Philosophy Course: Existentialism

Philosophy Course: Existentialism

Philosophy short courses in Sydney, open to everyone.

Study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence with our Philosophy courses in Sydney or Online.

Philosophy is the study of human existence, which calls us to critique our own pre suppositions, and asks us to assess ideas in relation to our own lives and society. Learn Philosophy with our Philosophy courses in Sydney or Online - short courses open to everyone.

This philosophy course on Existentialism will introduce you to the ideas of Existential Philosophy. In this philosophy course on Existentialism we will study the major existential thinkers: Jean-Paul Sartre; Albert Camus; Simone de Beauvoir; Heidegger. Existentialism is concerned with the drama of human existence, it explores: The quest for a meaningful life; the realisation of human potential; what constitutes an ‘authentic’ life; existential ‘angst’; human freedom; the absurdity of existence. Many of the existentialists also wrote novels in which they played out existential issues through the situation of story and character. Three examples which we will consider are: Camus: The Stranger; Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea; and de Beauvoir’s She Came to Stay.

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this philosophy course you will:

  1. Have gained an overall understanding of the key concepts in existentialism.
  2. Have gained an insight into the ideas of Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir, Heidegger.
  3. Be able to relate existential ideas to our contemporary world and current issues.
  4. Be able to apply these ideas to their personal lives and choices.

Course Content

This philosophy course on Existentialism will cover the following topics:


Defining Existentialism and introduction to the major concepts: freedom; angst; facticity/transcendence; the authentic life; the absurdity of existence.

Beginnings of Existentialism

Kierkegaard and the issue of faith/reason/passion.

Jean-Paul Sartre

We will study a range of Sartre’s philosophical writings on the nature of human freedom and his idea of the authentic life.

Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea

The novel Nausea is Sartre’s existentialism in action. He is both writing about a character faced with the challenge of meaningless existence, and showing in his work how that meaninglessness can be dealt with.

Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Camus explores the idea that even if there is no God, humans still need a way to transcend mundane existence. He finds this transcendence in the struggle of life itself, and the meaning giving process of art.

Albert Camus: The Stranger

The central character in Camus' novel finds himself struggling with the expectations of others and society. The novel asks: are these expectations justified and can one live an authentic life as an outsider.

Simone de Beauvoir: Theories of Self and Intersubjectivity

De Beauvoir develops existentialism to include the category of ‘Being with Others’, which is an exploration of our connection to the subjecthood of other humans.

Simone de Beauvoir She Came to Stay

The novel: She Came to Stay deals with the dynamics of desire; our relationship to time; and the temporal structure of our relationship to ourselves and others. It also introduces the issue of violence and its legitimacy in the quest for freedom.

Martin Heidegger: The Meaning of Being

Heidegger’s theory of existentialism as developed in Being and Time is the subject of this week’s lecture. We will examine the concept of ‘Dasein’ and its connection to the many ‘workshops’ which we inhabit. Dasein describes the basic set of human ways of ‘being’ in the world, both natural and social.

Martin Heidegger: Being-with-Others

The second lecture on Heidegger will concern his analysis of Being-with-Others and the human connection to technology.

Intended Audience

This philosophy course on Existentialism is suitable for anyone new to the topic of Existential Philosophy. This philosophy course on Existentialism is designed for those interested in developing their ability of engaging in insightful philosophical conversations with others.

Delivery Style

This philosophy course on Existentialism will be delivered as an interactive workshop consisting of an instructor-led lecture, analysis of case studies and group discussions. This course strives to encourage active and informed participation, group analysis and debate of the facts, issues and insights into our changing world.

Course Prerequisites

This philosophy course on Existentialism has no prerequisites and is open to all members of the public.

About your instructor

Kerry Sanders

Kerry Sanders

Dr Kerry Sanders gained her PhD in philosophy at The University of Sydney and was recently awarded the title of Honorary Associate at the Department of Philosophy, The University of Sydney. She lectured at Sydney College of the Arts University of Sydney for 10 years, giving Hon and Masters Courses in the philosophy of aesthetics. Kerry has taught in the areas of Philosophy of Mind; Ethics; Critical Thinking; Political Philosophy; Contemporary Philosophy of Technology; Phenomenology; and the Philosophy of Music. She has a particular interest in the new developments in neurobiology which have significantly changed ideas about the nature of consciousness and the workings of the human mind. Kerry also participates in the Gifted Students Program, giving philosophy sessions to high school students who show an interest in a broad scope of ideas and wish to develop their thinking abilities through the challenge which philosophy gives. Kerry has also published a book of poetry.

Kerry’s Approach to Philosophy

Philosophy is a living practice which calls us to critique our own pre suppositions, and asks us to assess ideas in relation to our own lives and society. In engaging with the ideas of philosophy we both study philosophy but also do it. Philosophy can be thought of as engaging in an ‘adventure sport for the mind’, in which we can develop critical thinking techniques and learn to use the mind in new and exciting ways. The skills which are developed in the practice of philosophy are also relevant to many other areas of academic study, as well as in the complex living of our ordinary lives. Much of Western philosophy is based on the priority of reason and logic in human thought, however to fully understand the human condition we must also consider the role of experience, emotions and the body.

Other Academic functions
  • Supervision of Postgraduate Seminar Groups.
  • University Preparation Course in Philosophy 2000 – 2015.
  • Sydney College of the Arts University of Sydney.
  • Four years of Australian Postgraduate Research Award.
  • Vera Edith Thorpe Scholarship.


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Course Features

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