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Nietzsche's Aesthetics


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Philosophy of Mind, or Concepts of Selfhood.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.

A passive knowledge of German is a great advantage.


The aim of this course is to examine the nature and fate of ‘the aesethic’ in Nietzsche’s thought. This will be done by tracking the relation between three key concepts – art, life and theory – across three key texts in Nietzsche’s oeuvre: The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science and Towards a Genealogy for Morals. In The Birth of Tragedy the main question concerns the claim 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? In The Gay Science, the main question concerns the passion for knowledge (Leidenschaft der Erkenntnis) and how his reconfigures art and thought into the existential counter-weights of laughter and seriousness. In the Genealogy, the main question concerns Nietzsche’s thesis that life has been colonized by nihilism and the fate of the will to truth and of art under nihilistic conditions.

Course objectives

After completing this course students 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 der Tragödie to the Genealogie, 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, Redlichkeit, nihilism and culture;

  • 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.

After completing this course students should be able to:

  • read any primary Nietzsche text in or together with the original 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 critical commentary on specific passages from Nietzsche’s oeuvre a in class;

  • write a 5000 word paper on a topic given by the instructor or chosen by of the student, 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 texts; techniques for further research on specific topics in the paper; formal features and presentation (bibliography, references, notes); written academic English.


Visit MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

The meetings will take the form of seminar discussions of key texts, introductory lectures by the instructor when necessary, and presentations by students.
Class attendance is mandatory.

Assessment method


  • Assignments (reading preparations) and presentations

  • Final paper (5000 words)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests:

  • Assignements and presentations: 50%

  • Final paper: 50%


Papers that fail will need to be rewritten in line with instructor’s comments.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list


  • Various texts from the ‘Kritische Studienausgabe’ (DTV/de Gruyter, 1980ff.) of Nietzsche’s writings, available online (Nietzsche Online) via the library. Nietzsche’s writings are all translated into Dutch. The published texts and small parts of the Nachlass are translated into English. Students will have to read the German together with their chosen translation.

  • Various articles / chapters from the seconday literature, to be assigned on a weekly basis.

Recommended background reading:

  • Meyer, T., Nietzche und die Kunst (Francke 1993).

  • Pothen, P., Nietzsche and the Fate of Art (Ashgate 2002).

  • Also various articles in: Kemal, S., Conway, D., Gaskell, I., Nietzsche, Philosophy and the Arts (Cambridge 1998).

  • Allison, D., The New Nietzsche (MIT 1985).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for courses and exams.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. H.W. Siemens
Please contact Dr. Siemens via email


Not applicable.