Summer Institute 2020

In the summer of 2012, Douglas College began a project entitled the Summer Institute for Continental Philosophy. The institute takes the form of a third-year Philosophy course, PHIL 3380, attended by members of the Philosophy Department and other scholars, and includes a lecture by a visiting guest speaker. Students from all institutions are invited to attend.


Summer 2020

This summer semester 2020, PHIL 3380 is entitled Literatures of Commitment: Writings of Jean-Paul Sartre. The course will study several of Sartre's works, including a novel, a play, essays, as well as selected readings from his major philosophical treatises. The writings studied will be drawn from all three periods of Sartre's philosophical career: his earlier phenomenological work, his existential thought, and his development of socio-political ideas grounded in a theory of history.

Enrollment Requirements

PHIL 3380: Continental Philosophy is open to all post-secondary students with 9 credits in Philosophy (or suitable equivalents) and transfers for third-year credit to universities across British Columbia, including UBC and SFU.

Students currently enrolled in a BC post-secondary institution do NOT need to apply for admission to Douglas College in order to take this course. Students may apply to enrol into PHIL 3380 by completing and submitting the enrolment form and accompanying documents to Don Reimer, Associate Registrar as per the instructions on the form. All applications will be reviewed by Dr. Robert Nicholls. Contact Dr. Nicholls with any questions.

Douglas students who have met the prerequisites can enrol directly.

Course Timeline

The course runs from May 7 - July 30, 2020 at the New Westminster Campus. See the Course Outline below.

Each summer, the institute invites a scholar with a background in a specific area of Continental Philosophy to give a public lecture followed by informal discussion. The course will be held once per week for approximately three hours Thursday evenings, and the guest lecture will constitute one of the course classes.


Visiting Speaker

This year we are very pleased to announce that Douglas College will host the 26th meeting of the North American Sartre Society, June 18th – 20th, 2020. The conference is open to the public. The North American Sartre Society regularly draws eighty to one hundred scholars to discuss, debate, and assess the legacy and continued relevance of the work of Jean-Paul Sartre and existentialism. In recognition of Sartre’s contributions to literature, theatre, and political theory, the theme for the upcoming conference is "Literatures of Commitment." The conference features scholarship, in English and French, on existentialism from scholars from across North America and Europe. In addition, three special events have been arranged by Summer Institute co-director and local conference organizer, Devin Zane Shaw.

First, in conjunction with the Summer Institute, the conference will feature a keynote address on June 19th, delivered by Glen Sean Coulthard (Yellowknives Dene), associate professor in First Nations and Indigenous Studies and the Department of Political Science at UBC, and author of Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (2014).

Second, the conference will feature a book series launch for the series Living Existentialism, co-edited by Shaw, Dr. LaRose T. Parris, associate professor of Africana Studies at Lehman College, City University of New York and Dr. T Storm Heter, associate professor of modern languages, philosophy, and religion at East Stroudsburg University, and published by Rowman and Littlefield International. This series publishes titles that present existentialism as a living, practical philosophy, engaged in contemporary events and responsive to other currents of philosophy across the globe. The first volume in the series, by Devin Shaw, A Philosophy of Antifascism: Punching Nazis and Fighting White Supremacy, will be available in April 2020.

Finally, this meeting of the North American Sartre Society will include a panel dedicated to undergraduate presentations on existentialism and existentialist themes related to literatures of commitment.

Date & Location

Professor Glen Coulthard's talk will be held Friday June 19th, at 6:30 PM in the Muir Theatre for the Performing Arts. This is a public lecture: everyone is welcome.


Douglas College Institute Directors

The Summer Institute for Continental Philosophy is directed by four Douglas College faculty, philosophers who have specialized in this area of Philosophy:

Dr. Robert Nicholls completed his PhD at the University of Waterloo in 1988 with a dissertation entitled Sense and Existence: Heidegger 1925-29. Dr. Nicholls has published essays on Nietzsche, Husserl and Heidegger, as well as in the areas of literary theory, philosophy of education and Eastern philosophy.

Dr. John Bruin received his PhD from Guelph/McMaster with a dissertation on Husserl which was subsequently published by the University of Ottawa Press in 2001 under the title Homo Interrogans. Dr. Bruin has also published articles on Heidegger.

Dr. Devin Zane Shaw completed his PhD at the University of Ottawa. He is the author of two books, Egalitarian Moments: From Descartes to Rancière (Bloomsbury, 2016) and Freedom and Nature in Schelling's Philosophy of Art (Bloomsbury, 2010). He has also published articles in the area of political philosophy. 

Dr. Mano Daniel (retired) completed his doctorate at the University of Waterloo with a dissertation on the work of Hannah Arendt. He co-edited the book Phenomenology of the Cultural Disciplines, and  has written papers in the areas of  environmental sustainability; philosophy of biography; philosophy and public policy; and the nature of apology.


Course Outline

PHIL 3380

Continental Philosophy: Literatures of Commitment: Writings of Jean-Paul Sartre


9 prior credits in Philosophy or permission of the instructor


Sartre, The Transcendence of the Ego, trans F. Williams and R. Kirkpatrick, (NY: Noonday, 1957).

Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions, trans. P. Mairet, (NY: Routledge, 1994).

The Imaginary, trans J. Webber, (NY: Routledge, 2010).

Being and Nothingness, trans. H. Barnes, (NY: Washington Square Press, 1965).

Nausea, trans. L. Alexander, (NY: New Directions, 1964). 

The Devil and the Good Lord, trans. K. Black, (Coursepack reprint).

Search for a Method, trans. H. Barnes (NY: Random House, 1963).


This summer the course will focus on selected writings of the pre-eminent philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. We will begin by reading two earlier texts that reveal the influence of Husserlian phenomenology on Sartre's thinking. In order to begin the transition into his genuinely existential philosophy, we will next consider Sartre's  novel, Nausea. That text, along with his work, The Imaginary, provide valuable introductions to his first major study, Being and Nothingness. We cannot read all of that remarkable opus, but we will consider three chapters, each focussed on a salient theme. To initiate the transition into what might be called the third direction of Sartre's thought, his concern to develop a socio-political philosophy based on a theory of history, we will read his play, The Devil and the Good Lord, as well as essays that emphasize key themes found later in his critique. The course will finish by reading Search for a Method, the text that, although published as an introduction, purportedly contains some of the conclusions to be drawn from Sartre's second major philosophical treatise, Critique of Dialectical Reason. This course represents the ninth Summer Institute for Continental Philosophy at Douglas College. The course is simultaneously a research institute as well as a third year undergraduate course in Philosophy that transfers for upper level credit to UBC, SFU and all other universities throughout the province. The course is intended primarily for Philosophy majors and minors, or for those otherwise appropriately prepared to undertake the work. In addition to comprising a welcomed component, the course includes a public lecture by an invited scholar, which will be open to the community at large, followed by a reception. 

  1. two essays, both worth 40% of the final grade. Essays must employ accepted scholastic format and must each be minimally 3,500 words in length (approximately 7 - 8 pages);
  2. term mark: the term mark is comprised of an oral exam. There are no pre-set questions. The exam will focus upon material covered in students' essays. The term mark is worth 20% of the final grade.

There is no final exam.


Tentative Syllabus

May 9
Introduction May 14 The Transcendence of the Ego
May 21
Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions
May 28
June 4
The Imaginary (Parts 3 and 4)
June 11
Being and Nothingness, Part One, Chapter One: The Origin of Negation
June 19*
Conference Keynote Speaker: Professor Glen Sean Coulthard, Political Science, UBC
June 25
Being and Nothingness, Part Three, Chapter Two: The Body
July 2
Being and Nothingness, Part Four, Chapter One: Being and Doing: Freedom
July 9
The Devil and the Good Lord
July 16
(Selected) Essays: "Cartesian Freedom," "Materialism and Revolution," "Kierkegaard: the Singular Universal," "Existentialism is a Humanism"
July 23
Search for a Method
July 30
Search for a Method
*Friday June 19
(no class June 18)


Past Summer Institutes


Interpreting Nietzsche
Guest Speaker: Robert B. Pippin, Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago.
Existentialism and Psychology
Guest Speaker: Andrew Feldmar, Practising Existential Psychotherapist, Vancouver, BC
After Heidegger: a Survey of Continental Philosophy
Guest Speaker: Professor Alan Schrift, F. Wendell Miller Professor of Philosophy at Grinnell College, Iowa
Heidegger's Nietzsche Volumes
Guest Speaker: Professor Patricia Glazebrook, Director of the School of Politics, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Washington State University.
Heidegger's Essays: Basic Writings
Guest Speaker: Professor Raj Singh, Philosophy, Brock University
Marcuse: One-Dimensional Man
Guest Speaker: Professor Andrew Feenberg, Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Technology, School of Communication, Simon Fraser University
Heidegger's Being and Time
Guest Speaker: Professor Jeff Mitscherling, Philosophy, University of Guelph
Sartre's Being and Nothingness
Guest Speaker: Professor Bruce Baugh, Philosophy, Thompson Rivers University