Phenomenology and Foucault (PHIL-4330-01 [6790])                     Dr. Edgar Boedeker  

Fall 2013, Tues. & Thur., 12:30-1:45                        Lang 20


Office hours: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays: 12:45 to 1:45pm in my office, 145 Baker Hall.  I would also be happy to meet with you at another time, to be arranged in advance.  If you would like to schedule a meeting, just send me an e-mail at or give me a call at 273-7487.


Required texts (available at University Book & Supply):

- Martin Heidegger, History of the Concept of Time (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 1985; ISBN: 0-253-20717-7).

- Maurice Merleau-Ponty: Basic Writings, edited by Thomas Baldwin (Routledge, 2004; ISBN 0-415-31587-5)

- The Foucault Reader, edited by Paul Rabinow (New York: Pantheon, 1984; ISBN: 0-394-71340-0).

- Course packet of photocopied materials from Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger: soon available at Copyworks, at the corner of College and 23rd Streets.


Course description: What is a human being?  What is human freedom?  What is consciousness, and how is it related to the body?  What is power, and how does it shape who we are?  In order to shed light on these questions, our course will center around the philosophical movement known as phenomenology: the attempt to describe the basic structures of human experience.  We will begin by studying the thought of the founder of phenomenology, Edmund Husserl (1859-1938).  Unfortunately, Husserl had trouble explaining what phenomenology really was, and consequently spent an inordinate amount of time trying to in rather confusing ways.  We will thus read only some of his writings – specifically, his description of the experience of time.  Instead, we will focus our study of Husserl on Martin Heidegger’s (1889-1976) much clearer exposition and criticism of Husserl’s so-called “transcendental phenomenology.”  We will then move on to Heidegger’s description – in the first Division of his magnum opus, Being and Time (1927) – of how we deal practically with “equipment”, how we encounter other people, and how our own selves are involved in both of these “dimensions” of human experience.  We will supplement this study of Heidegger with readings from the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961), who showed the crucial role of the human body in all this – something that Heidegger doesn’t discuss.  We will then examine Michel Foucault’s (1926-1984) analyses of modern forms of power – as embodied in prisons, schools, psychoanalysis, and the social “sciences” – and how it constitutes us as modern subjects.  Although this is an unusual way of understanding Foucault, I hope to show that his analyses of power can be profitably understood through Merleau-Ponty’s notion of the body.  The course will conclude with a study of the most important sections of Division Two of Heidegger’s Being and Time, where he analyzes how in one way or another we are always relating ourselves to our own death, and how this shapes the temporality of human experience.


Course goals: This course will acquaint you with two of the most important movements in 20th-Century Continental European philosophy: phenomenology and the later thought of Michel Foucault.  In so doing, it will provide you with illuminating ways of thinking about human nature, consciousness, temporality, freedom, the body, modernity, and power.


Specific learning outcomes:

  1. You will gain an understanding of the goals, methods, and findings of phenomenology, i.e., the description of structures of human experience;
  2. You will become acquainted with the thought of four major 20th-Century philosophers:
  1. Edmund Husserl, founder of the phenomenological movement in philosophy
  2. Martin Heidegger, phenomenologist, founder of “existential phenomenology” (quite different from the “existentialism” that stemmed from it), especially his early thought (1919-1930);
  3. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who synthesized phenomenology with existentialism, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and neuroscience;


  1. Michel Foucault, leading “post-structuralist” philosopher, who described and analyzed modern forms of power.
  1. You will gain experience in reading and interpreting difficult philosophical texts.
  2. You will gain experience and guidance in writing philosophy.


Course format: Class meetings will consist of a mixture of lecture and discussion.  In order to benefit from both, it is essential that you do all of the reading for each class.  One of the most important things that this course will offer you is the opportunity to hone your interpretive, argumentative, and rhetorical skills by writing ten brief papers and two longer papers on the often difficult texts we will be reading. 


In addition to the required reading, we will also be watching two videos: Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989) in connection with Foucault’s distinction between “sovereign” and “panoptical” forms of power; and Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (1957) in connection with Heidegger’s view of self-ownership (“authenticity”).  We will show these outside of the class period (accompanied, budget permitting, by pizza), and arrange the viewing time to fit in with the schedules of as many of us as possible.  Viewing these videos is required for the class.



1. 40% of your final grade will come from a combination of “analytic response papers” from 1 to 2 pages in length on a study question or a topic of your choosing.  Frequently, the handouts will contain questions that, either individually or combined, can serve as the basis of the analytic response papers.  Each analytic response paper will be worth 4% of your final grade.  Analytic response papers will be graded on a check (full-credit), check-plus (1½ credit), or check-minus (half-credit) basis.  Due-dates are indicated on the syllabus below.  I will not accept any analytic response papers or worksheets after these dates.

The purpose of the analytic response papers and worksheets is to encourage you to do each reading assignment, and to come to class prepared to discuss them.  They may be turned within a week after we have discussed the topic in question.  I want to stress that these are not “reaction papers.”  In calling them “analytic”, I mean to stress that you should focus on one important topic or passage in a reading assignment, and interpret it as clearly and accurately as you can.  In doing so, you may apply it to your own experience.  Nevertheless, I want you to connect what you say with particular passages in the text.  This may, but need not, include a criticism of what the author says.

Many of the texts that students read in philosophy courses, and humanities courses in general, are translations from the original (Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, French, German, Italian, Danish, etc.).  Heidegger has rightly said that all translation is interpretation.  By this, he meant that translators have to make many decisions in translating texts – some of which can have fateful consequences as these translations are used and thought through by readers.  The text on which we will focus the most attention in this course is Heidegger’s 1927 Being and Time, which is perhaps the most important, but also the most difficult, philosophical texts of the past two centuries.  There are currently two published English translations of this work.  One is the pioneering work by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (Harper & Row, 1962), which is extremely careful and truly a remarkable achievement for its time.  Unfortunately, though, it makes a number of misleading renderings of Heidegger’s key technical expressions; it also has the reputation of being rather “clunky”, i.e., ponderous or cumbersome.  The other is a more recent one by Joan Stambaugh (State University of New York Press, 1996), which is somewhat more colloquial and readable.  Although it improves on some of the difficulties with the earlier translation, it still makes some unfortunate choices in translating; it is also less careful than the one by Macquarrie and Robinson.  In order to make Heidegger’s Being and Time more comprehensible to English-speaking readers, I have completed a new translation of the entire text, together with a translator’s introduction explaining my choice of terms; this translation also  includes numerous critical notes on the text.  This is the text that we’ll be using in this course.

2. Class participation: I expect that all students will participate actively and constructively in classroom discussions.  Asking questions and responding to what I or fellow students say are excellent ways for you to learn.  Doing so regularly will boost your final grade by up to two-thirds of a letter-grade, for example, from a B+ to an A.  On the other hand, if your presence in class contributes to a negative learning environment (for example, repeatedly coming to class late, treating fellow students with disrespect, obviously not paying attention, texting, whispering, etc.), this can reduce your final grade by one third of a letter grade per episode.

3. Attendance: I reserve the right to take attendance at the beginning of each class period.  You are permitted two unexplained absences during the semester.  For each unexplained absence beyond these two, your final grade will be reduced by one third of a letter grade.  For example, someone with a B+ average with 4 unexplained absences (i.e., 2 more than the 2 allowed) will receive a B- in the course.  The only explanations I will accept are a doctor’s note or a funeral announcement.

I realize that this is a fairly strict attendance policy.  I have instituted it mainly because much of the learning that you will do in this course will take place in class.  Asking questions, raising objections, and listening to others are important skills that you will get to practice in class discussions.  In addition, coming to class is necessary to doing well in this course. 

4. Two papers on an important aspect of one of the texts we read.  I will give you paper topics in advance. 

- The first paper, due in class on Tuesday, October 29, should be around 6-7 pages in length and will be worth 25% of your final grade.  Suggested topics for this paper are linked to this due-date on the syllabus.  I invite you to discuss your paper with me as you write it.

- The second paper, due by 3pm on Wednesday, December 18, in my mailbox in the Department of Philosophy and World Religions office (Baker 135), should be around 7-9 pages in length, and will be worth 35% of your final grade.  Again, suggested topics for this paper are linked to this due-date on the syllabus.  I invite you to discuss your paper with me as you write it.

I strongly encourage you to co-write one or both of your papers with one other member of the class.  Co-writing is an increasingly important skill in such fields as business, science, academia, law, etc.  Since I will hold a co-written paper to exactly the same standards as a single-authored paper, it is definitely to your advantage to co-write a paper.  After all, two heads are better than one!  If you co-write a paper, however, please make sure that you and your co-author both check it for consistency in style, verb tense, coherence, etc. 


Criteria for writing and evaluating a paper:

I. Thesis (20 points). 

A. Does your essay have a clear, informative, and compelling thesis that appears at the end of an interesting introduction that explains why your thesis matters, why it is important?

B. Is your thesis new, an original, creative and compelling insight into the text and issue under consideration?  Do you set the historical and cultural context for this thesis, explaining why this thesis is important and therefore giving the reader a reason to take interest in your essay?

II. Support of thesis (60 points).

A. Thesis defense. Does your essay have a consecutive argument that defends your thesis, carefully moving the reader from one point to the next (or does it simply run in place)?  Your aim is not to prove to the reader that your thesis is iron-clad, but to show that it is reasonable, that what you see in the text is there to be seen.  So do you cite and quote evidence from the text (a good rule of thumb is to use at least three examples), and do you explain how that evidence supports your thesis?  Do you lead the reader through your argument, one step at a time, explicitly telling me how that step supports your thesis?

Remember that the reasons you give for or against an argument should be more than simply your beliefs or opinions.  Rather, they should be potentially convincing to someone else, even if this person may not initially share your beliefs or opinions.  After all, are you convinced that something is true just because someone else happens to believe it?  Thus in trying to bring your reader over to your side, make sure to meet him or her in the middle by appealing to reasons that they might accept.

B. Evidence and reasoning. Does your essay have adequate citation and quotations from relevant texts that support the argument of the paper, and do you explain how those citations and quotations in fact support the argument?

C. Consistency. Does your essay demonstrate internal consistency or ways of handling contradiction and paradox as they emerge in the argument?

D. Addressing an objection. Does your essay show an awareness of a possible objection to your thesis?  Does your essay address this objection?

III. Style and presentation (20 points).

A. Does your essay

1.   avoid grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors?  (This is very important,  since the reader can’t help but take these factors as indicating the author’s care in writing the paper.)

2.   have clear and well-structured sentences, paragraphs, and arguments?

3.   have properly defined key terms?

4.   have properly documented quotes?  Page numbers in parentheses placed after the quote are sufficient if you are dealing with just one text.

B. Succinctness. Is every paragraph, sentence, and even every word absolutely necessary to your argument (or do you have irrelevant material and rambling discussion)?


Notes on the papers:

One thing that a philosophy paper should not be is a “book report”, i.e., an attempt to summarize an entire philosophical text.  Instead, a good philosophy paper should give a close analysis of a single key argument in a text.  An “argument” in this sense isn’t a verbal fight (this isn’t the Jerry Springer Show, after all!).  Rather, an argument is a chain of reasoning from certain statements (called the “premises”) to another statement (called the “conclusion”) that the argument claims is supported by the premises. 

A good philosophy paper contains both an analysis of such an argument and some criticism of it.  A good criticism generally consists of either (1) reasons why one or more of the premises of the argument is false, or (2) reasons why the premises in fact do not support the conclusion (in which case the conclusion still might be false even if the premises were true).  You may or may not agree with the argument; and you may or may not agree with your criticism of it.  This doesn’t matter for the purposes of this course.  Remember that the reasons you give for or against an argument should be more than simply your beliefs or opinions.  Rather, they should be potentially convincing to someone else, even if this person may not initially share your beliefs or opinions.  After all, are you convinced that something is true just because someone else happens to believe it?  So don’t just state whether or not you agree with the author’s conclusion.  Instead, try to give reasons for or against the author’s argument for this conclusion.

In my experience, the most common way for paper grades to suffer is due to a lack of documentation in the texts.  You should use direct citations sparingly – generally only if the exact wording of the passage is either directly relevant to the argument you’re making, or particularly clear and concise.  (Short direct citations should be placed in quotation-marks; direct citations over 3 lines long should be offset, indented, single-spaced, and without quotation-marks.)  In other cases, use indirect citation – paraphrasing in your own words what the author says, and telling the reader where s/he says it.

Further note: Each semester, I teach almost 100 students.  Although I give each as much individual time and attention as I possibly can during the semester, I will not be able to send you your individual grade for the course at the end of the semester.  I submit the grades to the Registrar as soon as I can during the week of final exams, and ask you to kindly wait to see your grade until it has been reported electronically.


Website: The great majority of our course materials will be placed on our website:  These materials will include our syllabus (i.e., this document), worksheets for you to fill out on the readings and films, handouts outlining lectures, materials for use in in-class group projects, and suggested paper topics.  Please check the website frequently for updates. 


MAILSERV: From time to time, I will send announcements pertaining to the class via e-mail.  To facilitate our electronic communication, a MAILSERV distribution list has been created for this class using your UNI e-mail addresses.  The list members include myself and is supposed to be constantly updated to include just those students who are registered for the class at a given time.  Unfortunately, the Powers that Be in charge of this now allow only me, and not students, to send to the list.

It will be your responsibility to check your e-mail regularly, read the announcements, and print out all attachments.  I strongly recommend that you purchase a 3-ring binder to organize and store the various handouts for this class.

Cheating and plagiarism (from UNI’s academic ethics policy): “Students at UNI are required to observe the commonly accepted standards of academic honesty and integrity. Except in those instances in which group work is specifically authorized by the instructor of the class, no work which is not solely the student's is to be submitted to a professor in the form of an examination paper, a term paper, class project, research project, or thesis project.

“Cheating of any kind on examinations and/or plagiarism of papers or projects is strictly prohibited. Also unacceptable are the purchase of papers from commercial sources, using a single paper to meet the requirement of more than one class (except in instances authorized and considered appropriate by the professors of the two classes), and submission of a term paper or project completed by any individual other than the student submitting the work. Students are cautioned that plagiarism is defined as the process of stealing or passing off as one's own the ideas or words of another, or presenting as one's own an idea or product which is derived from an existing source.

“It is not acceptable for the work or ideas of another scholar to be presented as a student's own or to be utilized in a paper or project without proper citation. To avoid any appearance of plagiarism or accidental plagiarism, it is important that all students become fully cognizant of the citation procedures utilized in their own discipline and in the classes they take. The plea of ignorance regarding citation procedures or of carelessness in citation is not a compelling defense against allegations of plagiarism. A college student, by the fact that he or she holds that status, is expected to understand the distinction between proper scholarly use of others’ work and plagiarism.”

Any student who is found to have cheated or plagiarized will receive the grade of “F” for the class.  In addition, if you are found to have copied anything from an Internet website without proper documentation, or to have engaged in other particularly flagrant forms of cheating or plagiarism, the instructor reserves the right to “recommend suspension from UNI for a period ranging from the term in which the infraction occurs (with a loss of all credit earned during that term) to permanent suspension from the University.”  The instructor will also report this “action in writing to the instructor’s department head (and, if the student is from a different department, to the head of the student’s department), and to the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs. The Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs will notify the student in writing that such action has been taken, and will maintain a file for each student so disciplined.”


Disabilities: I will make every reasonable effort to accommodate disabilities.  Please contact me if I can be of assistance in this area.  All qualified students with disabilities are protected under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.A., Section 12101.  The ADA states that “no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.”  Students who desire or need instructional accommodations or assistance because of their disability should contact the Office of Disability Services located in 213 Student Services Center (273-2676 Voice, or 273-3011 TTY).


Tentative course schedule:

I. Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology (1900-1925/38)

27 Aug.: Introduction.  Background to phenomenology: Psychologism, Naturalism, and neo-Kantianism.  Read, prior to this first class meeting, Heidegger, History of the Concept of Time (1925), pp. 3-7, 13-26

29 Aug.: Heidegger, History of the Concept of Time, pp. 29-32 and 36-47 Worksheet1; Handout1 Merleau-Ponty reading on psychology, the body, and lower and higher forms of behavior: from The Structure of Behavior (1942), pp. 43-49.

3 Sept.: Intentionality: empty and fulfilled intentions, and “truth” as “e-vidence”: HCT, pp. 47-72 Worksheet1 Worksheet2; Handout1 Handout2 M.-P. reading on the evidence of perception: from Phenomenology of Perception (hereafter “P.P.”; 1945), pp. 191-197.

5 Sept: Perception, synthesis, and ideation; and phenomenology as the analytic description of intentionality in its a priori: HCT, pp. 72-94 Worksheet Handout.  M.-P. reading on the subject of perception and perceptual synthesis: from P.P., pp. 126-135.

10 Sept.: Internal time as impression, flow, and retention: read Husserl, Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1905), pp. 3-36 Worksheet.  By this point, you must have submitted at least one analytic response paper.

12 Sept.: The constitution of the transcendent objects of external time on the basis of the immanent objects of internal time: Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time, pp. 37-43, 47-49, 51-52, 57-59, 66-73, 95-101 (in course packet) Worksheet.  M.-P. reading on the body’s role in supplying the meaning in terms of which things serve as norms for perception: from P.P., pp. 79-84, 135-145.

17 Sept.: Husserl’s method for transcendental phenomenology: HCT, pp. 94-107; and selections from Husserl’s Logical Investigations (1901; in course packet) and The Idea of Phenomenology (1907; in course packet) Worksheet Handout.  M.-P. reading on phenomenological method: from P.P., pp. 62-78. M.-P. Handout.

19 Sept.: Husserl’s neglect of the question of the being of the intentional entity: HCT, pp. 108-131 Worksheet.  M.-P. reading on thinking (the “cogito”) as infinite or finite: from P.P., pp. 166-173.  By this point, you must have submitted at least two analytic response papers.


II. Heidegger’s phenomenological ontology (1920-1930)

24 Sept.: Heidegger’s critique of Descartes’ view of the relation between mind and world, or subject and object.  (Note that this is also a major, but implicit, criticism of Husserl’s view of the same thing): BT Sections 19-21.

26 Sept.: The question of being: HCT, pp. 135-144; and Being and Time (1927), Sections 1-5  (Important) explanation of translations of terms, Worksheet, Handout.

1 Oct.: Heidegger’s phenomenological method and the project of Being and Time: BT Sections 6-9 and the selection from Basic Problems of Phenomenology (1927; in course packet) Worksheet Handout.  By this point, you must have submitted the equivalent of at least three analytic response papers.

3 Oct.: Dasein’s encounters of “handy” intraworldly entities: BT Sections 10-14.  M.-P. reading on the behavioral environment as not represented by a thinking subject: from The Structure of Behavior, pp. 49-52, 57-61 Handout. 

8 Oct.: Dasein as being-in-the-world: BT Sections 15-18.  M.-P. on the lived body: from P.P., pp. 85-101 Handout.  By this point, you must have submitted the equivalent of at least four analytic response papers.

10 Oct.: Dasein’s spatiality: BT Sections 22-24; and selections from “The Origin of the Work of Art” (to be handed out in class).  Very important M.-P. reading on “concrete” and “abstract” movement: from P.P., pp. 101-125 Handout Handout2.

15 Oct.: Being-with-others: BT Sections 25-27; M.P. on our relations with other human beings: from The Structure of Behavior, pp. 52-57; from P.P., pp 145-165, 171-173; optional but highly recommended: from “The Intertwining – the Chiasm” (1959), pp. 247-271.

17 Oct.: Being-in: pre-disposition, understanding, interpretation, language, BT Sections 28-33.  M.-P. reading on intentionality as affective and projecting: from P.P., pp. 173-182 (optional: “The algorithm and the mystery of language” from The Prose of the World [1952], pp. 234-246) Handout. By this point, you must have submitted the equivalent of at least five analytic response papers.

22 Oct.: Dis-course, con-course, declining, care, and anxiety: BT Sections 34-41.  M.-P. reading on encountering things as scientific objects, and language: from P.P., pp. 182-191, 200-209 Handout. 

24 Oct: Reality and truth: BT Sections 43 and 44.  M.-P. reading against a skeptical solipsism of the thinking cogito: from P.P., pp. 166-170, 173-175, 198-199 Handout.  By this point, you must have submitted the equivalent of at least six analytic response papers.

III. Foucault’s analyses of modern power

and the “constitution” of the modern subject (1971-1983)

29 Oct.: “The Body of the Condemned,” “Docile Bodies,” and “The Means of Correct Training  from Discipline and Punish (1975; The Foucault Reader, pp. 170-206); and the equivalent of Handout.  First paper due

31 Oct.: “Panopticism,” “Complete and Austere Institutions”, “Illegalities and Delinquency”, and “The Carceral” from Discipline and Punish (1975; FR, pp. 207-238); and “The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century” (1976; FR, pp. 273-289) Handout.

5 Nov.: “Space, Knowledge, and Power” (1982; FR, pp. 239-256); and “Truth and Power” (1976/7; FR pp. 51-75) Handout.  By this point, you must have submitted the equivalent of at least seven analytic response papers.

7 Nov.: “Nietzsche, Genealogy, History” (1971; FR, pp. 76-100) Handout.

12 Nov.: “Right of Death and Power over Life”, “We ‘Other Victorians’” from History of Sexuality, Volume I: The Will to Truth (1976; FR, pp. 258-272) Handout.

14 Nov.: and “The Repressive Hypothesis: The Incitement to Discourse” and “The Repressive Hypothesis: The Perverse Implantation” from History of Sexuality, Volume I: The Will to Truth (FR, pp. 292-329) Handout.  By this point, you must have submitted the equivalent of at least eight analytic response papers.


IV. Death, self-ownership (“authenticity”), freedom, and temporality (1924-1945)

19 Nov.: Being-to-death: BT Sections 45-52 Handout.

21 Nov.: Existential “conscience” and “owing” (or “guilt”): BT Sections 53-57 Handout.

3 Dec.: Self-ownership (or “authenticity”) as responding to the call of conscience by owning up to one’s ec-sistential owing: BT Sections 58, 60, and 62 Handout.  By this point, you must have submitted the equivalent of at least nine analytic response papers.

5 Dec.: Self-owning (or “authentic”) temporality as Dasein’s freedom for its own possibilities: Selections from On the Essence of Reasons (1928; really “From the Presencing of the Ground”; in course packet); and BT 65 Handout.  Worksheet on Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal.”

10 Dec.: Dasein’s temporality and co-missiveness (or historicity): BT Sections 68a, 69c, 74.  M.P. on freedom: from P.P., pp. 209-233 Handout.

12 Dec.: Intratimeliness and its foundation in Dasein’s temporality: BT Sections 79-81 Handout.

By this point, you must have submitted the equivalent of all ten analytic response papers.

Wednesday, 18 Dec.: Final paper due by 4pm in my mailbox in the Department of Philosophy & World Religions office, 135 Baker Hall.