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Nietzsche and the Death of God

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About this Course

About the Course

In this course, Professor Ken Gemes (Birkbeck, University of London) explores the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. The course begins with the famous ‘death of God’ speech from ‘The Gay Science’, and focuses on what Nietzsche meant when he spoke about the ‘death of God’. In the second module, we turn to Nietzsche’s concept of nihilism—the denial that there are any existential values in the world—before moving on to his critique of Christianity and Christian morality in the third module. In the fourth module, we explore how Nietzsche envisioned the creation and mass adoption of new value, before thinking in the final module about who Nietzsche thought his readership was, and the purpose of his philosophy for this intended audience.

About the Lecturer

Ken Gemes received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 1990. He came to Birkbeck in 2000 having taught for ten years at Yale University. He is currently also a Professor at the New College of the Humanities. Thus he has one foot in an institution founded on socialist principles a little less than two centuries ago, the other in an institution belonging in a world of cut-throat capitalism founded a little over two years ago.

Ken’s interests range from technical issues concerning logical content and confirmation to Nietzsche’s account of how philosophy is merely the last manifestation of the ascetic ideal.

He is currently working on papers on (i) Nietzsche’s account of the notion of the self, I and consciousness; (ii) Nietzsche account of nihilism and the affirmation of life; and (iii) Nietzsche’s values. His general approach is to read Nietzsche as a psychologist and Kulturkritiker. This is in no way to underplay the importance of Nietzsche’s normative concerns, but to locate those concerns somewhat outside the concerns of more traditional ethicists. Beyond the value of examining the thought of an out-an-out genius, studying Nietzsche allows us to see how philosophy might be directly related to our actual lives.

Ken is also working on a Bayesian account of confirmation that is more fine-grained than that which simplify identifies confirmation with increase in probability. This is part of a wider project that argues that key notions such as confirmation and partial truth cannot be explicated adequately through use of the standard notion of logical consequence.