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Agonal Perspectives on Nietzsche's Philosophy


Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to MA students in Philosophy.

Admission to one of the following programmes is required:

  • MA Philosophy 60 EC: specialisation Ethics and Politics

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

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Humanities

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Law

  • MA Philosophy 120 EC: specialisation Philosophy of Political Science

A passive knowledge of German is a great advantage.


The topic of this course will be the concept of limited or measured antagonism that Nietzsche derived from his study of Greek antiquity: the contest or agon. In recent years this concept has gained popularity in political theory, as a critical tool and alternative to deliberative theories of democracy, but the emphasis in this course will be hermeneutic. We will consider the agon as a model for Nietzsche’s philosophical practice of critical transvaluation (Umwertung) and ask: To what extent does it afford insight into his contestation of European (Christian-Platonic) values in the name of life, its affirmation and enhancement? The main thesis of the course is that Nietzsche’s conception of the Greek agon enables us to make sense of his peculiar style of critical confrontation, but also that it addresses a number of key problems intrinsic to his project of transvaluation. Topics and problems to be treated include: Nietzsche contra Socrates and the problem of closure (The Birth of Tragedy); critical history and the need to find a limit in the negation of the past (Untimely Meditations); Greek classicity and the problem of culture (Untimely Meditations); the concept of taste and the problem of community; legislation and the the problem of life-affirmative law; ressentiment and the question of therapy; the problem of total affirmation (Ecce Homo).

Course objectives

To be announced.


MA Philosophy 60 EC MA Philosophy 120 EC

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

The meetings 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

  • Attending seminars (13 x 3 hrs): 39 hours

  • Preparation lectures and seminars: 60 hours

  • Preparation presentations: 31 hours

  • Writing paper: 150 hours

Assessment method


  • Presentations (reading preparations)

  • Final paper (5000 words)


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

  • Presentations: 50%

  • Paper: 50%


The resit covers the following exam component(s): paper.
Papers that fail will need to be rewritten in line with instructor’s comments.
The grades for other exam components (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.

Exam review

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.


How will Blackboard be used in the course?

Blackboard will be used for:

  • weekly announcements of reading / preparation / presentations

  • posting of reading material

  • uploading presenations and papers by students

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, especially:

  • Journal of Nietzsche Studies 24 (2002): Special Issue on the agon;

  • Contesting Nietzsche, Christa Acapora (UChicago Press, 2013);

  • Conflict and Contest in Nietzsche’s Philosophy, ed. Siemens & Pearson (Bloomsbury 2018), (forthoming).


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. Herman Siemens
Please contact Dr. Siemens via email


Not applicable.