Kierkegaard, Despair and the Possibility of Education: Teaching Existentialism Existentially

Studies in Philosophy and Education 35 (5):445-461 (2015)
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Abstract

Written collaboratively by two undergraduate students and one professor, this article explores what it would mean to teach existentialism “existentially.” We conducted a survey of how Existentialism is currently taught in universities across North America, concluding that, while existentialism courses tend to resemble other undergraduate philosophy courses, existentialist texts challenge us to rethink conventional teaching practices. Looking to thinkers like Kierkegaard, Beauvoir and Arendt for insights into the nature of pedagogy, as well as recent work by Gert Biesta, we lay out the four qualities that we propose characterize “existentialist” teaching practices: an emphasis on teaching over learning and on the “how” over the what; the cultivation of newness as well as capacities for resistance. Reflecting on the significance of existentialism for classroom dynamics, we conclude by examining the tensions between existentialist commitments to freedom and prevailing trends in higher education. This essay raises questions about the emancipatory potential of existentialist philosophies, especially in the context of undergraduate classrooms.

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Author Profiles

Ada S. Jaarsma
Mount Royal University
X. Lin
Drexel University

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References found in this work

The Promise of Happiness.Sara Ahmed - 2010 - Duke University Press.
Concluding Unscientific Postscript.Søen Kierkegaard & Walter Lowrie - 1941 - Princeton University Press for American-Scandinavian Foundation.

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