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Ken Gemes


Ken Gemes received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 1990. He came to Birkbeck in 2000 having taught for ten years at Yale University. He is currently also a Professor at the New College of the Humanities. Thus he has one foot in an institution founded on socialist principles a little less than two centuries ago, the other in an institution belonging in a world of cut-throat capitalism founded a little over two years ago.

Research Activity

  • Ken’s interests range from technical issues concerning logical content and confirmation to Nietzsche’s account of how philosophy is merely the last manifestation of the ascetic ideal.
  • He is currently working on papers on (i) Nietzsche’s account of the notion of the self, I and consciousness; (ii) Nietzsche account of nihilism and the affirmation of life; and (iii) Nietzsche’s values. His general approach is to read Nietzsche as a psychologist and Kulturkritiker. This is in no way to underplay the importance of Nietzsche’s normative concerns, but to locate those concerns somewhat outside the concerns of more traditional ethicists. Beyond the value of examining the thought of an out-an-out genius, studying Nietzsche allows us to see how philosophy might be directly related to our actual lives.
  • Ken is also working on a Bayesian account of confirmation that is more fine-grained than that which simplify identifies confirmation with increase in probability. This is part of a wider project that argues that key notions such as confirmation and partial truth cannot be explicated adequately through use of the standard notion of logical consequence.


  • Ken’s publications include:
  • “Life’s Perspectives”, pp. 553-575 in The Oxford Handbook on Nietzsche, ed. K. Gemes and J. Richardson, Oxford University Press, 2013
  • “Freud and Nietzsche on Sublimation”, Journal of Nietzsche Studies, 38: 38-59, 2009
  • “Nihilism and the affirmation of life: a review of and dialogue with Bernard Reginster”, European Journal of Philosophy, 16:459-471, 2008
  • “We Remain of Necessity Stranger to Ourselves”: The Key Message of Nietzsche’s Genealogy”, pp. 191-208 in Acampora, Christa Davis, ed. Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals: Critical Essays. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2006.
  • "Hypothetico-Deductivism: The Current State of Play; The Criterion of Empirical Significance Endgame", Erkenntnis, 49:1-20, 1998
  • A New Theory of Content II: Model Theory and Some Alternatives," Journal of Philosophical Logic, 26:449-476, 1997
  • Many of these, and other, papers can be downloaded from

Research Supervision

  • Recently Ken Gemes has been supervising a number of students doing PhDs on themes in Nietzsche. He hopes to continue such supervision. He is also happy to supervise students interested in (i) formal questions in the general philosophy of science, for instance, questions about confirmation of theories; and (ii) questions in philosophical logic concerning truth and content.


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