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Module HPS-1004:
Death of God

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Prof Lucy Huskinson

Overall aims and purpose

This module explores the powerful and provocative idea of the death of God—an idea proclaimed by the famous and wildly misunderstood nineteenth century German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. Students will be introduced to the principal ideas within Nietzsche’s philosophy that provide a context for understanding the meaning of death of God, and its radical implications. Students will scrutinise key passages written by Nietzsche, and will be introduced to some of the ways in which his ideas have been misinterpreted to strikingly different conclusions (for instance, one the one hand, to affirm Nazi propaganda, and on the other, to promote a ‘more authentic’ Christianity). Students will attempt to ascertain what Nietzsche intended by the concept, and being to appreciate the extent to which a powerful philosophical idea can lead to such contrasting ideals. In addition to exploring philosophical questions such as, ‘how can an all-powerful God die?’ and ‘what are the repercussions of God’s death for truth, morality, faith, and a meaningful and purposeful life?’, students will be introduced to key philosophical concepts, including metaphysics, transcendence, immanence, and nihilism.

Course content

The module begins by examining how the events of Nietzsche’s life and the cultural climate of his time are reflected in his writing style and the ideas he seeks to expound. Following this introduction, the module is divided into four parts. In part one we explore the philosophical context for why God’s death is deemed a necessity for Nietzsche. Here we look at his criticism of Christianity and Platonism, and examine his concepts of will to power, slave and master morality, bad conscience and ressentiment. In part two we examine the nature of God’s death, and by looking at a variety of Nietzsche’s writings, we piece together how God ‘died’. In part three, we begin to investigate the implications of the death of God for our understanding of morality, truth, and suffering. Here students are introduced to Nietzsche’s idea of a revaluation of values, and his famous conceptions of the Übermensch (or superman), eternal recurrence, and the relevance of Dionysus. Finally, in part 4 we revisit the key ideas that have been explored within this module to entertain a controversial yet coherent reading of Nietzsche’s philosophy—one that proposes the possibility of God’s return.

Assessment Criteria


D- - D +. Submitted work is adequate and shows an acceptable level of competence as follows: Generally accurate but with omissions and errors. Assertions are made without clear supporting evidence or reasoning. Has structure but is lacking in clarity and therefore relies on the reader to make links and assumptions. Draws on a relatively narrow range of material.


A - - A*. Submitted work is of an outstanding quality and excellent in one or more of the following ways: - Has originality of exposition with the student’s own thinking being readily apparent. - Provides clear evidence of extensive and relevant independent study. - Arguments are laid down with clarity and provide the reader with successive stages of consideration to reach conclusions.


Good C- - C +. Submitted work is competent throughout and occasionally distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates: - Good structure and logically developed arguments. - At least in parts draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student. - Assertions are, in the main, backed by evidence and sound reasoning. - Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style. Very Good B- - B+. Submitted work is competent throughout and distinguished by superior style, approach and choice of supporting materials. It demonstrates: - Very good structure and logically developed arguments. - Draws on material that has been sourced and assessed as a result of independent study, or in a way unique to the student. - Assertions are backed by evidence and sound reasoning. - Accuracy and presentation in an appropriate academic style.

Learning outcomes

  1. Display a detailed knowledge of the texts covered in the module.

  2. Expound and critically evaluate some of the philosophical and cultural implications of these different interpretations.

  3. Engage orally and in writing with these texts in a philosophical way, considering arguments and ideas carefully and analytically.

  4. Display some knowledge of the ways in which the concept of the ‘death of God’ has been variously interpreted and developed by thinkers.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight

Select one of the passages written by Nietzsche (choice of texts will be made available on Blackboard), and explain and analyse some of the key ideas in it.

Written assignment, including essay Summary of key terms with references

Write a summary of key philosophical terms, chosen from a selection that will be made available. Summary must include references from relevant texts by Nietzsche and by scholars who have written about Nietzsche's ideas.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Interactive Lectures, including individual and group work. Between 22-27 contact hours depending on discussions of student cohort


Providing optional additional feedback on assignments.

Private study

To consult reading materials, and to research for and write assessments.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Management - Able to utilise, coordinate and control resources (human, physical and/or financial)
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills


Courses including this module

Optional in courses: