German 146. The Ethics of Atheism: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud



Top of stack of books installation at Bebelplatz, Berlin





Examines the Western secular tradition through the work of three seminal figures whose critiques of religion -- in social and political theory, philosophy, and psychoanalysis and anthropology -- are motivated by ethical concerns. Introductory readings of Kant and Feuerbach ground analysis of Marx’s, Nietzsche’s, and Freud’s ethical atheism. Students do not develop or debate formulae for behavior, but rather become critically aware of ethical considerations that underlie actions and that are negotiated vis-à-vis prevailing moral codes. Readings include (some selections and some complete works): Kant, Prefaces to Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone; Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity; Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in General, Introduction to Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, On the Jewish Question, Theses on Feuerbach, Communist Manifesto; Nietzsche, On Truth and Lie in the Extra-Moral Sense, The Gay Science, On the Genealogy of Morals, The Antichrist; Freud, Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, Totem and Taboo, The Future of an Illusion. The course is conducted as a large seminar with preparatory section meetings the afternoon or evening before the full seminar meeting.

Course Notes: Conducted entirely in English. German concentrators and Secondary Field students read the texts in German.