General Information

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THIS CLASS, WHICH COMBINES STUDY IN MORAL PHILOSOPHY, POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, PUBLIC POLICY AND CULTURE, IS AN EXPLORATION OF THE ALL-IMPORTANT PHILOSOPHY OF NIHILISM. HARVEY MANSFIELD, JR. OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY HAS CALLED NIHILISM THE MOST IMPORTANT PHILOSOPHY OF OUR TIME AND OUR VERY OWN FLANNERY O’CONNOR—DECADES AGO—PERCEPTIVELY NOTED THAT NIHILISM IS THE VERY “AIR THAT WE BREATH.” 

            WE WILL FIRST LOOK AT THE IDEAS OF FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE, THE MOST POPULAR EXPONENT OF NIHILISM WHO IS BEST KNOWN FOR HIS NOTORIOUS PRONOUNCEMENT “GOD IS DEAD.” WE WILL ALSO LOOK AT MANY OF THE INFLUENCES UPON HIM, NOTABLY HEGEL, SCHOPENHAUER, EURIPIDES AND WAGNER. WE WILL ALSO CONSIDER OTHERS WHO WROTE ABOUT NIHILISM SUCH AS THE RUSSIAN NOVELISTS TURGENEV AND DOSTOEVSKY.   


           NEXT WE WILL EXAMINE THE IMPACT OF NIHILISM ON HISTORY AND CULTURE FROM NAZISM TO POPULAR MUSIC TO POPULAR ENTERTAINMENT. THIS WILL INCLUDE MODERN CLASSICAL MUSIC SUCH AS RICHARD STRAUSS AND ARNOLD SCHÖENBERG, ROCK GROUPS LIKE THE ROLLING STONES, THE DOORS, AND THE MOODY BLUES; AND MOVIES SUCH AS “2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY” AND THE RECENT ADAPTATION OF “CAPE FEAR,” AND SOME TWENTIETH CENTURY ARTISTS LIKE PABLO PICASSO AND SALVADOR DALI.   


            FINALLY, THE CLASS WILL SAMPLE CERTAIN AREAS OF PUBLIC POLICY AND POLITICAL LIFE, WHERE, ARGUABLY, THE INFLUENCE OF NIHILISTIC MORAL AND POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY IS STRONGEST: THESE MAY INCLUDE ANY OF THE FOLLOWING, PUBLIC EDUCATION, BIOENGINEERING, PSYCHOLOGY, AND POLITICAL CAMPAIGNING.