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Nietzschean and Post-Nietzschean Aesthetics


Admission requirements

  • This course is open to MA students in Philosophy. Admission to the specialisation History and Philosophy of the Sciences and/or Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Culture is required.

Comprehension of German is a big advantage, as is some familiarity with Nietzsche’s works.


This course aims to examine the fate of ‘the aesthetic’ in Nietzsche’s thought and a number of post-Nietzschean thinkers. The chief question concerns the relation between theory and art, and especially the provocative and enigmatic claim in The Birth of Tragedy that art is the ‘necessary correlative and supplement of theory’. Does this situate art outside thought in a gesture that rejects reason in favour of its irrational other (Habermas), or does it name a more complex, internal relation in which art, in its very otherness, makes good the failures of reason?

The nature and functions of Nietzsche’s concept of art are traced from the early writings through to the late Nachlass with special attention to the concepts: taste, genius, aesthetic ‘Schein’, the reception and judgement of art, poiesis, drama and the figure of the actor, the classical, metaphor, style, culture, and the relation of art to truth and illusion. The transition to post-Nietzschean thought, begins with a critical reading of Heidegger’s lecture-series Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst and pursues some of the issues from Heidegger’s course and Nietzsche’s writings to post-Nietzschean thinkers such as Derrida (on style, woman and the overcoming of metaphysics); Foucault, Bataille and Blanchot (on transgression); Sarah Kofman (on metaphor); Blondel (on the body and culture); Blanchot, Deleuze and Greiner (on aphoristic or ‘fragmentary’ writing).

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course should:

  • have an understanding of the place and functions of art and the aesthetic across Nietzsche’s work, and in particular: Nietzsche’s shifting positions on the relation of art to theoretical discourse (or knowledge) on one side and to life on the other;

  • have a basic understanding of the chronological development of Nietzsche’s thought from Die Geburt derTragödie to the late Nachlass, and the chief characteristics of the three main periods;

  • have a detailed understanding of a number of key concepts from Nietzsche’s aesthetics, including: taste, the tragic, genius, culture, Rausch, Schein, the classical vs. the romantic, metaphor, (great) style, culture, décadence and the physiology of art;

  • have an understanding of the systematic relations between Nietzsche’s aesthetics and a number of key thinkers from the tradition, especially: Plato, Schopenhauer and (to a lesser extent) Kant and Hegel;

  • have an understanding of the impact of Nietzsche’s aesthetics on a number of post-Nietzschean thinkers, including: Habermas (The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity), Heidegger (Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst), Derrida, Sarah Kofman, Deleuze, Blanchot, Eric Blondel, Foucault and Bataille. Key themes to be covered include: the divide between French and German appropriations of Nietzsche’s thought; art and the ‘dialectic of Enlightenment’; art as a ‘counter-movement’ to Nihilism; the overcoming of metaphysics and the question of transgression; the concept of art as a ‘supplement’ of theory and the levelling of the genre distinction between philosophy and literature; the question of style and woman in Nietzsche’s writing; aphoristic or fragmentary writing; Nietzsche’s concept of metaphor and his metaphorical practice.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • read any primary Nietzsche text in the original (with or without a translation at hand) in such a way that they can interpret, reconstruct and evaluate the claims and arguments therein in a defensible manner;

  • read papers / excerpts from the research literature on Nietzsche (in English, German or Dutch) and from post-Nietzschean literature in such a way that they can extract the main points and arguments, answer structured questions (in writing), and make a summarising oral presentation and evaluation in class;

  • write and present a detailed, critical summary of one section from Heidegger’s lecture-series ‘Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst’ in class;

  • write a 7,000-8,000 word paper on a topic of the student’s choice that is relevant to the course material, with attention given to: the development of a clear plan combining a sustained, overall argument with shorter arguments for specific points; clarity of style; soundness and transparency of argumentation; adequate textual evidence and referencing in support of points, including close commentaries on selected Nietzschean (and post-Nietzschean) texts; techniques for further research on specific topics in the paper; formal features and presentation (bibliography, references, notes); written academic English (optional).


See Timetables MA Philosophy 2015-2016

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required .

Course Load

Total course load (10 EC x 28 hrs): 280 hours

  • Attending lectures and seminars: 14 × 3 = 42 hours

  • Preparation for lectures: 14 × 3 = 42 hours

  • Preparation of assignments: 14 × 2 = 28 hours

  • Preparation for oral presentation: 12 hours

  • Preparation (research / reading) for paper: 60 hours

  • Detailed plan for paper (incl. revisions in response to comments): 20 hours

  • Writing of paper: 76 hours

Assessment method

  • Participation I: preparation of regular assignments for the seminar (10%)

  • Participation II: oral presentation of text from secondary literature in seminar, oral presentation of section from Heidegger’s Wille zur Macht als Kunst (10%)

  • Paper (7,000-8,000 words) on a topic of the student’s choice, on the basis of an approved detailed plan (80%).


One resit will be offered, covering the entire course content and consisting of a paper. The grade will replace previously earned grades for subtests. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first
examination(s) cannot take the resit.
Class participation and practical assignments are mandatory requirements for taking the test and resit.


Blackboard Weekly use for announcements, assignments, course documents (lecture notes, primary texts etc.) and course information.

Reading list

  • Various texts from the ‘Kritische Studienausgabe’ (DTV/de Gruyter, 1980ff.) of Nietzsche’s writings

  • Heidegger’s ‘Der Wille zur Macht als Kunst’

  • A selection of secondary material to be discussed in the seminars


Please register for this course via Study administration system uSis
See also Registration for lectures and tests

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact information

Dr. H.W. Siemens