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Unit information: Schopenhauer and Nietzsche in 2016/17

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Unit name Schopenhauer and Nietzsche
Unit code PHIL20041
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Seiriol Morgan
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts


Schopenhauer and Nietzsche were two of the nineteenth century’s most radical critics of the philosophical tradition, and two of its most influential. Schopenhauer’s metaphysics asserts that the inner nature of the world is Will, that is, the same blind ultimately purposeless striving force that he takes to be responsible for human behaviour. This metaphysics underpins Schopenhauer’s famous pessimism about human life, which he characterises as inevitably a mixture of suffering and boredom. However, he also explores various possibilities for transcending the pain and pointlessness of the human condition, including the redemptive power of aesthetic experience, and of compassion. Nietzsche’s philosophy is best known for his attack on morality, in which he claims that the moral outlook is merely a psychological projection of the hatred and resentment that weak human beings have for their betters. Themes and issues prominent in the work of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, which will likely be addressed during the course include: the meaning and value of human life; the psychological sources of moral thought; whether morality is actually detrimental to human flourishing, or at least, the flourishing of some humans; atheism and its implications; how best to understand the creative arts, and their value; the possibility or otherwise of free will; what our inescapably perspectival access to the world means for our understanding of truth; the priority or otherwise of desire over reason in human behaviour; the existence and nature of the unconscious mind.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will:

1) Have a good understanding of some central themes in the philosophy of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche.

2) Be able to engage critically with their positions and arguments, and offer their own assessment of them.

Teaching details

11 one-hour lectures and 11 one-hour seminars

Assessment Details

Formative: 2 x 2,500 word essays

Summative: 3 hour unseen examination

Reading and References

Course texts:- Schopenhauer The World as Will and Representation vol. 1, trans. E.F.J. Payne (London: Dover, 1958) Nietzsche On the Genealogy of Morals, ed. and trans. Clark and Swenson (London: Hackett, 1998) Accessible introductions to the two philosophers include:- Julian Young Schopenhauer (London: Routledge, 2005) Dale Jacquette The Philosophy of Schopenhauer (Chesham: Acumen 2005) Rex Welshon The Philosophy of Nietzsche (Chesham: Acumen 2004) Richard Schacht Nietzsche (London: Routledge 1985)