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David Sosa, Chair 2210 Speedway, WAG 316, Stop C3500, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4857

Fall 2004

PHL 387 • Advanced Topics in Social Philosophy

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
41903 M
2:30 PM-5:30 PM

Course Description

The course will undertake a scholarly and philosophical engagement with selected themes from the works of these two important, and in some ways related, figures in the history of post-Kantian European thought. The selected themes will revolve around three main topics: (1) morality: its origins, nature, and value; (2) the self: the nature of the will and the structure of agency, the relationship between consciousness and the unconscious, the “bodily” self, and the epistemic status of our claims about each of these; (3) society and its relationship to the self: the nature of power, and the hypothesis of the “social construction” of the self. Two subsidiary methodological issues, implicated in the foregoing themes, will be (i) the nature of “genealogy” and its relationship to history as ordinarily practiced and to critique; and (ii) the explanatory role, if any, for a concept of “human nature.” As a scholarly matter, we will try to get clear about the views of Nietzsche and Foucault on these topics, and, in particular, to assess the extent to which Foucault extends or simply abandons Nietzsche’s views. As a philosophical matter, we will engage argumentatively with the views of these authors, in an effort to figure out whether they are right, and if so about what. To that end, we may also look at contemporary scholars and philosophers writing on these and cognate topics. Overall, the course presents an opportunity to revisit and reconsider the apparent tension between “naturalist” (e.g., Freud) and “postmodernist” (Foucault) understandings of Nietzsche: “While for Freud, Nietzsche is the philosopher who anticipates psychoanalysis by trying to discover the deep, hidden facts about human nature which explain who we are and what we believe, for Foucault, Nietzsche is precisely the philosopher who denies that there are any ‘deep facts’ about human nature and who recognizes that all such putative facts are mere interpretations, mere contingent constructs” (Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality, p. 2).

Grading Policy

A term paper; excellent class participation (quantity and quality) will raise the grade one notch (e.g., B+ to A-; A- to A, etc.).


Nietzsche, Daybreak, Cambridge edition (ed. by Clark & Leiter) Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Cambridge edition (ed. by Horstmann) Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, Cambridge edition (ed. by Ansell-Pearson) Kaufman (ed.), The Portable Nietzsche (Viking) Leiter, Nietzsche on Morality (Routledge, 2002). Rabinow (ed.), The Foucault Reader (Pantheon, 1984) Dreyfus & Rabinow, Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, 2nd ed. (Chicago, 1983) The instructor may also distribute, as needed, supplemental material from Nietzsche and Foucault, as well as contemporary scholars and philosophers writing on cognate issues.


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