NINETEENTH CENTURY GERMAN PHILOSOPHY

Last Updated 25/04/05

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  1. The Paper
  2. General Reading
  3. Specific Authors


1. The Paper

This paper covers post-Kantian nineteenth-century German philosophers, including Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche. The most essential historical background for this paper is a general knowledge of Kant's philosophy, to which all of these thinkers are, to varying degrees, responding. Any student who is not already studying Kant for some other paper, therefore, is recommended to read at least one introductory book about Kant. Although knowledge of German is helpful (enabling one to read the central texts in the original, and to draw on an extended range of secondary literature), it is not by any means necessary: all the central texts are available in English, along with the recommended secondary literature. In the exam, students are asked to answer three questions, on at least two of the authors. Most of the questions refer to one philosopher only, but there are usually some, in addition, that are general or comparative (students may be asked, for example, to discuss an aspect of Nietzsche's rejection of Schopenhauer). As there is quite a wide range of questions asked, it is sufficient for examination purposes to prepare just two authors, studying their views on a range of topics, and the arguments for and against them, in some depth. A broad knowledge of all the philosophers on the paper is important, however, for a full understanding of those you choose to study in detail.

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2. General Reading

The following sections offer suggestions for reading and list some of the central topics for each philosopher. The most useful books are marked with an asterisk. This is of course not an exhaustive list, and more detailed reading will be required for particular topics.

To gain a general idea of Kant's philosophy

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General discussions of nineteenth-century German philosophy

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General books on German idealism (Fichte, Schelling, Hegel)

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3. Specific Authors

Fichte (1762 - 1814)

Topics include Fichte's early response to Kant's philosophy and his view of the problems that Kant faces; Fichte's conception of philosophy as a system, and of the absolute 'I' as its first principle; Fichte's theory of self-consciousness; Fichte's view of the argument between 'dogmatism' and idealism; Fichte's account of the primacy of the practical; and Fichte's argument for the necessity of inter-subjectivity.

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Additional Texts

Secondary Reading

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Schelling (1775 - 1854)

Topics include Schelling's disagreements with Fichte; Schelling's philosophy of Nature; Schelling's conception of the privileged role of art in cognition of the Absolute; Schelling's attempt to conceive the Absolute as a 'point of indifference' between subjectivity and objectivity; Schelling's later metaphysical account of the possibility of evil; Schelling's criticisms of Hegel.

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Additional Texts

Secondary Reading

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Hegel (1770 - 1831)

Topics include Hegel's criticisms of Kant and Schelling; the method of dialectic and account of the 'shapes' of consciousness in the Phenomenology ; the master/slave dialectic and Hegel's theory of recognition; Hegel's conception of history; Hegel's criticisms of Kant's ethics and theory of Ethical Life; the nature of Hegel's idealism and his conception of the Absolute; Hegel's conception of logic.

Main Texts

[NB All that you will be expected to read of Hegel are extracts from these works which may be found in the comprehensive collection edited by S. Houlgate, The Hegel Reader , Oxford: Blackwell, 1998.]

Additional Texts

Secondary Reading

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Schopenhauer (1788 - 1860)

Topics include Schopenhauer's development of Kant's idealism; his identification of the will with the thing-in-itself; the world as will; the rationality of pessimism; aesthetic experience; determinism; compassion and morality; the self.

Main Text

Additional Texts

Secondary Reading

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Nietzsche (1844 - 1900)

Topics include Nietzsche's view of tragedy; the self; truth and perspectivism; the critique of morality (genealogical method); the revaluation of values; the ascetic ideal; Nietzsche on philosophy; Nietzsche as philosopher/writer; the will to power; the doctrine of eternal recurrence.

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Additional Texts

Secondary Reading

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