Philosophy 304: Nineteenth-Century Philosophy (Janowski)

We will storm through the nineteenth century, a grand and tumultuous period in the history of philosophy. Our focus will be on some of the central works by three of the centuries' most prominent thinkers - Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche. (If time permits we may also read some Feuerbach and Kierkegaard.) While in one sense nineteenth century philosophers did make something of a break with philosophy's past - to put it all-too-simply, they explicitly turned their attention to the concrete lived reality of human experience and at least some of them sought to change it - we will follow these thinkers as they work through the sort of issues and themes that philosophers have perennially addressed: the nature of ultimate reality, the source and limits of human knowledge, the import and influence of religion in and on human life, the nature of the ideally good society, and the nature and source of norms and values - whether aesthetic, moral, social, or political. We will discover that, in many respects, Hegel, Marx, and Nietzsche are in a conversation with one another about these and other matters. (We will also discover that they are conversing with philosophers across the millennia. In this respect, too, the course will answer to its billing as one in the history of philosophy.) And while they certainly share some things‹ - a focus on the importance of historical understanding and a wish to advance a position about the proper aim of philosophical inquiry, for example - they also differ quite sharply and vehemently in many of their substantive conclusions. The nineteenth century was a heady, and even something of a tempestuous, time in the history of philosophy. I fully expect the course to capture some of this excitement and ferment.