Page last updated 7/27/12

45.323.201  Philosophy Classics: Nietzsche (3 credits)

Fall Semester 2012

T TH 2:00pm-3:15pm

Class Location: Dugan Hall 209 - SC

Professor Eric S. Nelson                                                              Email: Eric_Nelson at

Office: Dugan Hall 200F                                                              Telephone: 978-934-3996

Fall Office Hours: T 12:00-1:45pm, 5:00-6:00pm, TH 12:00-1:45pm, and by appointment


Course Description

This course will involve the close exploration of key writings by Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most provocative and controversial philosophers of the Nineteenth-Century. Offering an introduction to his early, middle, and later philosophy, this course provides an opportunity to examine Nietzsche's thought through the figures of Dionysus, Apollo, Socrates, Zarathustra, and Christ as well as central concepts such as the Dionysian and Apollonian, history and forgetting, the last man, overman, eternal recurrence, the death of God, master and slave morality, perspective and perspectivalism, genealogy, and will to power. We will explore the development and significance of his thought from his early works concerning tragedy and history to his later works critiquing morality and religion as intrinsically nihilistic and arguing for a "reevaluation of values" that emphasizes the inherent significance of this earthly life, moment, and world. We will consider issues of art and culture, ethics and politics, knowledge and self-knowledge, biography and autobiography, biology and nature, myth and religion as well as controversial issues such as the role of power, race, gender, and class in Nietzsche's works. We will focus on the question of the self and self-formation in Nietzsche and consider whether Nietzsche is who many think he is.

Course Goals and Objectives

1. The goals of this course are to promote:

(a) Familiarity with Nietzsche's positions and arguments, and

(b) Critical reasoning and reflection through engaging Nietzsche's works.

2. The objectives of this course are for students to develop their ability and skills in:

(a) Interpreting texts by accurately and fully describing concepts and arguments

(b) Reasoning about ideas by (i) evaluating the content, structure, and strategies of philosophical works and (ii) applying concepts and arguments to contemporary issues and their own lives, and

(c) Collaborating with other students, and presenting and supporting their ideas in public through class participation.


1. Attendance and active participation: 25% of final grade.

Note that missing classes and not participating in class and group discussions will result in a lower final grade; attending and participating in classes will improve your final grade. There will be oral and written, individual and group, in-class assignments and take-home assignments based on the readings and class-discussion.

2. Three Exams: 75% of final grade.

Grading will be based on (1) knowing the texts and our class discussions and (2) being able to make your own arguments and interpretations.

Course Requirements

Students are required to:

1. Complete all assigned readings                  2. Maintain regular attendance

3. Participate in class discussion                    4. Complete all written assignments on-time

Instructional Rationale

Assignments are intended to familiarize you with the readings, encourage you to develop your skills in reasoning, and reflect on philosophical issues in different cultural and historical contexts and from a variety of perspectives. It is better to do this directly than use unreliable sources on the internet. For example, you can look at sites such as wikipedia to gain an initial impression of the average public understanding of a topic or figure but your own thinking and writing should be more critical, engaged, rigorous, and it should be your own on the basis of the text and the class lectures and discussions.

We will read and discuss two inexpensive Required Texts (available at South Campus Book Store):

1. BWN: Basic Writings of Nietzsche (Modern Library, 2000)  ISBN-10: 0679783393

2. PN: The Portable Nietzsche (Penguin, 1977)  ISBN-10: 0140150625

Tentative Course Schedule



Reading Assignment (for that day)

1. Sept. 6, TH

Introduction to the Class, Nietzsche, and The Birth of Tragedy

I. Tragedy and the Artistic Affirmation of Life

2. Sept. 11, T

The Birth of Tragedy

Read BWN pages 17-27, 31-40

3. Sept. 13, TH

The Birth of Tragedy

Read BWN pages 41-60

4. Sept. 18, T

The Birth of Tragedy

Read BWN pages 61-87

5. Sept. 20, TH

The Birth of Tragedy

Read BWN pages 87-116

6. Sept. 25, T

The Birth of Tragedy

Read BWN pages 116-144

7. Sept. 27, TH
The Birth of Tragedy, and Take-Home Exam 1
Read BWN pages 124-144

II. Zarathustra beyond Good and Evil ?

8. Oct. 2, T

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, First Part

Read PN pages 121-142

9. Oct. 4, TH

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, First Part

Read PN pages 142-166

10. Oct. 9, T

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, First Part

Read PN pages 167-191

11. Oct. 11, TH

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Second Part

Read PN pages 195-228

12. Oct. 16, T

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Second Part

Read PN pages 228-259

13. Oct. 18, TH

Thus Spoke Zarathustra , Second and Third Parts

Read PN pages 264-294

14. Oct. 23 and 25: No Classes

15. Oct. 30, T

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Third Part

Read PN pages 295-343

16. Nov. 1, TH

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Third and Fourth Parts

Read PN pages 352-398

17. Nov. 6, T

Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Fourth Part, and Take-Home Exam 2

Read PN pages 398-439

III. Genealogies of Morality and Christianity

18. Nov. 8, TH

On the Genealogy of Morals

Read BWN pages 451-475

19. Nov. 13, T

On the Genealogy of Morals

Read BWN pages 475-499

20. Nov. 15, TH

On the Genealogy of Morals

Read BWN pages 500-532

21. Nov. 20, T

On the Genealogy of Morals

Read BWN pages 532-561

22. Nov. 22, TH: Thanksgiving, no class

23. Nov. 27, T

The Antichrist

Read PN pages 568-599

24. Nov. 29, TH

The Antichrist

Read PN pages 599-627

25. Dec. 4, T

The Antichrist, and Take-Home Final

Read PN pages 627-656