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Nietzsche and Politics


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialization History and Philosophy of the Sciences, Ethics and Politics, or Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Culture

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialization Philosophyof Humanities, Philosophy of Law, or Philosophy of Political Science


A course on Nietzsche as a political thinker with special emphasis on the critical and constructive potential of his thought for contemporary democracy and democratic theory. Key topics include: the problem of Nihilism and its manifestation in modern democracy; the agon and agonistic appropriations of Nietzsche’s thought; Nietzsche and Arendt; Nietzsche and Rawls on justice and perfectionism; grosse Politik; rethinking democratic values (freedom, equality, popular sovereignty) in Nietzschean terms.

Course objectives

The course aims to offer students:

  • a sound understanding of the place and functions of politics across Nietzsche’s writings, with special reference to key concepts and issues like: the relation between politics (the state) and culture; Nietzsche’s shifting views on the relation between politics and values, esp. the project of Umwertung; Nietzsche’s changing views on democracy and their background (in: the life-affirmative and perfectionist impulses in his thought; his anti-metaphysics of life; his critique of the origins of Western values in the ‘slave-revolt of morality’; his critical diagnosis of the present as a condition of Nihilism; and his concerns with power, the limits of power and the best distribution of power); the concept of the agon, its conditions and political implications; the concept of ‘_grosse Politik_’; Nietzsche’s exercise concept of ‘freedom under pressure’; his theory of the social origins of the individual and its implications for the concept of personhood; his efforts to formulate a radically individual, pluralistic and dynamic concept of law and legislation; his affirmative concept of equality as inclusive of difference and relative hierarchy;

  • a sound understanding of influential political interpretations and appropriations of Nietzsche’s thought as aristocratic / elitist, fascist, anti- and pro-democratic. In particular, students should have a good understanding of recent appropriations of Nietzsche’s thought for an ‘agonistic’ concept of democracy by philosophers and political theorists (such as: Hatab, Mouffe, Connolly, Schrift, Honig and Owen) and of their critics (such as: Appel, Villa, Dombowsky);

  • a sound understanding of the critical and constructive potential of Nietzsche’s thought for politics in general and contemporary democracy and democratic ideals in specific. This includes above all an understanding of: the potential of Nietzsche’s concept of the agon for a rethinking egalitarian values and concepts in a way that addresses the problems Nietzsche locates in democracy; contemporary debates on the relation between Nietzsche and Rawls (justice vs. perfectionism, personhood and community), and on the relation between Nietzsche and Arendt (poiesis vs. praxis, the private and the public sphere).


The timetable is available on the MA Philosophy website
MA Philosophy 60 EC, or MA Philosophy 120 EC

Mode of instruction

  • Lectures and seminars

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

  • Attending lectures (14 weeks x 3 hrs): 42 hours

  • Preparation of classes:

  • Study of compulsory literature:

  • Assignment(s):

  • Preparation of presentation

  • Writing of paper

Assessment method

  • Seminar presentations & assignments (20%)

  • Paper 7,000 – 9,000 words (80%).


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests. A subtest can be graded as unsatisfactory. Class preparation and attendance are required and are conditions for submission of the final paper (or resit).


The resit will consists of a paper. No separate resits will be offered for the presentation. The mark will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination(s) cannot take the resit.


Blackboard will be weekly used for announcements, assignments, course documents (lecture notes, primary texts etc.) and course information.

Reading list

  • Various texts from Nietzsche, Sämtliche Werke Kritische Studienausgabe (dtv/de Gruyter, Berlin, 1980. ISBN 3-11-008117-2)


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetables for and exams in the column under the heading “uSis-Actnbr”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. H.W. Siemens


Not applicable.