About the Course

Existentialism: On Being Human

  • Grades 7-11
  • Advanced CTY-Level

When attempting to define existentialism, French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “A simple formula would be to say that life taught me la force des choses—the power of circumstances.” This course presents questions such as: In what ways do people affect the world around them? Is there a universal set of rules or values one should follow? By examining these issues, you’ll gain a solid introduction to the study of existentialist philosophy as a way of understanding broader philosophical themes. This course will begin with an overview of Western philosophy, examining foundational thinkers like Plato and Descartes, and move on to precursors of existentialism, exploring the writings of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche. With this foundation, you’ll turn to the works of writers such as Martin Heidegger, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Franz Kafka. You’ll critique primary philosophical works, participate in discussions and debates, and write analytical essays, developing your critical thinking skills as you and your classmates explore existentialist thought and its effects on broader issues in philosophy.

Typical Class Size: 16

Testing and Prerequisites

  Math Verbal
Required Level Not required Advanced CTY-Level
Check your eligibility using existing test scores If you do not have existing test scores:

Students must achieve qualifying scores on an advanced assessment to be eligible for CTY programs. If you don’t have qualifying scores, you have several different testing options. We’ll help you find the right option for your situation.

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Cost and Financial Aid

  • Tuition
    • Varies
  • Application fee
    • Nonrefundable Application Fee - $50 (Waived for financial aid applicants)
    • Nonrefundable International Fee - $250 (outside US only)

Financial Aid is available

We are committed to serving all talented youth regardless of financial circumstances. Financial assistance is available based on need.

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Course Materials

Students should bring basic school supplies like pens, notebooks, and folders to their summer program. You will be notified of any additional items needed before the course begins. All other materials will be provided by CTY.

Sample Reading

These titles have been featured in past sessions of the course, and may be included this summer. CTY provides students with all texts; no purchase is required.

  • Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, Walter Kaufmann
  • The Stranger, Albert Camus

About History and Social Science at CTY

Enhance your critical thinking skills

Expand your ability to reason through difficult problems by taking one of our philosophy or logic classes. Learn how to craft strong and clear arguments in Big Questions, write proofs that avoid fallacious reasoning in Introduction to Logic, or explore the techniques of logic that lawyers, doctors, and mathematicians utilize to be successful in their fields in Logic: Principles of Reasoning.

Explore social justice in action

Develop knowledge and skills that will help you address issues of systemic inequality throughout the world. Challenge historical assumptions about gender to interrogate harmful stereotypes in Beyond the Binary.

Meet our instructors and staff