. The class deals with your dignity as human beings and with your intellect and reason, which is best expressed in a form of learning that is based on understanding and insight, and not mere learning by heart. It is hoped that the class will stimulate the view that intellectual activity (and therefore human reality) has to do with the passion of thinking, and the passion of understanding of our world. Intense confrontation with texts is the center of this class. “Information” as something to be consumed is important but secondary.

Required Texts (Bookstore)

Please buy the following titles:

  • Fromm, To Have or To be?
  • Tillich, The Courage to Be
  • De Beauvoir, Ethics of Ambiguity
  • Fromm, Escape from Freedom


You do NOT need to purchase Haegelund, This Life. Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom (this was posted to the bookstore by error)


  • Additional readings are available via D2L (Kuebler-Ross, Freud)

Course Organization

The course will be organized such that, ideally, each class period will include [i] “interactive” lecture, [ii] discussion time or [iii] response time. Students will be asked to intensively prepare a certain text or part of a text for the next class period.

Course Requirements

  • Daily reading and studying
  • Weekend assignments
  • unannounced assignments in class, including reading quizzes and film reaction assignments
  • Class response sheets


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 exams 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/

Note on Attendance

I hope and strongly encourage that students attend all lectures. However, I will not require attendance, as I think that college students should manage their own class attendance decisions. 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 class, it is very difficult for you to achieve a good grade in this class, especially since you won’t be able to make up assignments in class. 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.

General Note

I expect that you come to class having prepared the texts carefully and thoroughly. The reading for the next session, if not clear from the course schedule (below), will be announced at the end of the previous class. “Preparing for class” implies underlining and making excerpts from the text assigned; looking up unfamiliar vocabulary and writing them into a note book (I encourage you to keep a vocabulary booklet for all of your classes). Just reading the text won’t be sufficient. You have to study the material. Some vocabulary might not be sufficiently explained in a regular dictionary (this goes especially for philosophical terms), so it is necessary to consult additional sources, and the MSU Library Website is a great resource for nearly all questions in this regard).

Unannounced Assignments

There will be announced and unannounced reading quizzes, homework-assignments, and group assignments. Students who do not attend class (and have no written documentation) will lose all points. Reading quizzes, homework assignments, and group assignments cannot be made up without reasonable excuses (see above).

Weekend Response Reading Sheets (Sunday Assignment)

During this semester you should submit weekend reading response sheets, in which you present brief reflections on the readings for the upcoming class session (up to 300 words), and formulate up to two precise questions about the material or about something that we discussed in class. These response sheets are due on Sundays at noon, via D2L dropbox. This is a generous time frame for you, as I have to read your write-ups late on Sundays. Accordingly, late turn-ins will not be accepted. You will lose all points if you miss the dealine. I will then address brief questions at the beginning of each session. Please download and use this form:

Download Weekend Reading Response Sheet (MS Word)

Class Response Sheets

Every student is asked to submit up to 5 class response sheets during the semester. Please download the form here. Response sheets must be submitted to D2L on the day of class. I will not accept submissions on different days.

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

Response Time

Selected response sheets will be addressed at the beginning of each class. This procedure will help you and me to clarify problems, reflect on topics, and to find answers to questions that came up during last class.

Final Assignment

There will be a final take-home essay questions assignment. It is due on the day of the final exam via D2L dropbox.

Make-Up Assignments

Students who need to miss the exam or a film day for excusable reasons (medical+MSU related business) must inform me ahead of time, and will be permitted to make up the exam and film assignment. I will only accept written documentation.

Course Evaluation


1 final take-home exam20 points
10 Weekend Assignments40 points
Misc. Assignments20 points
5 response sheets20 points
 100 points


4.0 (=A)100 – 93
3.592 – 87
3 (=B)86 – 82
2.581 – 77
2 (=C)76 – 72
1.571 – 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 to a lower grade (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. Please also read this: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?

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.

TurnItIn Policy

Consistent with MSU’s efforts to enhance student learning, foster honesty, and maintain integrity in our academic processes, instructors may use a tool in D2L called Turnitin OriginalityCheck to compare a student’s work with multiple sources. The tool compares each student’s work with an extensive database of prior publications and papers, providing links to possible matches and a “similarity score.” The tool does not determine whether plagiarism has occurred or not. Instead, the instructor must make a complete assessment and judge the originality of the student’s work. All submissions to this course may be checked using this tool. Students should submit assignments to be screened by OriginalityCheck without identifying information included in the assignment (e.g., the student’s name, PID, or NetID); the system will automatically show identifying information to the course faculty when viewing the submissions, but this information will not be retained by Turnitin.

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.

Student Support Program (SSP)

Michigan State University is offering all MSU students access to counseling support 24/7/365 through My SSP: Student Support Program. My SSP is free to all MSU students. My SSP is confidential, and can help with:

  • Adapting to new challenges
  • Being successful at school
  • Relationships with friends and family
  • Practical issues with studying
  • Stress, sadness, loneliness, and more

The My SSP professional counselors are available to help anytime, anywhere with:

  • Immediate support by phone and chat
  • Ongoing support by appointment via phone and video
  • In addition, culturally relevant support is available in the language of the caller’s choice.

There are multiple options for connecting with a My SSP counselor:

  • Download the free My SSP app on Google Play or iTunes
  • Chat online at http://us.myissp.com
  • Call 1-866-743-7732
  • From outside North America, call 001.416.380.657

On & Off Campus 24 Hour Emergency Services:

National Suicide Prevention (Lifeline)
Collect Calls Accepted 24 Hours
1-800- 273-TALK (8255)

MSU Police Department
Emergency: 911
Business Line: (517) 355-2221

MSU Counseling Center Sexual Assault Program
(517) 372-6666

Community Mental Health
(800) 372-8460
(517) 346-8460

MSU Safe Place (Domestic Violence Shelter)
Crisis Line: (517) 355-1100

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.