PHIL 3653: Contemporary Continental Philosophy

General Description:

This course will engage and critically assess the views of some of the most important thinkers in recent European philosophy (e.g., Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Walter Benjamin, Maurice Blanchot, Georges Bataille, Emmanuel Levinas, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard).

Prerequisites: PHIL 3543 or permission of the instructor. Three credit hours.

One Version of this Course: "Encountering the Other"

What does it mean to encounter the Other?

This is a question which actually applies to any "encounter" whatsoever, since what we encounter is always "other" in some sense. Normally, when asked if we've understood what we've encountered, we feel we can safely respond "yes", at least to certain aspects of the Other in question. After all, each person or thing we encounter - regardless of how unfamiliar it is - has several graspable features that we can comprehend; and even those features that we can't currently comprehend are potentially graspable. This is, at least, our usual assumption.

The question "what does it mean to encounter the Other?" challenges this assumption, for it asks: apart from the various graspable aspects of this or that specific Other, how can the otherness of the Other - the very thing which makes it other than me - be understood? That is, how can the Other qua Other be grasped? Here we face a serious problem, for if the very attempt to understand the Other is in each case an attempt to "grasp" it, to "possess" it, then to try to understand the Other is necessarily to mis-understand it, i.e., to do violence to it, stripping away its very otherness by making it mine.

In this course, we will attempt to address this issue and to do so in terms of the thought of Martin Buber, Edmund Husserl, Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida, respectively.

Though more class-time will be devoted to lecture than to discussion, the latter will play an essential role in the course. Students will be expected to bring their texts to class and actively participate in discussion. Each week I will hand out reflection questions which will: a) help guide students' readings for the following week and b) function as a spring-board for in-class discussion.

Courses Regularly Taught:

Dr. James Gilbert-Walsh
PHIL 1013/1023: Introduction to Western Philosophy (1 and 2)
PHIL 2523: Introduction to Aesthetics
PHIL 3613: Kant
PHIL 3623: Hegel
PHIL 3543: Existentialism
PHIL 3653: Contemporary Continental Philosophy
PHIL 3763: Heidegger


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