Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche

Course No. 415
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Course No. 415
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Course Overview

"God is dead."

"The Superman."

"The Will to Power."

"The Eternal Recurrence."

Among shapers of contemporary thought—including Darwin, Marx, and Freud—Friedrich Nietzsche is perhaps the most mysterious and least understood. His aphorisms are widely quoted, but as both man and thinker he remains an enigmatic figure, "philosophizing with a hammer" and hurling unsettling challenges to some of our most cherished beliefs.

Who was this eccentric German genius? This lonely and chronically ill, yet passionate, daring, and complex seeker?

  • Was he a proto-Nazi, or would he have found Hitler despicable?
  • Who was this man who caustically attacked the Christianity of his day but who wept openly when he saw a horse mistreated in the street?
  • Why are his brilliant insights so relevant for today?
  • How did he become the most misinterpreted and unfairly maligned intellectual figure of the last two centuries?

Professor Robert Solomon is the Quincy Lee Centennial Professor of Business and Philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin and a member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.

He has received several awards for excellence in teaching, including a Fulbright Lecture Award and a Standard Oil Outstanding Teaching Award.

In his precise yet conversational style he weaves biographical detail, abstract analysis, and humor, constructing an engaging, well-rounded portrait of the most enigmatic, complex figure in all of philosophy. He is joined in many lectures by his wife and fellow Nietzsche scholar, Professor Kathleen Higgins, also of The University of Texas at Austin.

A Lonely Genius's Quest

Nietzsche's body of work has been enormously influential, but it consists of a hodgepodge of reflections, accusations, bits of psychoanalysis, church and secular history, advice to the lovelorn, moral reminders, and some forgeries created by Nietzsche's nefarious sister.

To provide shape to Nietzsche's thought, each lecture focuses on specific ideas that preoccupied Nietzsche while tracing the profound themes that give meaning to his work.

Lectures 1 through 3 provide a context within which we can better understand Nietzsche's life and work. These are essential and foundational introductions to him. Professors Solomon and Higgins:

  • Debunk the myths, rumors, and misunderstandings surrounding Nietzsche. (They show, for example, that he was not insane, misogynistic, power-mad, anti-Semitic, or amoral.)
  • Connect his thought to that of his predecessors Socrates, Plato, Jesus, and Schopenhauer and that of his near-contemporaries Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky, Marx, and Freud.
  • Investigate how Nietzsche's method of explaining human beliefs and practices in terms of personality and character (as opposed to justifying them through reason) enabled him to refute Socratic assumptions, English utilitarianism, Christian compassion, and Schopenhauer's pessimism.
The Death of God and The Birth of Tragedy

Lectures 4 through 8 explore Nietzsche's subtle and complex critique of both religious belief and Greek rationalism.

  • What did Nietzsche mean when he declared "God is dead"? We see that Nietzsche did not seek to condemn true spirituality but to question the mindset that insists on eternity, that is obsessed with unity and coherence, and that demands predictability and justice in a world that is neither predictable or just.
  • We examine Nietzsche's near-worship of pre-Socratic Greek culture and his championing of instinct, passion, and aestheticism.
  • We study Nietzsche's first work, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), famous for its brilliant analysis of the creative tension between the cults of rational Apollo and ecstatic Dionysus in pre-Socratic Greece.
  • We see how Nietzsche contrasts tragedy, which accepts suffering and makes something beautiful out of it, with Platonic, Socratic, and Christian thought, which he accuses of trying to deny the meaning of suffering by invoking a superior, otherworldly life.

Lectures 9 through 11 focus on Nietzsche's famous style, which deftly combines the majesty of the prophet, the force of the Homeric warrior, and the lyricism of the poet, but which nonetheless is rife with fallacies, inconsistencies, exaggerations, and scathing personal attacks.

Harsh but Insightful Criticisms

In lectures 12 through 15, Professor Solomon takes a closer look at Nietzsche's harsh but insightful criticisms of the intellectual currents of his time—Christian moralism, evolution, socialism, democracy, and nationalism. Here we meet Nietzsche the "moral psychologist," who revolutionized our understanding of the "human, all too human" motives that underlie our beliefs.

  • Is Nietzsche correct that "every philosophy is a personal confession and an unconscious memoir"?
  • Are pity and laughter just forms of dominance and power?
  • How much of morality is, in fact, a scheme to bring down one's superiors through guilt? How do repression, religion, and rationalization assist in this scheme?
  • How does Nietzsche criticize previous ideals of love?
  • Is Nietzsche a powerful anti-nihilist? Is he correct in rejecting the utilitarian's moral guideline "the greatest good for the greatest number" as a nihilistic rejection of life? (He says: "Man does not live for pleasure; only the Englishman does.")
  • How does Nietzsche's "morality of virtue" contrast with Judeo-Christian morality? And how does he argue that 2,000 years of Christianity enriches and spiritualizes "healthy" morality?

In Lectures 16 through 20, Professor Solomon pulls back and attempts to summarize Nietzsche's preoccupations. In a nod (and a wink) to our times, he compiles "top-ten lists" of both Nietzsche's favorites and his favorite targets. You will be intrigued to see who makes both lists! Also in this section, we encounter Nietzsche the historicist and Nietzsche the "immoralist," and discover the source of his vitriolic personal attacks.

The final four lectures examine Nietzsche's highly unorthodox "genealogy" of morality, as well as his most enduring image, that of the Ubermensch (super-man or over-man), and the notion of the will to power and "the eternal recurrence." Because these concepts have been misappropriated as rationalizations for monstrous behavior, they are usually misunderstood. You learn:

  • How the will to power explains our need for self-expression
  • How the Ubermensch is an expression of the innate human yearning for excellence
  • How Nietzsche characterizes the alternative to the Ubermensch—the "last man," who can quickly be sketched as the "ultimate couch potato" and the final fruit of utilitarian philosophy.

The "eternal recurrence" is Nietzsche's powerful, personal test. If you knew that you would live your life again and again for eternity, is it the life you would will? In short: do you in fact love your life? This is not a nihilist's question. It is a powerful call to full awareness and action in life.

Nietzsche's Love of Life

As you make your way through these lectures, you'll discover that Nietzsche, even at his most polemical and offensive, exudes an unmistakable enthusiasm and love of life. In fact, you'll see that his exhortation to learn to love and accept one's own life, to make it better by becoming who one really is, forms the project that is the true core of his work.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Why Read Nietzsche? His Life, Times, Works, and Themes
    The opening talk in the series provides an overview of Nietzsche's life and the remarkable historical period in which he lived. We also survey the sequence, context, and overarching themes of his works, and catalog the influences upon him. x
  • 2
    Quashing the Rumors About Nietzsche
    Professors Robert Solomon and Kathleen Higgins invalidate the spurious rumors surrounding Nietzsche, for example, that he was insane, misogynistic, nihilistic, anti-Semitic, power-mad, relativistic, and amoral. x
  • 3
    The Fusion of Philosophy and Psychology
    We investigate how Nietzsche's method of explaining human beliefs and practices in terms of personality and character (as opposed to justifying them through reason) enabled him to refute Socratic assumptions, English utilitarianism, Christian compassion, and Schopenhauerian pessimism. Nietzsche's procedures were similar to those used by Dostoyevsky, Marx, Freud, and, ironically, the Christian existentialist Kierkegaard. x
  • 4
    “God Is Dead”—Nietzsche and Christianity
    With this infamous pronouncement, Nietzsche seeks not to condemn true spirituality, but to question the mindset that insists on eternity, that is obsessed with unity and coherence, and that demands predictability and justice in a world that is neither predictable or just. Nietzsche never fully escapes his Lutheran upbringing, which shapes his ideas about Christian hypocrisy and passivity, and influences his "war" on guilt and sin. x
  • 5
    Nietzsche and the Greeks
    Nietzsche virtually worshipped the pre-Socratic period in ancient Greece, in particular, the tragedians Aeschylus and Sophocles and the philosopher Heraclitus. Are they the source of his whole philosophy? Moreover, why did Nietzsche rail so harshly against Socrates's and Plato's celebration of reason and accuse Euripides of "murdering" tragedy? x
  • 6
    “Why the Greeks Were So Beautiful”—Nietzsche on Tragedy
    Nietzsche's first work, The Birth of Tragedy (1872), is especially noteworthy for its brilliant analysis of the creative tension between the cults of rational Apollo and ecstatic Dionysus in pre-Socratic Greece. How did Nietzsche contrast tragedy, which accepts suffering and makes something beautiful out of it, with Platonic, Socratic, and Christian thought, which he accuses of trying to deny the meaning of suffering by invoking a superior, otherworldly life? x
  • 7
    Nietzsche and Schopenhauer on Pessimism
    Schopenhauer, the severe pessimist, is a looming presence in Nietzsche's thought. Nietzsche felt the weight of Schopenhauer's pessimism, and struggled to counter it by embracing "cheerfulness," creative passion, and an aesthetic viewpoint. x
  • 8
    Nietzsche, Jesus, Zarathustra
    Why did Nietzsche feel such a sense of close identification with the ancient prophets Jesus, Socrates, and Zarathustra (Zoroaster)? What was Nietzsche up to in his oddest but best-known book, the Biblical parody Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which introduces the concept of the Übermensch and its evolutionary alternative, the "last man"? x
  • 9
    Nietzsche on Reason, Instinct, and Passion
    In some sense a Romantic thinker, Nietzsche went against the grain of Enlightenment philosophy by debunking the primacy of reason in human life and defending instinct and passion. How did Nietzsche anticipate Freud's notion of the unconscious? x
  • 10
    Nietzsche’s Style and the Problem of Truth
    We subject to analysis Nietzsche's eccentric style of writing and argument, including his use of aphorisms, personal attacks, and appeals to emotion. We also scrutinize Nietzsche's often-exaggerated views about truth and interpretation. x
  • 11
    Nietzsche on Truth and Interpretation
    Here is a still-closer look at Nietzsche's inconsistent ideas about truth and interpretation. These include his assessment of science at various stages of his work, and his pragmatic "perspectivism," which rejects the idea that there is a privileged, objective, absolute, or "God's eye view" of reality. x
  • 12
    “Become Who You Are”—Freedom, Fate, and Free Will
    Now we turn to Nietzsche's politics, including his harsh views on socialism and democracy, his subtle views on freedom and free will, his celebration of fate, and his notorious views on the "great man." Accordingly, we discuss Nietzsche's mixed view of Darwin's theory of evolution, how Hegel both anticipated and countered some of Nietzsche's main concerns, and how Nietzsche and Kierkegaard reveal themselves to be kindred spirits in their reaction to Hegel. x
  • 13
    Nietzsche as Moral Psychologist—Love, Resentment, and Pity
    What were Nietzsche's ideas about the connection between personality, morality, and philosophy? What insights does he offer into the motivations underlying compassion? Is Nietzsche explaining rather than justifying (or attacking) morality? x
  • 14
    Nietzsche on Love
    Was Nietzsche misanthropic and misogynistic? How do his ideas on love and friendship, which he saw as intimately related, compare to those of his predecessors, especially Plato and Aristotle? Does Nietzsche, properly understood, actually anticipate many of the theses of contemporary feminism? x
  • 15
    Nietzsche and Women
    Professor Kathleen Higgins examines the claim that Nietzsche was a misogynist. She parses some of Nietzsche's most famous (or notorious) remarks about women, and suggests that they are not the blatantly sexist utterances they are often thought to be. x
  • 16
    Nietzsche’s “Top Ten”
    Professors Solomon and Higgins catalog those thinkers whom Nietzsche most admired, and those whom he attacked. x
  • 17
    Nietzsche on History and Evolution
    Nietzsche believed that any understanding of human affairs is necessarily grounded in a particular time and culture. What was his view of history and its uses and abuses? How did he interpret Hegel and Darwin? What hopes for human evolution did he harbor? What is the source and shape of his concern with what is conducive to and what is destructive of life? x
  • 18
    What Is Nihilism? The Problem of Asceticism
    Is Nietzsche himself a nihilist, or is his entire philosophy in fact an attack on nihilism? Why did he denounce as "decadent" such things as truth, religious belief, egalitarianism, reason, otherworldliness, and, particularly, asceticism? x
  • 19
    The Ranking of Values—Morality and Modernity
    Why did Nietzsche refuse to think of values as being either objective or subjective? Why did he hold that values are earthly and culture- and species-specific? Why did he argue that, in the final analysis, there are only healthy and unhealthy values, and that modern values are unhealthy? x
  • 20
    Nietzsche “Immoralism”—Virtue, Self, and Selfishness
    Is Nietzsche's notorious "immoralism" actually an embrace of Homeric ethics? How is it that in his ethical system, personal virtue and character count far more than rational rules and principles, and selfishness and morality are not mutually exclusive? x
  • 21
    On the Genealogy of Morals—Master and Slave Morality
    We examine the books Beyond Good and Evil (1886) and On the Genealogy of Morals (1887), wherein Nietzsche details his conception of master versus slave morality. His Genealogy of Morals is an attempt to uncover and evaluate the historical roots of these two types of morality. This lecture also examines the idea of "resentment," which provides the basis of Nietzsche's moral psychology. x
  • 22
    Resentment, Revenge, and Justice
    We continue our discussion of Nietzsche's idea of resentment, adding to it his ideas about revenge and justice. We revisit his condemnation of asceticism, the self-denial that is often a part of extreme religious practice, in light of these new ideas. x
  • 23
    The Will to Power and the Übermensch
    This lecture considers two of Nietzsche's alleged "doctrines": the Will to Power and the over-man. It analyzes the psychological significance of the former, as well as its Schopenhauerian origins. Then it links the two doctrines by analyzing the Übermensch as the full manifestation of the will to power. x
  • 24
    Eternal Recurrence—Nietzsche Says “Yes!” to Life
    We conclude by extending our scrutiny of three of Nietzsche's most famous doctrines: the Will to Power, the Übermensch, and the eternal recurrence of the same. Finally, we evaluate Nietzsche's emphasis on "saying 'yes!' to life." x

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Your professors

Robert C. Solomon Kathleen M. Higgins

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Robert C. Solomon, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin

Professor 2 of 2

Kathleen M. Higgins, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin
Dr. Robert C. Solomon was the Quincy Lee Centennial Professor of Business and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for more than 30 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania and his master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy and psychology from the University of Michigan. He held visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania; the...
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Dr. Kathleen Higgins is Professor of Philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin, where she has been teaching for over 20 years. She earned her B.A. in Music from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and her M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University. Professor Higgins taught at the University of California, Riverside, and she is a regular visiting professor at the University of Auckland. Her...
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Reviews

Will to Power: The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 74.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nietzche and the rest of western philosophy I binge-listened to the whole series on a long driving trip, with barely a pause. Professors Higgins and Solomon do a wonderful job of placing their subject in the context of western philosophy, from the Pre-Socratics to contemporary philosophers. As presented by them, the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche, is unique, complicated and vital. After years of effort to understand his writings, I feel at last like I have an appreciation of who Nietzsche was and what he was saying, contradictory though so much of it was. Thank you, Professors Solomon and Higgins, for the clarity, as well as for the passion of your presentations.
Date published: 2017-10-12
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Poor sound, but learn about Nitzsche The recording quality sounds like a 1920 radio broadcast. I have to turn the volume high to make out what is being said. The sequence of the review is good and saves you to read all the books in question. The poor sound quality prevents you from listening to several lectures in one go. I am a 79 yr senior.
Date published: 2017-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great material for a ready mind Really enjoyed this course: it is an in-depth introduction, taught by two very engaging, and very devoted, scholars of Nietzsche. So if for nothing else, you are paying a month's Starbucks money for two scholars' life's work. Of course, that is not the best analogy there is. Nietzsche has always been a fascinating character to me. Many of his aphorisms are more like questions than conclusions. With that state of mind, I found the course really fitting - a good balance of depth and common sense, in words and examples that made sense to me. And I certainly appreciated the two scholars approaching Nietzsche the way Nietzsche did to others, namely, by critically analyzing the context of Nietzsche's arguments. I said what I said in the title because I don't believe I could have got as much out of this course had I not been interested in the subject. I am biased but I think the world would be a better place if everyone has a little Nietzsche in him/her.
Date published: 2017-10-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good but not great It's a good course but not great. It's very much a Nietzsche for our Times type of course. As I'm a history junkie, I was hoping for much more about his life such as his relationship with Wagner, the rumors that he was gay, his range of scholarship when it came to ancient Greece, some ideas on music in both Germany and the rest of Europe, his love of Italy, something about Jacob Burckhardt, and much more along these lines. Instead this is a course designed for people who are more interested in learning about Nietzsche without too much historical baggage. (I imagine it is the course they give at the U of Texas as an intro class.) The presenters (a husband and wife team) seem to want to make him relevant as a kind of lifestyle guru which is fine and which I liked in that it's a different way of thinking about him than the one I'm accustomed to. But at the same time, they soft peddle his more controversial statements and they ignore Will to Power and argue that it should be ignored because the entries were just his own notes to himself and never meant for publication. Because Nietzsche has been so trashed thanks to the Nazis, I feel they feel they have to go out of their way to decontaminate him, a view I don't object to but one that makes the course at times feel a bit sappy. But at times they also make it clear just how wonderfully outrageous Nietzsche was in attacking Philosophy pillars like Socrates and how at the same time Nietzsche was in a way his own Plato writing into creation his own version of "Nietzsche." So there are times when the course really hit some great high notes. In any case, I like the course a lot but I did not love it. Kind of like a great first date with someone you won't see again. It did make me think about Nietzsche in a way I was unaccustomed to thinking about him and took me out of my comfort zone. Also I think they did a great job in reminding us once again just how important Schopenhauer was to Nietzsche. But that made me only want to know more about Schopenhauer's own background. They say Nietzsche ignored Hegel because at the time Hegel had fallen out of favor and was seen as a guy used by conservative religious thinkers. But Schopenhauer had been gunning for Hegel as far back as the University of Berlin and I can't help but wonder if Schopenhauer poisoned Nietzsche to Hegel. But as they are not very interested in a course that is more historically oriented as they want a Nietzsche more meaningful to today, the course made me wanting to know much more about such arcane questions. And that's a good thing, right?
Date published: 2016-09-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from It's OK I guess... I have to admit I struggled with this course, and much of my thoughts are wonderfully expressed in Avoirdupois’ review from 2013, so I will keep it short… In the very first lecture, Professor Solomon expressed his love for Nietzsche – not your normal opening stance when teaching an academic course, so it was a strange beginning... The course felt unfocused to me, and failed to provide a systematic, structured overview of what Nietzsche thought and taught. Instead, much of it was dedicated to understanding how much he was, and still is, misunderstood by others. Still, the course did provide some coherent and interesting discussions of his thoughts so it was not all bad. As for the presentation – I did not particularly enjoy it… The choice of presenting the course in duet form is certainly interesting and unusual, but it was not clear at all what purpose it served. I could not find any clear criteria on how they chose to divide the course material between them, or what added value the duet format offered. For the most part, however, I found the delivery clear and well-structured though not particularly thrilling in any way.
Date published: 2016-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Do not follow me, find your own way Wow! What a nice course on Nietzsche's philosophy, I always wanted that someone showed me the difficult concepts, such as: will to power, eternal recurrence, "there are no facts only interpretations", among others. Professors Solomon and Higgings did a great job.
Date published: 2015-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easing into a Daunting Study Any student of western philosophy encounters Nietzsche early in their studies. Reading his work can be formidable for the beginning student. I took this course with two goals in mind. First, to gain an overview of his personal history and his work, and second to try to resolve conflicting information about him which I had seen presented in other sources. A subsidiary goal was to attempt to gain a deeper understanding of the few of his writings I had read in translation. Professors Solomon and Higgins do a masterful job in the 24 short lessons in this course. Their presentation of his personal history actually gives a fair explanation of, not only his unfortunate history, but the source of some of the widely disseminated misinformation about his personal beliefs that led to the conflicting information about the person and his teachings. Not meaning to either steal their thunder or give away an ending, their explanation of his sister's editing of the materials in his estate to fit her own National Socialist leanings explains many of the discrepancies. Due to the variety of his topics and the depth of the analyses, Nietzsche is truly overwhelming for a student attempting go it alone. Higgins and Solomon are admirable guides for this journey, and this course is an excellent introduction to their work as well at that of Nietzsche. The professors do a wonderful job of selecting his major ideas and giving the student, not just an overview, but a fairly deep understanding of some of his works. For those readers who have read Nietzsche, and have walked away feeling that they missed part of his discourse, Solomon and Higgins give an idea of some of the missed ideas. For myself, I gained an appreciation of the style of these two researchers and was able to locate more of their work on line. I did order several of their books for my own library (one click makes this entirely too easy), and look forward to their arrival. As far as my goals for the course went, both were met. They presented his personal history and his intellectual overview, and they did touch on some of the works I'd read. The course was golden when judged on this metric. This course is another one of the courses that I feel could have been much longer. This is not a criticism of the producers of this course. I think most of the courses I've taken could have been longer. It's a personal predilection of mine, I'm afraid. I always get a little apprehensive when I place the last disc in the player. And while I try to avoid comments about the personalities or personal lives of the professors, this is a special case. Doctor Higgens and Doctor Solomon are a husband and wife team that I envy. They work together so well, complimenting each other's work, and showing a caring consideration for each other. That is an admirable situation.
Date published: 2015-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Patience pays off This is my 3rd course with Prof. Solomon, although this one is also team-taught with his wife, Prof. Higgins. I learned a great deal from this course. Prior to this course I had read through the Portable Nietzsche and a few of the stand-alone Nietzsche works. There are thinkers who are difficult to 'read,' because of the many paradoxes their works present and the writers' refusals to make simple systems out of their life works. Nietzsche seems to me to be one of those philosophers; Ralph Waldo Emerson also comes to mind (to name one), although I think many people would claim to 'understand' and like Emerson better than Nietzsche. So I find 'help' necessary. The course 'Will to Power' was one I listened to slowly, often referring myself back to places in Nietzsche touched on by the professors, and for me this was a good way to navigate their course. I worry that some people, despite the fine work of these two Nietzsche scholars, still approach Nietzsche with a certain amount of prejudice against some of what they have heard of him ("God is dead," for example), and perhaps still approach modern philosophy as though one can hear about either or both in a lecture once and understand it 'completely.' Nietzsche is someone I read first in college and have returned to several times since, and to whom I hope to return several more times, in hopes of understanding him better or at least differently. If one looks for a profitable introduction to Nietzsche, this is a great place to begin. Still, as good as these professors are, they cannot substitute for reading works by Nietzsche on one's own.
Date published: 2014-12-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from What's it all about, Nietzsche ? DVD REVIEW: The first two lectures told me hardly anything about the man and his beliefs, other than that he had a big moustache, was not popular with the ladies, and ended up insane. These lectures were tied up in listing his writings and trying to debunk myths and criticisms about him. The late (2007) Dr Solomon started the course by announcing he was "in love with Nietzsche" which I found somewhat unusual. His wife and university colleague, Dr Higgins, joined him for lecture 2 ~ an interesting approach in lecturing. They shared this lecture series which was recorded in 1999. Didn't get much out of lecture 3, in which Dr Solomon referred to other philosophers, and told us Nietzsche suggested that "People who are so gung-ho about animal rights are really displaying a kind of hatred of their fellow human beings". Pretty whacky stuff! In lecture 4 we hear about the "God is dead" angle and Nietzsche's anti-Christianity stance; 5 & 6 delved into the world of Greek philosophers and art, with reference to Nietzsche's preoccupation with the Greek culture. Lecture 7: Schopenhauer's turn to come under the microscope. So far in this course, it's mainly been a study of various other philosophers, from Socrates through the 20th century, rather than a concentration on what NIETZSCHE thought and believed...... and I'm still waiting, wanting to know all about NIETZSCHE! I'm becoming frustrated and annoyed. Is the course mis-titled? Apparently so. Dr Higgins handles lecture 8 on her own, talking about Nietzsche's Zarathustra, and Übermensch, and again we hear Plato's allegory of the cave. This course is different from what I anticipated, it's not what the title states: I now see that other reviewers have reflected on this concern. The course is somewhat of a jumble imho. I would have vastly preferred a structured, traditionally-styled series of talks following Nietzsche's life, education, experiences, influences, reasoning, philosophy, writings, and his fall into insanity. I must also add that both lecturers are a bit difficult to understand at times as they glide over and mumble words; several times I had to go back & replay in order to catch what they were saying. I had to replay Dr Solomon three times before I made out the word "solitudinously". Here's an overview of Nietzsche I just pulled from the Web in a 2-minute search: "Nietzsche condemns all attempts by philosophy to identify absolute truths. He rejects all morality, but especially Christian morality, proposing instead an extreme form of ethical relativism which denies human accountability for any action. Each thinking individual should have the courage to develop his own good and evil, become his own law-giver." AH! So that's what Nietzsche is all about! As I head towards 150 Great Courses, I regret to say this is one I cannot, in fairness, recommend, but it was useful and I therefore give it 3 stars.
Date published: 2013-09-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Critique Professor Solomon asserts that Nietzsche obeyed all the commandments in the Decalogue. He in fact disobeyed the first one and gave more than a nod to the Pagan God, Dionysius, for whom the man of Virtue and Excellence would be one who let it all, or at least some of it, hang out The Prof. also asserts, in Lecture 20, that the sixth commandment, against killing must be qualified depending on the circumstances. In fact the Hebrew word should be translated as murder. What goes on in the mind of the person taking a life determines whether a breach of the commandment has occurred. Since he did not pick up on these points, although it seems pretty good but patchy, I wonder how comprehensive Professor Solomon’s grasp of the Christian religion, that he has reservations about, is.
Date published: 2013-08-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Too annoying to finish In my long history of listening to these Great Courses, I have never before been so exasperated and annoyed at the quality of presentation that I wanted to complain. But this course does just that, wasting my time by talking on and on, disc after disc, giving me little specific detail but swamping the subject with assertions too vague to be meaningful. I am going to try to finish, but I wonder why--it just makes me so irritated that a supposed specialist should care so little about his subject to talk so long saying so little. The speakers sound like they have not prepared any lecture notes, so there is a lack of forward progress, a sense of just being in the moment. "I think that..." and "um" and "a lot of times" ad nauseam. Mutually cancelling counterpoints: "on the one hand"..."but I think that a lot of times...." I don't expect to always agree with the lecturers, but I do expect them to tell me about the subject and make cogent assertions about it. This course is the first time I have been disappointed in that expectation. When I was young, Nietzsche was the attractive "bad boy" who delighted by shocking; when I was raising a family, he was not welcome in our dedicatedly bourgeois household; but now that I am older, I want to return and compare life experiences, to try to hear him where he lived and see what I think about him now, maybe try him in German. I wish these lecturers had cared enough to pack this series with thought-provoking detail and insight. Too bad.
Date published: 2013-06-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Great Second Course? This course brings to mind the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Each lecture reveals a disjoint aspect of Nietzsche, but the man still remains a mystery. If you know your Nietzsche already, this may be the course for you.
Date published: 2013-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Friedrich Nietzsche Explained Great presentation by both teachers on the misunderstandings and the facts on what Friedrich Nietzsche wrote and how he saw the world through a natural way. It helped me understand Friedrich Nietzsche and my readings of the great philosopher.
Date published: 2012-07-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great way to learn about Nietzsche As someone who knew very little about Nietzsche except through hearsay, this course was extremely helpful at understanding the man and what he truly said and believed. From a presentation standpoint, I thought the delivery from the husband/wife duo was sufficient and clearly stated and I do not understand the negative comments I have seen. Both were good lecturers and I felt a since of conviction in their voices. They are certainly Nietzsche apologist but you would expect them to be and their goal is to make you understand Nietzsche from his prospective and they were successful with me. I certainly do not agree with Nietzsche's philosophy on many levels (especially as a Christian) BUT I certainly understand where he was coming from and the lecturers did a good job of clarifying his positions. The layout of the course is topical rather than chronogically going from book to book and I preferred this method since Nietzsche covered many similar topics in each work. I took this course to learn about the real Nietzsche knowing it would be a challenge to what I personally believe, and I certainly learned a great deal from the course and understand why he has continued to be an icon to this day. Although I did not always agree with his outcomes and a priori positions, this does not diminish from the fact this is an outstanding course, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about Nietzsche.
Date published: 2012-07-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nietzsche - A Genius or Rebel? Without a doubt, Nietzsche was one of the most brilliant minds ever lived. He took ideas from past philosophers and twisted them in his own way to make them both intelligible and amusing to the readers of his day. His polemic yet beautiful writing deserves another course on its own. Robert Solomon and his wife Kathy present 24 wonderful lectures on Nietzsche. Although I would have personally preferred them lecture book by book rather than by themes, the content presented by Bob and Kathy is accurate and interesting. Bob is definitely a more articulate speaker between the two; I did have some hard time following the lectures taught by Kathy alone. In any case, the lectures are well presented overall. The question I continually had in mind as I was learning about Nietzsche was whether he was a genius with brilliant ideas or a rebel who tried to go against the Christian atmosphere of his day. I think the answer is both. Nietzsche was remarkable as much as he was rebellious. Nevertheless, I wondered if Nietzsche was simply coming up with his brilliant ideas not so much because he wanted to present a new paradigm of thinking, but only to rebel and express his utter bitterness towards his background – namely Judeo-Christianity. Of course, Nietzsche expresses his contempt to almost every system of thought and philosopher. Nevertheless, taking his ideas holistically, it seems to me that the main target of his ideas is aimed towards Christianity. What I appreciated most about Nietzsche’s idea is “saying yes to life, living this life fully rather than speculating about an afterlife to come.” As a Christian, the concept of afterlife (New Heaven and New Earth) has been vital in my childhood upbringings. After all, what makes suffering here and now more meaningless and thus more bearable if there is eternal bliss waiting on the other side of the shore? Nevertheless, I must confess that I have used the Christian notion of afterlife as an excuse not to acknowledge suffering in this life nor to embrace this life here and now. This life does matter and it must be lived well regardless all the metaphysical and philosophical questions that remain unsolved. Nietzsche affirms life, this life. Despite amor fati and all the forces that might lie beyond one’s control, this life is precious and thus one is to love and enjoy it, for whatever causes that one claims to live for.
Date published: 2012-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Presentation The husband and wife team provided full coverage of all aspects of Nietzsche, each lecture is fully engaging and I found that I had to ration myself to draw out the full sequence over a period of time. This series I will replay. Thank you, Thank you to all involved in bringing this to us.
Date published: 2012-03-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Embarassing This series of lectures is embarssing. Disorganized, poorly presented, rambling, and superficial. Both speakers actually sound like they are scared to death, their voices actually quiver - listening to them trip over their tongues, and their awkward phrasing is painful. Either their notes were bad, or they didn't have any. The presentation for Thus Spake Zarathurstra is especially bad. But there are others not much better. And the trade off from one speaker to the next in the same lecture is moronic. As for the substance, I learned more about Nietzsche from a single 7 page chapter in an introduction to philosphy book then from this entire course. Steer clear from this one. Read Nietzsche, or get a good summary on him if you want to know the basics of his philosophy.
Date published: 2011-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best way to spend your money ever! The only quam I have regarding this course is that I wish there were more lectures! I enjoyed listening to this course very much, and I am glad to listen again and again. Nietzche is a very complex and interesting character, and it has been a pleasure to travel along side him in the quest for a more meaningful life. This course has forced me to seek out more of Nietzche, more Emerson, more Thoreau... The list goes on. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We need more courses like this, and more courses that dig even deeper! What a worthwhile purchase!
Date published: 2011-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Much better than Existentialism This is a very good introduction to Nietzsche and well worth the listen. I did not care for his existentialism course because I thought that course was more about a survey of certain philosophers than a complete explaination of the philosphy. Here is gives a good survey of Nietxsche that left me wanting for more study on my own. You can't possibly put everything about a philosopher in 24 lectures, so if the course made me want to know more than it is a sucess.
Date published: 2011-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great way to change your thinking I've had this course for 4 years. I've listened to it about 6 times. I've learned a lot. Not just about the man, but it's given me what i consider a strong understanding of the power of Nietzsche's ideas. I find myself using Nietzsche's ideas quite a lot. Yes, N is a great writer. And these lectures take that into account, not reiterating ideas that are clearly made in N's writings. One of my fav courses.
Date published: 2010-10-23
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Save Your Money... For all the stellar teaching credentials these profs bring to the table, I was expecting something more than a scattershot survey of N.'s life and ideas. Worse, they sounded almost, well, bored, like they had given this lecture so many times they were just going through the motions. As for the team teaching approach, sorry, but it doesn't work. It sounds if they are compensating for each other's lack of preparation. Worse, at the start, they fail to give any context. They launch into a debate about N's personality and ideas while expecting the listener to be up to speed with all things N. Once again, it just made them sound bored and repeating the same lecture they gave last week. I'm a big fan of the Teaching Company, but this series is definitely a low point. My students give better lectures. Looking forward to new series on N. The man deserves better.
Date published: 2010-10-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nietzsche The Excellent.... ... the individualist, the passionate, the challenger, the loner, the creative, the exception. And this course is exceptional. Following Solomon's (also excellent) No Excuses - Existentialism and The Meaning of Life lectures, it continued opening my eyes to Nietzsche's unique virtues, and has led me to further explore his written works. I'm sure I'll listen to this set of CD's again - not only is the content interesting and stimulating, but both Professors Higgins and Solomon (a tag teaming married duo of Nietzsche scholars) are delightful - enthused, informed, balanced and eminently listenable without any unnecessary hype or fanfare. ..."if you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devote of truth, then inquire..." FN
Date published: 2010-08-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nietzsche is not Dead This course has gotten good reviews, bad reviews, mediorce reviews - this is is a good review. I have listened to this course years ago when it was first released and recently, again - it has been very worthwhile both times. It explains Nietzsche, the times he lived in, and the political, philosophical, and historical fallout he caused. This is an excellent course for anyone who is interested in history, the history of ideas, modern history, and contemporary thought. It complements TC courses on modern thought, 20th C events, and Utopian Thought. 'Nietzsche is not Dead' is just a headline and what this course does thoroughly - it provides the real story behind the many headlines about Nietzsche which very often is all that is known about him. The material presented in this course is worthwhile learning and the professor's professional presentation make it a joy to learn. No, Nietzsche is not dead; he is alive in this course.
Date published: 2010-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The 1st lectures series I've finished....so far. This lecture series went down smooth and easy, partially because of my personal interest in the subject but also because there are two lecturers: Robert and Kathleen, who were able to sustain my attention in the duration of the thirty minute lectures. This is particularly valuable to me as my interest tends to wane if the speaker goes on in a very dry fashion.
Date published: 2010-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Prof. Solomon brings Nietzsche to life This course is very satisfying. Years ago I read most of Nietzsche's major works. While I enjoyed the reading, these lectures deepened my understanding and enjoyment. Prof. Solomon is a very clear thinker who communicates complex ideas cleanly and effortlessly. Sharing his joy in Nietzsche's ideas is like a brain massage. Previously, I'd never applauded a video course.
Date published: 2010-04-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solomon does it again! This professor is the manifestation of "par excellence!"
Date published: 2010-04-03
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Nietzsche Nothing I was very disappointed with this course. When I started I new nothing about Nietzsche's philosophy, 24 lectures later I am none the wiser. The course might be of use to someone who is a Nietzsche scholar and who knows his works well, but for an interested lay person it is fairly worthless. The presenters are very good, but the content is fractured and has little structure or substance. After the course I can tell you who Nietzche's ten favourite and least favourite philosopher's are. I can tell you that he had a large moustache and was not much of a hit with the ladies. I know that he was not anti-semetic and that he started off as a fan of Wagner but changed his mind later. I know that he went insane towards the end of his life. I even know that he jumped in front of a man beating a horse to save it. What I couldn't do is tell you what he believed or what his philosophy is all about, at all. My least favourite teaching company course to date.
Date published: 2010-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good Lecture This is an excellent lecture, the professers are very engaging and are genuinely interested in the topic. Nietzsche's views have been very misunderstood and Professor Solomon and Professor Higgins present all arguments and attempt to set the record straight. Anyone who has wondered about Nietzsche but did not know anything about his philosophy should start here.
Date published: 2010-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive... and Potentially Life-Changing! Professor Solomon begins his class on Nietzsche with the words, “Hi. I’m Bob Solomon... I’m in love with Nietzsche.” By the time the student gets to the end of the course, he finds out what Solomon is talking about, because he too has fallen in love with Nietzsche, or at least, has a much better and a much more profound appreciation for Nietzsche’s life and thought. Solomon leads us through a very thorough-going examination of Nietzsche the human being, and also the central ideas which constitute Nietzsche’s philosophy, especially the “Will to Power” and the “Eternal Occurrence.” Professor Solomon discusses the classical influences of the Greeks and also the contemporary influences of Hegel, Kant and Schopenhauer upon Nietzsche’s thought. Nietzsche’s reputation greatly precedes him. Even those who study his philosophy tend to make gross generalizations about him – that he was a misogynist, or a misguided sickly man who made up a vicarious philosophy as a counterbalance to the miserable life that he lived, or a notorious atheist, or, worse yet, the philosophical precursor to the Nazis! Professor Solomon takes special pains to weed out the garden of Nietzsche’s reputation in order to give us a more accurate, comprehensive view of his philosophy. Professor Solomon’s wife, Kathleen Higgins, is appropriately called upon to address the misogynistic interpretations of Nietzsche’s thought, and I thought both did a rather good job in dispelling the common myths which have obfuscated Nietzsche’s work and which have made him misunderstood and reviled today! For myself, one of main problems that I had before undertaking this course was in understanding how a morality of a “will to power” might hold up under a Kantian analysis, and whether Nietzsche’s wanting to suspend a universal rationalistic ethics was valid. Once one understands Nietzsche’s theory of how ethics came to be, and how Kant universalizes this ethic on all humanity, it becomes easier to understand why Nietzsche rejects it as a “slave morality,” and he poses the question for us to consider, “This is my way (the master morality,) where is yours?” Instead of relying on a universal ethic valid for all time, Nietzsche makes us search for a ethic which is appropriate for us only in the context of its being valid for us in our limited time on this earth. The ethic is justified by the fact that we ought to love and appreciate our lives as our great gift, and not throw it away for a better world to come or for a moral code which treats us merely as a “member of humanity” and not for the unique individual that we are, and for the unique individual lives that we must live... even as we live them before God (though the world believes He is dead!)! Nietzsche forces us to rely not on truths which are true for all, but only for truths that are only true and peculiar for us in particular, for which we know are true deeply held within ourselves, or which we must create, and by which we must act upon for our own personal reasons, and upon which we will ultimately live and die over and over again for all eternity (Nietzsche’s "eternal recurrence" theme.) For those of us who have been lacking in a great passion of love or life, or feel they have been caught up in an alien morality, or who suffer under the great sway of oppressive massive mentality, Nietzsche’s thought has the potential to be a profound liberating force in our lives. With regard to Professor Solomon himself, I am very impressed with his ability to make difficult philosophy easy to understand and to make the student to feel sympathy for the subject. I was also impressed that he took the time to explain why he dropped out of medical school, and how Nietzsche’s philosophy helped him to arrive at that decision. I suspect that Professor Solomon could easily teach Greek or medieval philosophy as easily as he does nineteenth and twentieth century philosophy. His soft-spoken manner and earnest demeanor make us respect his sensitivity and openness, while creating earnest interest in his own passion for the material. I think Nietzsche would say that the future is something upon which we will, we determine, we act upon. To those who are interested in taking this course, I will say that this introduction to Nietzsche’s thought has the potential to be a life-changing experience! The course will not be a substitute for reading Nietzsche’s own books, of course, but I believe the student will be in a much better position to understand and appreciate the genius of Nietzsche’s life’s work. This course moved me so much that the first thing that I did upon completing the last lecture was to watch the movie, “When Nietzsche Wept.” [2007] It was a testament to Professor Solomon’s teaching that I was able to appreciate and feel the power of Nietzsche’s life and thought leap across a hundred years to come alive in this movie and that it made me want to rise above and change my own attitudes and convictions regarding living the rest of my life. I believe that something of the same might also happen to those who take Nietzsche’s message to heart!
Date published: 2009-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Joyous Presentation of Nietzsche I love Professor Solomon's joyous treatment of the existentialists and Nietzsche. His courses and books have been life-changing for me. This course is very good, but suffers a bit from some clumsy interplay between Professsor Solomon and Professor Higgins. They're both very good, but in this case the whole was not greater than the sum of the parts. Even so, the course is excellent. It gets at Nietzsche's basic ideas, which is extremely valuable, given how challenging his writings are. Keep in mind, though, that you're getting Solomon's take on Nietzsche, which is more positive than most. I like it, but if you're looking for a neutral view on Nietzsche, this isn't it.
Date published: 2009-09-20
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