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Prof Ken Gemes

  • Overview



    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


    Research overview

    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.

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Current doctoral researchers


    Doctoral alumni



    Teaching modules

    • The Philosophy of Nietzsche (Level 6) (SSPL094H6)
    • The Philosophy of Nietzsche (Level 7) (SSPL142H7)
    • Research in Theoretical Philosophy (SSPL157S7)
    • The Philosophy of Nietzsche (Level 5) (SSPL202H5)
    • Conceptions of the Human from the Enlightenment to Today (SSPO119S5)
  • Publications




    Book Section

    • Gemes, K.B. (2017) Nietzsche: this time it's personal. In: Hetherington, S. (ed.) What Makes a Philosopher Great?. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. ISBN 9781138936164.
    • Gemes, Ken and Le Patourel, I (2015) Nietzsche on consciousness, unity, and the self. In: Constancio, J and Mayer Branco, M.J. and Ryan, B. (eds.) Nietzsche and the Problem of Subjectivity. Nietzsche Today. De Gruyter. pp. 596-628. ISBN 9783110408201.
    • Gemes, Ken and Sykes, C. (2014) Nietzsche’s illusion. In: Came, D. (ed.) Nietzsche on Art and Life. Oxford University Press. pp. 80-106. ISBN 9780199545964.
    • Gemes, Ken (2013) Life's perspectives. In: Gemes, Ken and Richardson, J. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche. Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 553-575. ISBN 9780199534647.
    • von Tevenar, Godrun (2013) Zarathustra, that malicious dionysian. In: Gemes, Ken and Richardson, J. (eds.) The Oxford Handbook on Nietzsche. Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199534647.
    • Gemes, Ken (2012) Life-denial versus life-affirmation: Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on pessimism and asceticism. In: Vandenabeele, B. (ed.) A Companion to Schopenhauer. Hoboken, U.S.: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 280-299. ISBN 9781405171038.
    • Gemes, Ken and Sykes, C. (2010) Nietzsche. In: Moyar, D. (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Nineteenth Century Philosophy. Routledge Philosophy Companions. Abingdon, UK: Routledge. pp. 377-402. ISBN 9780415404501.
    • Gemes, Ken (2009) Nietzsche on free will, autonomy and the sovereign individual. In: Gemes, Ken and May, S. (eds.) Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 33-50. ISBN 9780199231560.
    • May, Simon (2009) Nihilism and the free self. In: Gemes, Ken and May, Simon (eds.) Nietzsche on Freedom and Autonomy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199231560.
    • Gemes, Ken (2006) We remain of necessity stranger to ourselves: the key message of Nietzsche's genealogy. In: Acampora, C.D. (ed.) Nietzsche's On the Genealogy of Morals: Critical Essays. Lanham, Maryland, USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 191-208. ISBN 9780742542631.
    • Gemes, Ken (1998) Logical content and empirical significance. In: Weingartner, Paul and Schurz, Gerhard and Dorn, Georg (eds.) The Role of Pragmatics in Contemporary Philosophy: Proceedings of the 20th International Wittgenstein Symposium, 10-16 August 1997, Kirchberg am Wechsel (Austria). Vienna: Verlag Halder-Pichler-Tempsky. ISBN 1022-3398.