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Themes in Twentieth-Century French and German Philosophy (Level 6)


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: to be confirmed
  • Assessment: a 1500-word essay (40%) and 2000-word essay (60%)

Module description

Some of the leading philosophical movements of twentieth-century French and German philosophy continue to inform contemporary philosophical work and make important contributions to current debates. In this module we shall study some of these movements, focusing on two of them in any given year.

We shall begin by concentrating on some of the key historical figures associated with a philosophical movement before considering how their work is being used today. Among the movements we shall discuss are: existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre, Weil); phenomenology (Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir); post-structuralism (Deleuze, Foucault); critical theory (Adorno, Habermas).

Indicative syllabus

  • Problem of intentionality
  • Motor intentionality
  • Embodied cognition
  • Human existence
  • Anxiety
  • Authenticity
  • Freedom
  • Genealogy
  • Power
  • Social construction

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand a few different movements in twentieth-century French and German philosophy, such as existentialism, phenomenology, post-structuralism and critical theory, as well as their interrelationships with other movements in philosophy
  • understand different ideas, contexts and frameworks deployed by contributors to debates over such questions as the meaning of human existence, the nature of power and social construction, and recognise some of their strengths and weaknesses
  • undertake thorough critical analyses of different theories of intentionality, cognition, authenticity and freedom put forward by twentieth-century French and German philosophers, and evaluate the outcomes
  • critically challenge philosophical accounts of human existence and social structures emerging from existentialism, phenomenology, post-structuralism and/or critical theory.