Contemporary Continental Philosophy

Curriculum Guideline

Effective Date:
Course Code
PHIL 3380
Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Humanities & Social Sciences
Start Date
End Term
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Contact Hours
Lecture: 2 hrs. per week / semester Seminar: 2 hrs. per week / semester
Method(s) Of Instruction
Learning Activities

A combination of lecture and seminar. Some classes may involve formal lectures for the entire time (allowing time for questions), in which case a later session will allow discussion of the lecture and reading material. Other class sessions may involve a combination of informal lecture and structured discussion.

Course Description
This course will provide students with an opportunity to study recent developments in the area of contemporary continental Philosophy. The course will include consideration of one or more of the philosophical movements in this area, such as phenomenology, hermeneutics, deconstruction, existentialism, structuralism, postmodernism, psychoanalysis, feminism and critical theory. Consideration may be given to authors such as Husserl, Gadamer, Ricouer, Derrida, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Arendt, Lévi-Strauss, Lyotard, Foucault, Lacan, Irigaray, Binswanger, Deleuze, Horkheimer, Adorno, Marcuse and Habermas.
Course Content

One or more of the following:

  1. Examine the role of the epoché in transcendental phenomenology and the realm of phenomena which is constituted in the immanence of consciousness.
  2. Examine the meaning of "Dasein" and its relation to truth and freedom, as well as the significance of the experience of anxiety.
  3. Examine the relation between existence and essence, and the implications of the nonexistence of God for human freedom.
  4. Examine the consequences of rejecting dualism in the account of perception, and the sense in which experience is "being-in-the-world."
  5. Examine the distinction between a synchronic and diachronic approach to the study of language, and the holistic as opposed to atomistic functioning of language.
  6. Examine how structuralist principles enable anthropology to reveal the nature of the human mind through an interpretation of the symbols of different cultures.
  7. Examine how the unconscious can be understood to be structured like a language, and the significance of the introduction of structural linguistics into psychoanalysis.
  8. Examine how capitalism is not merely an economic system, but also a cultural system, the resilience of which can be understood through the ideological domination of its calculative reasoning.
  9. Examine how understanding is at the same time always interpretation, in the sense of perspective, orientation or horizon, and the role culture and tradition play in the development of such horizons of understanding.
  10. Examine how "grand" narratives have conferred legitimacy upon cultures, in contrast to the postmodern situation in which historical justification is seen as gratuitous given the plurality of discourses.
  11. Examine how the tracing of practices that lead to the emergence of a kind of knowledge represents a "genealogy," while such knowledge itself represents power in a society.
  12. Examine how presence is haunted by absence, how identity is haunted by difference, such that any philosophical foundationalism must unavoidably discard or marginalize its other in order to capture its object exactly and immediately.
Learning Outcomes

The general objective of the courses are:

  1. To familiarize students with some of the main philosophical issues prevalent in contemporary continental thought, such as the nature of consciousness, the place of truth and freedom in experience, the constitution of the self, the role of interpretation in language, and the relation between history and society;
  2. To develop an understanding of the main concepts and ideas in the writings of different representative philosophers and their place in 20th century thought;
  3. To develop a capacity for philosophical awareness and analysis in the context of one or more of the major movements within recent continental thought.

Specific learning outcomes:  by the end of the course, successful students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the main concepts and theories employed by the philosophies considered;
  2. Explain and analyze competing theories and, where appropriate, their relevant similarities and differences;
  3. Demonstrate an ability to employ aspects of philosophical analysis and reasoning, as well as critical thinking skills, in the context of interpreting original philosophical writings;
  4. Recognize and explain some of the basic philosophical problems that surround and inform the more specific concerns and projects of the philosophies considered.
Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based upon course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College Policy. 

The instructor will provide a written course outline with specific criteria for assessment during the first week of classes.

Any combination of the following totaling 100%:

Essays  30% – 80%
Tests  20% – 50%
Instructor's General Evaluation
(participation, improvement, quizzes, short assignments, etc.)
 10% – 20%




Textbook Materials

Sample texts (one or more of the following):

  • Cutrofello, Andrew, ed., Continental Philosophy: a Contemporary Introduction, (NY: Routledge, 2005).
  • Kearney, Richard, ed., Debates in Continental Philosophy, (NY: Fordham University, 2004).
  • D'Amico, Robert, ed., Contemporary Continental Philosophy, (Boulder: Westview Press, 1999).
  • Kearney, Richard and Mara Rainwater, eds.,  The Continental Philosophy Reader, (NY: Routledge, 1996).
  • Critchley, Simon  and William Schroeder, eds., A Companion to Continental Philosophy, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998).
  • Kearney, Richard, ed., Continental Philosophy in the Twentieth Century, (NY: Routledge, 1994).
  • May, Todd, ed., Twentieth Century Continental Philosophy, (NJ: Prentice Hall, 1997).


6 credits in Philosophy or with instructor's permission