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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Nietzsche and the Search for Meaning
Friedrich Nietzsche is one of the most controversial thinkers in history. Many of us have heard his declarations of the death of God, the arrival of the Superman, and the need to live beyond good and evil. But what, beyond such catchphrases, did Nietzsche actually teach? And what significance might the work of this nineteenth-century German philosopher hold for us today?
In order to answer these questions, we will read several of Nietzsche’s writings and place them in their historical context. We will also read works by some of Nietzsche’s artistic and philosophical forebears and contemporaries. Together, we will wrestle with questions such as: What is Nietzsche’s conception of the self? What is the relation between reason and health for Nietzsche? How do his ideas change over time? What, for Nietzsche, is the meaning of our lives, how are we to find it, and how are we to live it?
The emphasis in this course will be on close reading, brief response papers, and lively discussion (with classmates and one-on-one with the professor) rather than on lengthy essays or exams. No knowledge of German is necessary.