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The University of Southampton

PHIL1021 Existentialism and its Origins

Module Overview

How should I live my life and does it matter that I do so in good faith? What is it to live an authentic existence in light of the fact that that existence will at some point end? How is living authentically or in good faith related to being oneself, an individual, as opposed to being just one of the crowd? These are among the central questions that ‘existentialist’ thinkers, such as Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, try to answer. This module aims to introduce you to the different perspectives that some of the most prominent existentialists have on such questions, and to give you the chance to reflect on these issues in light of their work.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • some of the central themes in the work of existentialist thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Heidegger.
  • what it means to live in good or bad faith, to lead an authentic existence, and to be an individual.
  • how the different perspectives provided by the existentialists relate to each other.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • interpret complex texts and positions.
  • critically evaluate the ideas and arguments the existentialists advance.
  • compare and contrast different views on the issues the module concern.
  • present and debate ideas in writing, in an open minded and rigorous way.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • undertake, with adequate supervision, independent work, including identifying and using appropriate resources.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • contribute to discussion of controversial issues in a dispassionate fashion
  • take notes from talks and written materials.
  • present ideas clearly and concisely in writing.


The syllabus may vary from year to year. Topics may include: - good and bad faith - authenticity - anxiety and death - individuality - becoming or overcoming who you are - fate - the death of God

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: - Lectures - In class discussion - One on one consultation with the module coordinator Learning activities include: - Attending classes - Contributing to class discussion - Doing independent research for and writing assessed essays

Independent Study117
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list


T Flynn (2006). Existentialism: A Very Short Introduction. 



Draft essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Group essay 40%
Timed Assignment 60%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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