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Nietzsche contra Kant as Thinkers of Conflict


Admission requirements

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Philosophical Anthropology and Philosophy of Culture

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Humanities


Nietzsche and Kant stand out as philosophers who ascribe positive value and unique creative powers to conflict. For both thinkers, conflict (Kampf, Streit, Gezaenk, Krieg, Spannung, conflictus discordia etc.) is essential for the realisation of human capacities (Kant) or possibilities (Nietzsche), and they share the realist/pessimistic view that (human) reality is indelibly marked by conflict. For Nietzsche ‘resistance is the form of power’, and conflict is the dynamic principle in all spheres of life from the psyche to social and political orders, from intellectual to violent destructive confrontation. For the early (pre-critical) Kant, the ‘conflictus of two forces’ is the dynamic principle of matter and the universe, and the notion of real contradiction or ‘Realrepugnanz’ formulated in 1763 informs his critical and post-critical political writings. Since for both conflict is part of the deep structure of human existence and interaction, it cannot be overcome in favour of harmony, reconciliation, consensus or unity, and the problem becomes one of containment and transformation: how the constructive potentials of conflict can be harnessed without unleashing its destructive powers.

In this course we will explore the very different ways in which Nietzsche and Kant addressed these problems through close comparative readings of selected texts from each. Key topics include: unsocial sociability (Kant) vs. ‘thoughtful egoism’(Nietzsche); the concept of real vs. logical contradiction (Kant) and Nietzschean opposition (Gegensatz); the relation of unity and multiplicity / difference; the problem of teleology and the ‘mechanism’ of nature; the productive qualities of war and its relation to (eternal) peace; the state of nature vs. the rule of law; the plurality of legal orders (Nietzsche) vs. the rule of cosmopolitan law (Kant); hatred and equality vs. contempt.

Course objectives

To be announced.


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

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

The sessions will take the form of seminar discussions of key texts (3 x 45 minutes), introductions by the instructor and presentations by students.

Class attendance is required.

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours = 280 hours

Further calculation of the course load to be announced.

Assessment method


  • Seminar participation (20%)

  • Paper of 7.000 words (80%)


The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of several subtests. Class participation is a mandatory requirement for taking the test.


The resit consists of a final paper. The mark for the resit will replace all previously earned marks for subtests. No separate resits will be offered for mid-term tests.
Class participation and completion of practical assignments such as the oral presentation is a mandatory requirement for taking the resit. Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Exam reviews

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


Blackboard will be used for:
To be announced.

Reading list

Required literature

  • Nietzsche: Various texts from the ‘Kritische Studienausgabe’ (DTV/de Gruyter, 1980ff.) of Nietzsche’s writings, available online (Nietzsche Online) via the library.

  • Kant: various texts from Akademie Ausgabe, esp. Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher Absicht (1784), Versuch über den Begriff der negative Grössen (1763), and Zum ewigen Frieden (1795).

  • Translations and essays in Kant: Political Writings, ed. H. Reiss, CUP 1991).

  • Kant: Toward Perpetual Peace and Other Writings on Politics, Peace, and History (ed. P. Kleingeld,
    J. Waldron, M. Doyle, A. Wood, Yale UP 2006);

  • Perpetual Peace: Essays on Kant’s Cosmopolitan Ideal (ed. J. Bohman, M. Lutz-Bachmann, MIT Press 1997).

Recommended literature

  • Saner, Hans (1967), Kants Weg vom Krieg zum Frieden, München: Piper.

  • W. van der Kuijlen (2009), An Unused but Highly Needful Concept: The Notion of Realrepugnanz in Kant’s Early Philosophy and Kritik der reinen Vernunft, Enschede: Ipskamp.


Enrolment for courses and exams through uSis is mandatory.

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


Not applicable.