Death and Beauty: Schopenhauer and Nietzsche - PHIL6380

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2020 to 2021.


This module concerns ideas of two of the most interesting of Western philosophers: Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Both thinkers developed ideas that transformed much of the intellectual landscape of the twentieth century, and both wrote books that prove fruitful for successive generations. They wrote on many themes: ethics, religion, aesthetics, metaphysics, and epistemology. Both take their starting point from those thinkers that came before, notably Kant and Hegel. However, they are interesting to compare because they have such different views on philosophical thought and various themes. In particular, some of Nietzsche's thought is framed explicitly in opposition to Schopenhauer's, with the former casting the latter as the great pessimist. An appreciation of their ideas is an important part of the education of many philosophy students. However, both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche can be hard writers to read and understand. This module is designed both to introduce some of their ideas and develop a student's appreciation of them such that he or she can discuss them with confidence and critical insight.

The module will not cover all of the writings of either or both thinkers. Students will typically read selections from Schopenhauer’s The World as Will and Representation, and his essays, and then selections from a variety of Nietzsche’s works, or one work in full. These will be read on their own, with ideas from both thinkers compared. Modern writers and commentators will be read in addition to help reveal the importance of Schopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s ideas.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 30


Also available at Level 6 under code PL639

Method of assessment

• Essay 1 (Level 5 – 1,000 words; Level 6 – 1,200 words) – 30%
• Essay 2 (2,000 words) – 60%
• Seminar Performance – 10%

Indicative reading

Indicative reading:

Gemes, K. and Simon May (eds.) (2011). Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy (Oxford: OUP).
Janaway, C. (1989). Self and World in Schopenhauer's Philosophy (Oxford: OUP).
Janaway, C. (1999). The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer (Cambridge: CUP)
Leiter, B. and Neil Sinhababu (eds.) (2009). Nietzsche and Morality (Oxford: OUP).
Nietzsche, F. (1993). The Birth of Tragedy (London: Penguin)
Schacht, R. (1994). Nietzsche, Genealogy, Morality: Essays on Nietzsche's 'On the Genealogy of Morals' (California UP).
Schopenhauer, A. (1973). Essays and Aphorisms (London: Penguin)
Schopenhauer, A. (1969). The World as Will and Representation (New York: Dover)
Vandenabeele, B. (2012) (ed.). A Companion to Schopenhauer (London: Blackwell).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module, Level 5 students will be able to:

8.1 Demonstrate critical understanding of a specific writing or writings by Schopenhauer;
8.2 Connect specific writing or writings of Schopenhauer to modern works and themes and comment on those themes;
8.3 Demonstrate critical understanding of a specific writing or writings by Nietzsche
8.4 Connect specific writing or writings of Nietzsche to modern works and themes and comment on those themes;
8.5 Connect and contrast the benefits of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche's ideas to each other and critically compare them.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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