The Genealogy of Ideas

The genealogical method in philosophy, in the version studied in this course, was created by Nietzsche, developed by Foucault, and is implied in the works of Deleuze and Guattari. It consists of a history of ideas, not focused on original intent, but on the problems and questions that make ideas possible.

Key to this notion of genealogy is the idea of “episteme,” each era has a limit of what is thinkable. Certain elements from a previous era will carry over to the next, but with a different significance. By using the genealogical method, philosophers can detect these shifts in meaning, thereby creating a way to think beyond the present-day limits of thought to presage the emergence of a future set of problems and questions.

In short, it is a way of thinking beyond our times by reactivating the problems and questions of the past. Its critical force consists in the fact that concepts are not a matter of personal intent. It is not enough to argue about the significance of words and things in order to create a present-day consensus. Genealogy is about discovering the meaning of concepts we created out of nothing. Every concept has a history. Tracing the lineage of an idea offers us an alternative to the Anglo-American method of logical analysis. It is not a matter, for the genealogist, what is true. It is a matter of what can become true if we reactivate the concepts from the history of philosophy.

Required Texts: (Some materials will be provided via PDF, however others will not be for which the student is responsible for procuring)

Deleuze, Gilles. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Columbia University Press, 1983.

Deleuze, Gilles. Foucault. University of Minnesota Press, 1988

Foucault, Michel. Language, Counter-Memory, Practice. Cornell University Press, 1977.

Foucault, Michel. Confessions of the Flesh: The History of Sexuality, Volume 4. Knopf Doubleday, 2021.

Nietzsche, Fredrich. On the Genealogy of Morality and Other Writings. Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Deleuze, Gilles. Seminars, Foucault, October 1985 - June 1986

  • Accreditation: ECTS Accredited (EQF7)
  • Total workload: 75 hours
  • Requires extra purchases (outside texts, etc.): Yes, purchases required
  • ID verification: Required
  • Admission requirements: Application required
  • Minimum education requirement for students: Undergraduate