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Nietzsche and Post-Nietzschean Aesthetics

  • This is the course description for 2022-2023, the 2023-2024 version will follow as soon as possible. *

Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Filosofie, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including History of Modern Philosophy, Cultuurfilosofie, Continentale filosofie, Philosophy of Mind.

  • BA students in Philosophy: Global and Comparative Perspectives, who have successfully completed at least 70 ECTS credits of the mandatory components of the first and second year of their bachelor’s programme, including World Philosophies: Modern Europe, Philosophy of Culture, Concepts of Selfhood, and at least one of the courses World Philosophies: China, World Philosophies: India, World Philosophies: Africa, World Philosophies: Middle East.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement and who have to complete an advanced seminar, to be selected from package A.


Friedrich Nietzsche is foremost among those philosophers who have placed art and aesthetic values at the very centre of thinking. This course will 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 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 will be traced from the early writings, to the existential fusion of art and theory in the ‘passion for knowledge’ (Leidenschaft der Erkenntnis)’ of The Gay Science to the ‘physiology of art’, and art as ‘counter-movement to nihilism’ from the late Nachlass. This provides the transition to post-Nietzschean thought, beginning with Heidegger’s lecture-series The Will to Power as Art. Further post-Nietzscheans to be considered include: 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; Baudrillard on simulacrum and ‘Schein’. In tandem with the texts we will also study a number of key concepts from Nietzschean and post-Nietzschean aesthetics, including: taste, genius, culture, the romantic and the classical, metaphor, the fragment, style, Schein, Redlichkeit and Rausch.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course will 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;

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

  • 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;

  • 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;

  • 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 a 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).


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Presentations and reading preparations (50%)

  • Final exam: 4000-5000 word paper and text commentaries (50%)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests (see above).


Students can resit the exam if their overall grade for the entire course is 5 or less (i.e., the calculated result of weighted components is lower than 5.5). The resits will consist of the final exam (4000-5000 word paper + texts commentaries) which will count as 50% of the grade. Papers and commentaries that fail will need to be rewritten in line with instructor’s comments. The grades for the assignments and presentations remain in place.

Class attendance and participation is a mandatory requirement for taking the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Discussion of the paper is by appointment after publication of the final grade.

Reading list

Required literature

Various texts from the ‘Kritische Studienausgabe’ (DTV/de Gruyter, 1980ff.) of Nietzsche’s writings, available online (Nietzsche Online) via the library or via Nietzsche Source (open access: Nietzsche’s writings are all translated into Dutch. The published texts and most of the Nachlass are translated into English. Students will have to read the German together with their chosen translation. Various articles / chapters from the secondary literature, to be assigned on a weekly basis.

Recommended background reading

  • Meyer, T., Nietzsche 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).

A good comprehension of German is a great advantage.


Enrolment through MyStudymap is not possible for this course. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable.