THIN PIECE: NIETZSCHE'S ON THE GENEALOGY OF MORALS JANUARY 23-25, 2014

Though On the Genealogy of Morals is one of Nietzsche’s most enduring and influential works, it is also among his most difficult and widely misunderstood. In part, the difficulty stems from Nietzsche’s distinctive style—though ostensibly a philosopher, he writes in an aggressively polemical mode that can obscure the precise meaning of many of his claims. Adding to this difficulty is, moreover, the inherent complexity of many of the concepts at work throughout the text. Indeed, while generations of commentators have unpacked and reworked terms like “genealogy,” “ressentiment,” and “value,” at times their meanings still remain unclear, and many contemporary scholars still disagree over how best to make use of the concepts they name.

This seminar will revisit Nietzsche’s seminal text in order to come to a better understanding of the aims, stakes, and influence of On the Genealogy of Morals as it comes to us today. It therefore focuses, in one vein, on Nietzsche’s approach to style, exploring its relationship to both his philosophical aims and to the broader context from which Nietzsche comes. We know that Nietzsche was deeply engaged with the literary and cultural milieu in which he lived. To what extent should we conclude that his style was in some way an expression of that milieu? That Nietzsche is a powerful stylist is beyond dispute, but how should we understand the relationship between the way Nietzsche writes and the claims the Genealogy makes?

In another vein, the seminar explores the complexities of Nietzsche’s concepts themselves, with a particular focus on terms like “ressentiment,” “genealogy” and the relationship between nature and culture as it exists throughout the text. “Ressentiment” is perhaps one of Nietzsche’s most oft-repeated terms, but what exactly does it mean? Subsequent generations of scholars have made abundant use of “genealogy” as an historical method, but in what sense does the text actually constitute a “genealogy” of morals? And while Nietzsche is widely regarded as a naturalist, the precise meaning of his naturalism remains the subject of considerable debate, especially where our understanding of the relationship between nature and culture is concerned. What exactly is “nature” for Nietzsche? In what way does it give rise to “culture” in his thought?

Finally, the seminar investigates the influence of Nietzsche on subsequent generations of writers and scholars, especially those who have come to his work from a religious point of view. On the Genealogy of Morals constitutes one of the most withering attacks on the tenets of Christianity to have emerged from the Western philosophical canon, but Nietzsche has nonetheless been a touchstone for many theologians working in his wake. In what way has On the Genealogy of Morals influenced subsequent generations of theological reflection? And, more broadly, how have his ideas been received by scholars working in history, psychology, philosophy and other related fields?

In revisiting On the Genealogy of Morals and the ideas that come from it, the seminar hopes, in one sense, to come to a better understanding of an immensely influential and historically important philosophical text. More fundamentally, though, the seminar also works to clarify the importance of On the Genealogy of Morals both to past generations of scholars and to anyone interested in the nature of morality as we understand it today.

Speakers include James Conant (Philosophy), Glenn Most (Classics and Social Thought), Ryan Coyne (Divinity), David Wellberry (German and Social Thought), Candace Vogler (Philosophy) and Willemien Otten (Divinity).

PRE-READINGS

David Wellberry, “Nietzsche on Tragedy,” Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. [Download]
An analysis of the Nietzsche’s aesthetic account of tragedy.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Circles,” The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson ed. Brooks Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library, 2000), 252-263. [Download]
An account of the circle as a metaphor for the foundational structure of nature and experience.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “An Address,” The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson ed. Brooks Atkinson (New York: The Modern Library, 2000), 63-78. [Download]
Emerson’s famous critique of Christianity.

SCHEDULE

THURSDAY, JANUARY 23, 2014

8:15 a.m. Shuttle leaves Hyatt Place Hotel for the Bartlett Hall (5640 South University Avenue).

8:45 a.m. Check-in, coffee

9:00 a.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks

Elizabeth O'Connor Chandler, Director, Midwest Faculty Seminar
9:15 a.m. Presentation 1

David Wellbery, Germanic Studies and Comparative Literature
10:30 a.m. Coffee

10:45 a.m. The Dialectic between Nature and Culture in later Nietzsche

James Conant, Philosophy
12:00 noon Lunch (on your own)

Preparing Future Faculty Luncheon (for those taking part) 12:15-1:30 at Bartlett Hall
2:00 p.m. Presentation 3

Ryan Coyne, Divinity
3:15 p.m. Coffee

3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Participant Discussion Groups

Group A, Ryan Coyne, Regenstein 503
Group B, Michael Kremer, Regenstein 403
5:05 p.m. Shuttle leaves Bartlett Hall for La Petite Folie

5:30 p.m. Reception and Dinner at La Petite Folie.

8:00 p.m. Shuttle leaves La Petite Folie for the Hyatt Place Hotel.

FRIDAY, JANUARY 24, 2014:

8:15 a.m. Shuttle leaves Hyatt Place Hotel for Bartlett Hall (5640 South University Avenue).

9:00 a.m. The Jewish Reception of Nietzsche

Paul Mendes-Flohr, Divinity
10:15 a.m. Coffee

10:30 a.m. Nietzsche, Emerson, and Morality as Posture

Willemien Otten, Divinity
11:45 a.m. Lunch and Report on Discussion Groups (Lunch will be provided)

12:15 p.m. to 2:00pm Participant Discussion Groups

Group A, Ryan Coyne, Regenstein 503
Group B, Michael Kremer, Regenstein 403
2:05 p.m. Free Afternoon (Shuttle leaves Bartlett Hall for the Hyatt Place Hotel.)

SATURDAY, JANUARY 25, 2014:

8:30 a.m. Shuttle leaves Hyatt Place Hotel for Bartlett Hall (5640 South University Avenue).

9:15 a.m. We Moral Psychologists: Reading the cheerfully vivisected conscience

Candace Vogler, Philosophy
10:30 a.m. Report on Discussion Groups

10:45 a.m. Participant Discussion Groups and Wrap-Up

Discussion groups will meet as one in Bartlett Hall
12:00 p.m. Adjournment

(Shuttle leaves the Bartlett Hall for the Hyatt Place Hotel at 12:10 p.m.)