Marx, Nietzsche, Freud: Masters of Suspicion

HIST 3252
crosslisted as: COML 3252
instructor(s): Warren Breckman
R 12:00 PM-2:59 PM

In his influential book Freud & Philosophy, the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur identified three master thinkers whose influence on the twentieth century was inestimable.  What these figures shared was what Ricoeur called a “hermeneutics of suspicion”; that is, in their different ways, each developed a style of interpretation aimed at unmasking, demystifying, and exposing the real from the apparent.  “Three masters, seemingly mutually exclusive, dominate the school of suspicion: Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.” Taking its inspiration from Ricoeur, this seminar will explore some of the key writings of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud.  We will encounter the hermeneutics of suspicion above all in these authors’ attempts to unmask religion and reveal its true origin and function.  And we shall also pursue the hermeneutics of suspicion in the specific concerns that form the core of each thinker’s work: Marx’s critique of capitalism, Nietzsche’s genealogy of Judaeo-Christian morality, skepticism about ‘truth’, and proto-deconstruction of the human self, and Freud’s theory of the unconscious.  The final weeks of the course will be devoted to independent research and writing of an original essay in intellectual history.