Selected Topics in Philosophy (PHIL*3350) | College of Arts

Selected Topics in Philosophy (PHIL*3350)

Code and section: PHIL*3350*01

Term: Winter 2018

Instructor: Kyle Johnston


This seminar will explore the conceptual contributions of Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, and Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, to the history of metaphysics in 19th and 20th century European philosophy.  We will begin with one of Nietzsche’s last texts, Twilight of the Idols (1888), a work originally conceived as a short introduction to his opus, where he further critiques concepts foundational to western metaphysics.  Overall, the text argues that concepts like ‘reason,’ ‘being,’ and ‘objectivity’ are ultimately expressions of (moral) value.  With Nietzsche we will also engage new forms of philosophical expression, a pursuit consequential for subsequent European philosophy.  We will then turn to Heidegger’s 1935 lecture course, Introduction to Metaphysics, which continues to outline his conception of a ‘hermeneutic ontology’ and offers fascinating reinterpretations of Greek philosophy’s understanding of ‘Being.’  The aim of Heidegger’s course is to offer us an original encounter of what it means ‘to be.’  We will address the ongoing controversy around this text, i.e. its putative fascist character and its acknowledgment of the Nazi Party, while raising the thorny issue of authorial ownership and responsibility.  We will finish our course by studying selections of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (1980).  This work develops the schizo-nomadology for which Deleuze and Guattari are well known and elaborates unorthodox philosophical concepts including: machinic assemblages, intensive becomings, lines of flight, bodies without organs, the war machine, stratification, deterritorialization, etc.  Our course will focus on the Plateaus (i.e. chapters) that treat the concepts of rhizomes, multiplicities, content and expression, form and matter, regimes of signs, abstract machines, body without organs, and becomings.  Our study of these difficult ontological concepts and the text’s form of argumentation will allow us to bear witness to contemporary inheritors of Nietzsche’s endeavor to forge new expressions of thought.

Required Texts:

-The Portable Nietzsche, Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. Walter Kaufmann.  Penguin Classics, 1977.
-Introduction to Metaphysics, Martin Heidegger, Trans. Gregory Fried and Richard Polt, Yale Nota Bene, Yale University Press, 2000.
-A Thousand Plateaus, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, Trans. Brian Massumi, University of Minn. Press, 1987.

Course Outline