Germanic Languages | German Cultural History
G364 | 27460 | Rasch

Topic: Nietzsche, Weber, Freud

Purpose:  One often hears the complaint that we live in an age in
which “anything goes,” an age of relativism marked by the loss of
religious belief, transcendent meaning, and moral standards – in
short, a time of nihilism.  In response, people talk of “values” and
“norms,” by which they mean standards that ought to guide our
behavior, even if we cannot determine or agree on where these
standards come from – God? Tradition? Reason?  These are neither new
complaints nor new solutions, but represent rather a continuation of
centuries-old debates.  In this course we will look at three
influential thinkers from German-speaking Europe of the late 19th and
early 20th centuries – Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Weber, and Sigmund
Freud – who struggled to come to terms with a modernity that no longer
provided tried and true guidelines for how to live.  Each thinker
presents us with a description of modern life in which the individual
is beset by a variety of seemingly irresolvable moral and existential
conflicts.  Faced with these mutually exclusive obligations and
desires, the modern man or woman has only one duty: choose, and live
with the consequences of one’s choice.
The purpose of the course is to understand the problems the three
thinkers addressed, but certainly not to solve them.  We wish to
understand the modern world as seen through their writings and compare
their analyses with the way we see our place in the world at the
beginning of the 21st century.  Paradoxically, though the aim of this
course is “increased knowledge,” the presupposition underlying that
aim assumes that the initial effects of such increased knowledge will
cause confusion, doubt, and self-reflection.  Or, at the very least,
intellectual excitement.

Freud: Civilization and Its Discontents
The Future of an Illusion
Nietzsche:  The Genealogy of Morals
The Will to Power
Weber:  The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

The Vocation Lectures

Nietzsche: “God is Dead”
Weber:	  “Religious Rejections of the World”
“The Meaning of ‘Ethical Neutrality’ in Sociology and Economics”

“‘Objectivity’ in Social Science and Social Policy” (selection)