Notes and Quotes – The Birth of Tragedy Chapters 3 & 4

April 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

Nietzsche opens this chapter with the question of understanding the edifice of Apolline culture, and in particular its foundations through a dismantling of its characters, it gods, its myths. He refers to a passage from Aristotle (Eudemos; of which only fragments survive):

“An ancient legend recounts how King Midas hunted long in the forest for the wise Silenus, companion of Dionysos, but failed to catch him. When Silenus has finally fallen into his hands, the King asks what is the best and most excellent thing for human beings. Stiff and unmoving, the daemon remains silent until, forced by the King to speak, he finally breaks out in shrill laughter and says: ‘Wretched, ephemeral race, children of chance and tribulation, why do you force me to tell you the very thing which it would be most profitable for you not to hear? The very best thing is utterly beyond your reach: not to have been born, not to be, to be nothing. However, the second best thing for you is: to die soon.'” (p23, BoT)

The result in Apolline culture from man’s struggle to to understand what is best for him in this world:

“Wherever we encounter the ‘naive’ in art, we have to recognise that it is the supreme effect of Apolline culture; as such, it first had to overthrow the realm of the Titans and slay monsters, and, by employing powerful delusions and intensely pleasurable illusions, gain victory over a terrifyingly profound view of the world and the most acute sensitivity to suffering.” (p24, BoT)

“Homeric ‘naivete’ can be understood only as the complete victory of Apolline illusion…” (p25, BoT)

Chpt 4:

The relationship between dream and lived experience:

“There is no doubt that, of the two halves of our lives, the waking and the dreaming half, the former strikes us as being the more privileged, important, dignified, and worthy of being lived, indeed the only half that truly is lived; nevertheless, although it may seem paradoxical, I wish to assert that the very opposite evaluation of dream holds true for that mysterious ground of our being of which we are an appearance. The more I become aware of those all powerful artistic drives in nature, and of a fervent longing in them for semblance, for their redemption and release in semblance, the more I feel myself driven to the metaphysical assumption that that which truly exists, the eternally suffering and contradictory, primordial unity, simultaneously needs, for its constant release and redemption, the ecstatic vision, intensely pleasurable semblance. We, however, who consist of and are completely trapped in semblance, are compelled to feel this semblance to be that which truly is not, i.e. a continual Becoming in time, space, and causality – in other words, empirical reality.” (p26, BoT)

Opposition of the drivers:

“The Muses of the arts of semblance grew pale and wan when faced with an art which, in its intoxication, spoke the truth; the wisdom of Silenus called out ‘Woe, woe!’ to the serene Olympians. The individual, with all his limits and measure, became submerged here in the self-oblivion of the Dionysiac condition and forgot the statutes of Apollo. Excess revealed itself as the truth; contradiction, bliss born of pain, spoke of itself from out of the heart of nature. Thus, wherever the Dionysiac broke through, the Apolline was suspended and annulled.” (p27, BoT)

Nietzsche seems to have basically said that the two artistic drivers dominated the Hellenic world by a succession of ever new births and by a process of reciprocal intensification. (p28) The struggle between these two evolved the Homeric world from the iron age and its Titanic struggles, to the ‘rigid majesty’ of Doric art and Doric view of the world. Nietzsche sees Attic tragedy as emerging from this as a sublime and exalted art, and as the common goal of both drivers.


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