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In what follows we will compare a relationship of key concepts expounded upon by Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy (BT) and On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life (OADHL). At the outset it must be noted that the explicit intent of each text is different, the first deals with aesthetics and the second history. But both have a more encompassing question in common, and this is the question of values, or, more specifically, with values for life. In each text Nietzsche uses a triad of concepts to work through his thoughts: in BT we find the Apollinian, Dionysian, and Attic Tragedy; in OADHL we find the historical, unhistorical, and superhistorical. It is these six concepts that we will compare and contrast. Let us begin with a brief exposition of the set of concepts from each text respectively. In BT Nietzsche describes the Apollinian as the art of sculpture, as imagistic, the beautiful illusion, a dream-state, which affords an interpretation of life. The Dionysian Nietzsche depicts as being the art of music, non-imagistic, intoxication, self-forgetfulness. The Apollinian is the artist; the Dionysian is the artist become work of art: “He himself now walks about enchanted, in ecstasy, like the gods he saw in his dreams” (BT, 37). Attic Tragedy is a synthesis of these two concepts that consumes the audience into the work of art. In OADHL Nietzsche portrays both the historical and the unhistorical in their most extreme states, likening the historical to a person unable to forget anything, and the
no longer believes in himself” (OADHL. (2) the Dionysian and unhistorical. and past which becomes a detriment. aids in the growth of life. Although not as easily delineated as a synthesis of the historical and unhistorical (but I will argue that it is in fact a synthesis). such as the previously mentioned concepts yield. the Apollinian affords an aesthetic interpretation and the historical interprets the present in terms of the past. 9). (1) The most obvious congruency between the Apollinian and the historical is that they are each a means by which to interpret life. Before exploring these concepts any further we need to introduce what Nietzsche calls the horizon. 9). The horizon is the limit or extent to which a certain life outlook. Of the purely historical Nietzsche writes: “Take as a extreme example a man who possesses no trace of the power to forget. We will find that this idea of the horizon plays a crucial role in the advantage and disadvantage of each of the concepts under discussion. and of the unhistorical: “In this way the animal lives unhistorically…it does not know how to dissimulate. I will first present a comparison between (1) the Apollinian and historical. 13). hides nothing. and finally (3) Attic Tragedy and the superhistorical.unhistorical as an animal. After this I return to the idea of a horizon. appears at every moment fully as what it is…” (OADHL. But both .” and a state in which “the past and present are one and the same” (OADHL. and how it plays a role in determining the product of these related concepts. the superhistorical Nietzsche deems as that “for whom the world is complete and achieves its end at every moment. who is condemned everywhere to see becoming: such a one no longer believes in his own existence. I would like to now compare concepts from each text with one another in order to ascertain to what extent these texts cross paths.
(3) With Attic Tragedy and the superhistorical we find a synthesis of the . 34). and by reflecting on these processes he trains himself for life” (BT. (2) Although both the Apollinian and history outlooks are essential for human life. while the purely historical states “it was” as opposed to “it is”. From the vantage point of history the audience likewise ceases to exist. forgetting themselves. From the aesthetic vantage point the intoxication occurs when the audience becomes part of the work of art. With Apollinian dream images an individual or society “is a close and willing observer. does man become man” (OADHL. abstaining from reflection. acting in the present. 9). for these images afford him an interpretation of life. Yet in BT and OADHL Nietzsche argues that the Apollinian and the historical are necessary for life. While the Apollinian and historical give an interpretation for life. and the historical by experiencing the world from underneath “the weight of the past” (OADHL. Something more in needed for action. dream images. by the subsumption of self into the moment. In both cases there is an immediate detachment from the present moment. In other words the purely Apollinian states “it is that” as opposed to “it is this”. the Dionysian and unhistorical give an affirmation of life. This is accomplished.concepts in their abstract pure forms produce merely a spectator of the present: the Apollinian by viewing the world through symbolic. 11). they are not sufficient. being in the moment. In BT Nietzsche calls this intoxication and in OADHL the ability to forget. in a somewhat paradoxical manner. for engagement with the present and this is where we find the commonality between the Dionysian and unhistorical outlooks. by selfforgetfulness. and with the historical “only through the power to use the past for life and to refashion what has happened into history.
forgets they are in fact the audience of a work of art. Yet to say “Yes” to this challenge. the audience forgets the fact that a drama is in fact occurring. By engaging the audience. Only with an interpretation of life. creating the birth of tragedy. would not be lived. through presentation and positioning of the audience in relation to the actors. and proceed with our own demands for growth and order. but felt. and hence always already applied to life. and becomes part of the work of art which has the intention of generating an understanding of the world. lived. For this we require the Apollinian and historical.previously discussed outlooks. The objective . With the addition of dithyrambic choruses praising Dionysus in which. experienced. While the Dionysian and unhistorical are necessary for life they do not raise the individual or society above the status animals. albeit through “beautiful illusions”. with the harsh reality of existence. the symbolic expressions are then not only understood. can we rise up above of the present moment and meet the self-inflicted demands of reason. to say “Yes” in the midst of suffering inflicted upon us by nature. 47). which we find in the individual as the need for personal growth and in society as a whole in the need for social structure. we need the chaotic intoxication of Dionysian frenzy and the unhistorical state of pure being. and therefore would remain superficially inapplicable to life. which reason demands of us. Attic Tragedy Nietzsche calls the “common goal of both” the tendencies of the Apollinian and Dionysian (BT. through historical reflection and symbolic imagery. Without this subsumption of the audience into the work of art the understanding one may have gathered from the drama would not be experienced. Symbolic imagery and Greek drama gave an interpretation of life by which the Greeks were able to come to grips.
The purely Dionysian and unhistorical states are completely animalistic. “the past and present are now one and the same” (OADHL. Simply put. 13). the remembrance of history enables the individual or society to interpret the present moment in relation to the past. 62). we learn from our experiences. but in a manner which guides “the eye away from becoming and toward that which gives existence an eternal and stable character”. But to dwell on past experiences is not to live in the present. must be met and this is dependent upon the conditions of an individual or society. to live by self- . both due to the loss of self-awareness. 10). advantageous historical interpretation with the ever-existent unhistorical person is what I interpret the elusive superhistorical concept of OADHL to be. “toward art and religion” (OADHL. and the historical and unhistorical. In this synthesis the major concept is the unhistorical for. A synthesis of healthy. We demand of ourselves to create order. Rather we need history to refrain from the repetition of past errors and to know what course of actions in the present will produce desired outcomes in the future. the first in a rapturous intoxication. But our ability to reason creates a demand for more than this. Similarly. With the superhistorical we have a synthesis of the becoming of history with the being of the present. and the second as the constant bliss of ignorance. In order to occur these syntheses are dependent upon boundaries of the horizon. Although a purely unhistorical being is no more than an animal grazing in the herds. What is meant by this is that a certain ratio between the Apollinian and Dionysian. for Nietzsche. “ all acting requires forgetting” and “without forgetting it is quite impossible to live at all” (OADHL. and purely historical being is a contradiction in terms for history is forever becoming.interpretations become subjective experiences.
10). desires and histories and from them we create the world around us. replace what is lost ad reshape broken forms out of itself” (OADHL. transforming and assimilating everything past and alien. to become what we demand of ourselves we must create our present out of the past—we must be artists and works of art. Works Cited. and not we them. Nietzsche calls the factor that determines the ability to use this weight the “plastic power of a man.inflicted codes. the horizon. to compose one’s own present. . To be we must live wholly in the present. capability. And in order to live in the present. a constant becoming and hence never-being. to withstand the “weight of the past” (OADHL. as an artist or community of artists. to heal wounds. more than the animal—we demand meaning and purpose to exist. 105). This weight is a pull of gravity towards becoming. The horizon is thus the ability to live life as a willed interpretation of the past and to use this interpretation. as an affirmation of life in spite of its hardships. It is from this demand that art and history both sprout forth. a culture” defining it as “the power distinctively to grow out of itself. If our demand of history and art exceeds our horizon we become enslaved to them in that they create us. The degree to which one can consume and utilize history and works of art for the creation of meaning depends upon one’s ability. These codes are derived from our fears. the artist must be sublimated into his or her work of art. But too much of either demand is a cancellation of life. of our ability to benefit from both works of art and history. “One is much more of an artist than one knows” (BGE. we demand more than happiness. Amidst the sufferings and fears stirs the need for art and history for life. 9). a people. we must forget the past. The degree of plastic power an individual or society has is the limit.
Trans. 1980.Nietzsche. Friedrich.. Walter Kaufmann. The Birth of Tragedy. 1967. Indianpolis: Hackett Publishing Co. New York: Vintage Books. Trans. . Pete Preuss. Nietzsche. On the Advantage and Disadvantage of History for Life. Friedrich.
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