Archives For Nietzsche

And sketches for themes concerning upcoming video projects…

From ‘Chris Marker: La Jetee’ by Janet Harbord (Afterfall Books)

” […] ‘I will have spent my life trying to understand the function of remembering,’ says the narrator in another of Marker’s landmark films, Sans Soleil (Sunless, 1983), ‘which is not the opposite of forgetting, but rather its lining’. The comment recalls Nietzsche writing that there could be no hope, ‘no present, without forgetfulness’, as well as Kafka’s statement: ‘One photographs things in order to get them out of one’s mind. My stories are a kind of closing one’s eyes’. We close our eyes, like the cinema’s blink to blackness, and we dream of what has been and might be. Forgetting is not an abandonment of the past, but permission to elaborate, to reconstruct differently, to mix up the syntax. Both memory and cinema work with an unstable set of associations, contingent on the circumstances in which they appear. If the potency of a memory is the opening enigma of La Jetee, the rest of the film is an exploration of the ways in which recording devices, such as film and photography, perform a choreography with memory’s work.” (p4)

Harbord pulls together the exact thoughts I encountered upon studying Nietzsche and recognising the close connection between Nietzsche and the central thesis of the narration embedded in Sans Soleil. This thesis, or theme, attracts me because it provides a solid foundation, or rather inquest, in which to uncover, using the mediums of video and audio, what lies beneath, or next to, or perhaps above everyday reality. That is, the perceived experience of the everyday. For Nietzsche total memory was a prison, and the ability to forget was tied to human happiness.

“Metaphysics calls the permanent Now ‘eternity’. Nietzsche, too, conceives the three phases of time from the standpoint of eternity as a permanent Now. But, for Nietzsche, the permanence does not consist in something static, but in a recurrence of the same.” (p418 – Who Is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? {Heidegger})

Briefly, Nietzsche’s conception of the superman, or perhaps to coin a phrase less laden with contemporary connotations – an evolved modern person free from the pitfalls of historical ‘man’ – is someone free from the past and therefore free from the spirit of vengefulness and free from the degradation of the present as caused by the attachment to universal ideals. This second point pertains to the Will to Power and the eternal recurrence of the same – a statement on the Being of beings – see Nietzsche blog posts for more info.

Talking about ‘the everyday’ has some implications that need to be set apart. The everyday refers to the perceived everyday experienced by an individual subject. The implication of the activities of the subjects own memories in this everyday experience is that the past is always present and always fighting for attention in the present. The seduction of the past lives with us. It beckons us to grasp what has been and remake it differently. This is the central theme of La Jetee, of Vertigo (Hitchcock), of the Greek myth Oedipus and perhaps even an inversion of the stories of Kafka – that is; to wake up in the present without the desire to reshape it according to an ideal found in both an individual past and collective past. To no longer reshape the present is to break a fundamental contract with the past and with memory itself. In another sense this could be construed as an argument founded in solipsism; that is, the quest to set aside individual subjectivity in order to come upon a form of true objectivity (to prove the existence of others – the brain in a jar, evil demon deception problems) In short, memory construes an idealised past and invades our experience of the present tempting us to not see what is set out directly before us but rather to reshape what is before us to suit an ideal; a fantasy. We want to re-make things that have been in order to repeat them and to change them. Dangerous ground for tragic heroes.


Memories exist in the unconscious. The unconscious is our storage unit. Drawing on Freud we can construe the unconscious as a land without time or temporality. Moments from the distant past may be buried deep but have no interest in real temporal orientation and so might erupt into the present creating fractures and disturbances. If the activity of memory constitutes our shaping (re-shaping) of the present then we are destined to madness, or a recurring nightmare; the past is simply an unknowable landscape which cannot be mined for truth. Truth being construed here as an objective viewing of the present, real and unfolding world. The scientists in Marker’s La Jetee attempt to mine and use the memories of their test subjects to reshape the future/past. To achieve their goal they need one of Nietzsche’s evolved human beings – a Nietzshean Superman.


A great lecture by Keith Sanborn –


Nietzsche and Heidegger

June 19, 2012 — 1 Comment

Text: Who Is Nietzsche’s Zarathustra? (Heidegger)

Heidegger identifies the subtitle to Nietzsche’s work Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for Everyone and No One as a reference to Nietzsche’s concern with Being as an existential, metaphysical and ontological question. Everyone refers to every man for whom his essential nature has become worthy of his thought, and no one to the everyday man, the idle curious who merely intoxicate themselves with aphorisms. Heidegger identifies Zarathustra the character as an advocate or spokesman. A spokesman for what? For that of and for which he speaks. Zarathustra is the ‘convalescent’: that which returns home. Zarathustra is the man who collects himself to return home, to turn into his own destiny. Zarathustra makes a threefold claim of what he advocates: life, suffering and the circle. This is Nietzsche primary set of concerns. These three things are one and the same. The advocate Zarathustra is a teacher of two things: the eternal recurrence and the superman.

Heidegger claims that Nietzsche is the first thinker to recognize, in view of the emerging world-history, for the first time the question as to whether man, as man in his nature until now, is ready to assume dominion over the whole earth. This is the position of the superman: a man sufficiently brought beyond himself but not a product of an analysis of the modern age. The superman surpasses previous and contemporary man, and is therefore a bridge. We as readers need to observe three things:

1) That from which the person passing over departs
2) The bridge itself
3) The destination of the person crossing over

“Metaphysics calls the permanent Now ‘eternity’. Nietzsche, too, conceives the three phases of time from the standpoint of eternity as a permanent Now. But, for Nietzsche, the permanence does not consist in something static, but in a recurrence of the same.” (p418)

“For modern metaphysics, and within its particular expression, the Being of beings appears as will.” (p422)

Heidegger on revenge: Revenge is the bridge to the highest hope for Zarathustra.

Nietzsche has Zarathustra say: “For that man be delivered from revenge, that is the bridge to the highest hope for me and a rainbow after long storms.” (N in H, p418)


Heidegger asserts that Nietzsche’s meaning is that Zarathustra intends to serve a spirit which is free from vengefulness and therefore precedes all mere brotherhood relations, all peace secured pacts. The superman is man without the spirit of revenge, who pre-dates the spirit of revenge, and so who is also part of the eternal recurrence. This is related to Nietzsche’s extensive writings on punishment in the Genealogy of Morals:

“The spirit of revenge, my friends, has so far been the subject of man’s best reflection; and wherever there was suffering, there punishment was also wanted.” (p419)

Reflection is that thinking in which man’s relation to what is, to all beings, is attuned. According to Nietzsche, this thinking has thus far been determined by the spirit of revenge. Revenge is opposing, degrading persecution. Nietzsche claims that revenge is ‘the will’s aversion to time and its ‘It was’.’ Note that he leaves out It is, and It will be, suggesting he characterizes revenge as particular to one aspect of time. The will has no influence over ‘It was’, and constantly runs up against it.

“For Nietzsche, the most profound revenge consists of that reflection which posits eternal Ideals as the absolute, compared with which the temporal must degrade itself to actual non-being.” (p423)

Therefore, man cannot assume dominion over the earth until revenge vanishes, and along with it eternal Ideals and the degradation of the temporal. With the disappearance of revenge, and thus the eternal and lost past, the Being of beings can be represented to man as the eternal recurrence of the same. Man can cross the bridge and become the superman.

“The highest will to power, that is, the life-force in all life, is to represent transience as a fixed Becoming within the eternal recurrence of the same, and so to render it secure and stable. This representation is a thinking which, as Nietzsche notes emphatically, ‘impresses’ upon being the character of its Being. This thinking takes becoming under its care and protection – becoming of which constant collision, suffering, is a past.” (P426)

Heidegger’s response to this exposition:

Is the spirit of revenge overcome by this thinking?

By fixing transience as Becoming under the protection of the eternal recurrence (remembering that transience is the seed from which the spirit of revenge grows), does not Nietzsche somehow suggest an aversion to transience? Therefore, could there not be a supremely spiritualized spirit of revenge?

It seems here that thought up to this point has been metaphysics, and Nietzsche brings it to a completion.

“Metaphysical thinking rests on the distinction between that which truly is, and that which by comparison does not constitute true being.” (428)

This is a distinction between the sensible and the super-sensible, but not necessarily an opposition. Heidegger claims that Nietzsche merely reverse the order of this distinction: The Dionysian, the inexhaustible permanence of becoming, as to which the will to power wills itself in the eternal recurrence of the same.

“‘Eternal recurrence of the same’ is the name of the Being of beings. ‘Superman’ is the name of the human being who corresponds to this Being.” (p429)

“In what respect do Being and human being belong together? How do they belong together, if Being is neither of mans making, in man’s power, nor man only a special case within being?” (p429)

Essentially, Heidegger acknowledge’s Nietzsche as the end-point of Western metaphysics, but also points out that Nietzsche himself thought metaphysically.

Text: The Gay Science; section 341

The demon:

A demon appears to you in your bed and puts to you that everything, every thought and every sigh, whether unspeakably small or great, must return to you, all in the same succession and sequence.

“The eternal hourglass of existence is turned over again and again.” (p194)

The idea that everything in your lived experience will happen again and again will either crush you, or be embraced as a divine occurrence. Think of your life as a whole, is it good or bad? Existential formula: Nietzsche doesn’t assert the eternal recurrence as a truth, but more as a hypothetical question to illuminate whether you are living in a life affirming way or not.

Text: Thus Spoke Zarathustra; On the Vision and the Riddle

What is the philosophical significance of Nietzsche’s idea of an ‘eternal recurrence’?

A challenge to theology, metaphysical systems from history, and science.

What the eternal recurrence is:

The eternal recurrence is put foward by Nietzsche in the form of a riddle in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. A dwarf is taunting Zarathustra as he climbs a mountain, comparing him to a stone of wisdom hurled in the air that must through force of gravity come hurtling back down to earth. Zarathustra then invokes courage; courage that slays dizziness at the abyss, of which pity is the deepest abyss. As deeply as humans look into life, so deeply too they look into suffering.

Zarathustra asserts to the dwarf that the dwarf does not know his most abysmal thought. A gateway appears which is inscribed ‘moment’. Stretching out in each direction from the gateway is an eternity. These eternities blatantly contradict one another. Zarathustra frames the eternal recurrence in reference to the gateway, when he becomes afraid and the dwarf disappears. In his place there is a dog. Then there is a shepherd with a snake hanging from his mouth. The shepherd bites down on the snake and is transformed into a laughing being.

Such is the riddle as it appears in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The idea of eternity repeating itself is not new. It comes up in many theologies, philosophies and myths across history.

What differs in Nietzsche’s conception of the eternal recurrence?

Text: Beyond Good and Evil: The Religious Character

In section 55 Nietzsche claims that sacrifice is characteristic of religion, all religion, starting with the prehistoric phenomenon of sacrificing the firstborn. During the moral epoch of humanity people sacrificed their strongest instincts; their nature to God. Finally, the time comes to sacrifice God Himself, for nothingness.

In section 56 Nietzsche identifies pessimism as Christian, and naive. Morality is delusion. The most high-spirited, world-affirming individual wants again what was and what is, through all eternity.

The individual existential view:

The idea that everything in your lived experience will happen again and again will either crush you, or be embraced as a divine occurrence. Think of your life as a whole, is it good or bad? Existential formula: Nietzsche doesn’t assert the eternal recurrence as a truth, but more as a hypothetical question to illuminate whether you are living in a life affirming way or not.

Cosmological thesis: that the eternal recurrence is a fact of existence.

This threatens free will, suggests that free will is merely an illusion at best. Purpose is questionable. Repetition renders the universe pointlessness, and so the eternal recurrence becomes an extreme form of nihilism.

There is a presupposition, connected previously with Schopenhauer, which no one would want to live again, as the suffering in the world out ways the good.

Msg of Zarathustra is that you have to face up to your most abysmal thought: this is what eternal recurrence does for you.

The interconnectedness of things is related to the highest formula of affirmation. He who is high-spirited, vital and life affirming will insatiably call for what was and what is through all eternity to happen again. This is the individual who says yes to everything.

Interconnectedness increases the scope of the individual, existential position to encompass the whole cosmological picture.

The eternal recurrence has to be affirmed, the world embraced, in spite of suffering. This separates the weak from the strong.

As a cosmological thesis the eternal recurrence replaces theological cosmology, we lose the idea of a creative act. This surpasses the difference between being and becoming.

We lose the idea of progress and goal setting. An alternative to the worldview stated by physics.

Text: On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense (1873)

Nietzsche’s view of the value of truth can be seen to be essentially anti-realist: in the sense that through being in touch with, or having knowledge of the world (intellect and sense) we impoverish experience through simplification of the things we are encountering. What corresponds to the thing-in-itself is unattainable; thereby we falsify the world when we try to define it. In On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense two specific lines of thought to express this position are clear. This position also attends to Nietzsche’s position on Tragedy: that is his conception of the Apolline and Dionysian sense of the world. Through this a larger implication for understanding Nietzsche’s grander scheme of philosophy can be viewed.

In On Truth and Lies in an Extra Moral Sense Nietzsche makes an argument based on the need for and construction of language for consciousness. He asserts that what matters about words is never truth. Language in this sense is first and foremost metaphor. It is disconnected to things-in-themselves. He argues that we create understanding through effects of our constructs. We can only recognize laws of nature in relation to other laws of nature. This is a system of difference, close if not exactly reflective of Saussure’s theory of a language of difference.

Nietzsche identifies that between the two absolutely different spheres of subject and object there is no causality or correctness, but an aesthetic attitude. This can be seen to correlate to his conception of the Apolline world of images. He is asserting that knowledge and understanding, as they arise through language, are constructs of an aesthetic and abstract attitude. For Nietzsche the construction of concepts is an aesthetic attitude, and a function of language and later, science. We intuit metaphors and transform them into abstract patterns.

Nietzsche favors a pre-consciousness life in which connection to the world has not yet become distorted or simplified. This idea in particular is connected to Nietzsche’s conception of, and favoring of, the Dionysian personality. The Dionysian experience is one without form, without images or constructs, is not dream like but primordial and sprouted from instincts and intoxication (by which one loses touch with the abstractions connected with consciousness) and is closely connected with music rather than dialogue or drama. This experience or way of being is connected to the things-in-themselves that drift under language constructs.

I use the word drift, as Nietzsche seems to be preempting linguistic studies, especially arguments made by Derrida, who claims that language, as signifier and signified, is entirely disconnected from referent. For Saussure and Derrida language is also a system of differences, as Nietzsche argues here in this chapter. However, Derrida’s concept of Differance which implies no hierarchical structure between writing, speaking or thinking, seems to be closer to Nietzsche’s conception as both philosophers disconnecting the actual act of consciousness from things in the world themselves.

Nietzsche finally makes a distinction between rational man and intuitive man. Intuitive man is irrational, just as rational man is inartistic. Rational man seeks to meet the greatest needs with foresight and regularity. The intuitive man regards life as real only when it is disguised as make believe and beauty. Whilst in contemporary times intuitive man might seem to resemble irresponsibility, Nietzsche argues that in Ancient Greece such a position yielded a continuous flow of illumination, comfort and redemption, and thus happiness in the face of the grand illusion of language and consciousness. Such Dionysian characteristics as intuition and scorn of abstraction draw a human closer to truth, to interacting with things in the world as things-in-themselves.

From this framework Nietzsche is able to claim that it is a moral prejudice that truth is somehow more valuable than mere appearance of truth. He goes as far as to question whether true and false are opposed, another development of a linguistic, dialectic argument. What is important for Nietzsche is that judgments be assessed on their appeal to and advancement of life. What is clear is that truth is not intrinsically valuable as any conception we have of it is built on abstractions and falsified.

Nietzsche’s argument about truth is a linguistic argument about the constructs of consciousness and disconnection from things-in-themselves. Strong similarities can be seen to later philosophies of language such as those of Saussure, through Derrida. Nietzsche is essentially arguing that constructs of language, which act as signs (signifiers and signified) are disconnected from their referents. The things-in-themselves, which are the truth of the world, could be seen to ‘drift’ under language and abstraction. Nietzsche favors a pre-consciousness existence, one that can be seen as an echo of his favoring of the Dionysian experience in his conception of tragedy. With regard to Nietzsche’s philosophy as a whole, this pre-consciousness, formless concept of truth is essential. Knowledge and understanding are abstractions and constructs that have little to do with such truth, but are valuable in their abilities to advance life. Truth, thus is not intrinsically valuable.

Overarching Question: How does Nietzsche think history should be used to advance life? Is his position convincing?

What’s the problem Nietzsche is trying to solve?

How does he propose to solve it?

Does his solution work?

Text: Untimely Meditations: On the uses and disadvantages of history for life

History must not be a costly superfluity and luxury. It must not merely instruct but invigorate. “[…] the superfluous is the enemy of the necessary.” (p59)

Nietzsche asserts that we need history, but not for idle knowledge. He addressing symptoms of his own time, and in particular the character of the movement of German thought in the generations leading up to him. Goethe asserts:

“when we cultivate our virtues we at the same time cultivate our faults.” (P60)

Nietzsche seems to be saying there is a historical interest that permeates German culture, potentially to its detriment. He recognizes himself as a classicist and therefore a historian, though claims that classical studies are untimely in that they counter our own time, thereby acting on it, hopefully, for the benefit of a time to come.

Nietzsche attributes the cow in the field ‘happiness’ as it has no memory. It does not know what is meant by yesterday or today. Man is tied to a chain of memories, which equal a chain of moments, for which each moment significantly disturbs the peace of a later moment. Thus the animal lives unhistorically. Man lives historically:

“Man, on the other hand, braces himself against the great and ever greater pressure of what is past: it pushes him down or bends him sideways, it encumbers his steps as a dark, invisible burden which he can sometimes appear to disown and which in traffic with his fellow men he is only to glad to disown, so as to excite their envy.” (p61)


“In the case of the smallest or of the greatest happiness, however, it is always the same thing that makes happiness happiness: the ability to forget or, expressed in a more scholarly fashion, the capacity to feel unhistorically during its duration.” (P62)

On forgetting, and perhaps Nietzsche will extend this thought from the individual to the collective:

“Imagine the extremest possible example of a man who did not possess the power of forgetting at all and who was thus condemned to see everywhere a state of becoming: such a man would no longer believe in his own being, would no longer believe in himself, would see everything flowing asunder in moving points and would lose himself in this stream of becoming: like a true pupil of Heraclitus, he would in the end hardly dare to raise his finger. Forgetting is essential to action of any kind, just as not only light but darkness too is essential for the life of everything organic.” (p62)

The basic thesis:

“[…] there is a degree of sleeplessness, of rumination, of the historical sense, which is harmful and ultimately fatal to the living thing, whether this living thing be a man or a people or a culture.” (p62)

How great is the plastic power of a man, a people, a culture? There has to be a way to determine this. Plastic power means the capacity for self-correction and growth, to be able to heal wounds, develop wisdom etc.

The strength of a man’s inner-most roots determine his assimilation of things of the past. The most powerful nature, the most powerful set of roots, would be characterised by the fact that it would not recognize the boundary at which the historical sense began to overwhelm it. If a culture let’s past transgressions prevent it from acting into the future, historical conscience has become a debilitating force. A weak person will be destroyed by one single bad/painful event.

“That which such a nature (the powerful man) cannot subdue it knows how to forget; it no longer exists, the horizon is rounded and closed, and there is nothing left to suggest there are people, passions, teachings, goals lying beyond it.” (p63)

Proposition and thesis number two:

“[…] the unhistorical and the historical are necessary in equal measure for the health of an individual, of a people, and of a culture.” (p63)

A man’s horizon of history and knowledge does not determine his happiness nor social acceptance. An unwieldy horizon may cause sickness and collapse. (Nietzsche’s own sentiment to sickness always shining through)

“Is it true that only by imposing limits on this unhistorical element by thinking, reflecting, comparing, distinguishing, drawing conclusions, only through the appearance within that encompassing cloud of a vivid flash of light – thus only through the power of employing the past for the purposes of life and of again introducing into history that which has been done and is gone – did man become man: but with an excess of history man again ceases to exist, and without that envelope of the unhistorical he would never have begun or dared to begin. What deed would man be capable of if he had not first entered into that vaporous region of the unhistorical?” (p64)

Humans can only act without conscience and knowledge. A goal must be striven for in an unhistorical condition. A human must love his deed more than the deed deserves to be loved; the finest deeds take place in such an abundance of love.

The Supra-historical vantage:

An intensity of consciousness which is exceptionally great. The viewer from this vantage point could no longer have any temptation to go on living, nor participate in history. (p65) He would recognize the necessary unhistorical condition for action: “[…] to answer his own question as to how or to what end life is lived.” (p65)

The historical being: “[…] believe[s] that the meaning of existence will come more and more to light in the course of its process […]” (p65)

The supra-historical man sees no salvation in the process of existence. the world is complete and reaches its finality at each and every moment. Therefore there is little to be found in the past, or in projection to the future. The supra-historical man is one of revelation of the present moment.

For the supra-historical man: “the past and the present are one, that is to say, with all their diversity identical in all that is typical and, as the omnipresence of imperishable types, a motionless structure of a value that cannot alter and a significance that is always the same.” (p66)

However, our (normal people) un-wisdom is conducive to life and at any rate indeed has a future. Life and wisdom are the antithesis of one another.

Knowledge and history:

“A historical phenomenon, known clearly and completely and resolved into a phenomenon of knowledge, is, for him who has perceived it, dead: for he has recognized in it the delusion, the injustice, the blind passion, and in general the whole earthly and darkening horizon of this phenomenon, and has thereby also understood its power in history. This power has now lost its hold over him insofar as he is a man of knowledge: but perhaps it has not done so insofar as he is a man involved in life.” (p67)

The study of history must be supplementary to a culture that is regardless evolving, dominated and directed by a higher force, not dominated and directed by history.

Here is the logic against history as a science: for history must be in the service of the unhistorical action oriented movement of culture. Therefore, history is subordinate to such forward progression. Science is the aim at a conclusion for life, a settling of accounts, and history leads to degeneration of life, and eventually of itself. History is in the service of unhistorical power. Unhistorical power is the cradle of the scientific urge. Therefore, the scientific urge and history do not belong together.

History is subordinate to an unhistorical power, in the service of life. The question of degree with regards to historical consciousness is the important area of thought.

History pertains to the living man in three respects:

as a being who acts and strives
as a being who preserves and reveres
as a being who suffers and seeks deliverance

This corresponds to three species of history:


“That the great moments in the struggle of the human individual constitute a chain, that this chain unites mankind across the millennia like a range of human mountain peaks, that the summit of such a long-ago moment shall be for me still living, bright and great – that is the fundamental idea of the faith in humanity which finds expression in the demand for a monumental history.” (p68)

Cultural need for monumental history:

“In this transfigured form, fame is something more than the tastiest morsel of our egoism, as Schopenhauer called it: it is the belief in the solidarity and continuity of the greatness of all ages and a protest against the passing away of generations and the transitoriness of things.” (p69)

Greatness that once existed can exist again. Monumental history serves as a reminder to the project of civilization that which has been possible.

A hint at the eternal recurrence:

“Only if, when the fifth act of the earth’s drama ended, the whole play every time began again from the beginning, if it was certain that the same complex of motives, the same deus ex machina, the same catastrophe were repeated at definite intervals, could the man of power venture to desire monumental history in full icon-like veracity, that is to say with every individual peculiarity depicted in precise detail: but that will no doubt happen only when the astronomers have again become astrologers. Until that time, monumental history will have no use for that absolute veracity: it will always have to deal in approximations and generalities, in making what is dissimilar look similar; it will always have to diminish the differences of motives and instigations so as to exhibit the effectus monumentally, that is to say as something exemplary and worthy of imitation, at the expense of the causae: so that, since it as far as possible ignores causes, one might with only slight exaggeration call it a collection of ‘effects in themselves’, of events which will produce an effect upon all future ages.” (p70)

“As long as the soul of historiography lies in the great stimuli that a man of power derives from it, as long as the past has to be described as worthy of imitation, as imitable and possible for a second time, it of course incurs the danger of becoming somewhat distorted, beautified and coming close to free poetic convention; there have been ages, indeed, which were quite incapable of distinguishing between a monumentalized past and a mythical fiction, because precisely the same stimuli can be derived from the one world as from the other.” (p70)

Monumental history is mythologized, “individual embellished facts rise out of it like islands.” (p71)

Monumental history is dangerous as it creates a false vision of destiny. Through it the courageous are inspired to foolhardiness, and the inspired to fanaticism. (p71) Through it empires are destroyed, wars and revolutions launched; there are effects without sufficient cause; “Effects in themselves”. (p71)

Monumental history has a paralysis effect: while any art, because contemporary, which is not yet monumental, seems unnecessary and unattractive and lacking in authority conferred by history, the monumental cannot be repeated and so connoisseurs of art do away with art all together. New greatness cannot emerge as greatness already exists. Nietzsche recognizes this as a psychological disposition:

“Monumental history is the masquerade costume in which their hatred of the great and powerful of their own age is disguised as satiated admiration for the great and powerful of past ages, and muffled in which they invert the real meaning of that mode of regarding history into its opposite; whether they are aware of it or not, they act as though their motto were: let the dead bury the living.” (p72)

So there are two concerns here: what monumental history actually is, and its subsequent use and misuse in society.

Antiquarian history: Talking about the man who preserves and reveres, to whom history belongs in second place: “By tending with care that which has existed from of old, he wants to preserve for those who shall come into existence after him the conditions under which he himself came into existence – and thus he serves life.” (p73) Ancestral goods, the inheritance of history possess this soul, rather than he they. Nietzsche relates this antiquarian sentiment with the health of a culture and nation. He says that this history can help a people be comfortable with their domestic situation, environment and companions; that his is healthy for a community. When a nation is seized by the desire expedition and adventure: “the condition a nation gets into when it has ceased to be faithful to its own origins and is given over to a restless, cosmopolitan hunting after new and ever newer things.” (p74)

“[…] the tree is aware of its roots to a greater degree than it is able to see them; but this awareness judges how big they are from the size and strength of its visible branches. If, however, the tree is in error as to this, how greatly it will be in error regarding all the rest of the forest around it!” (p74)

Nietzsche also likens antiquarian historical sentiment with relativism, where field of vision is restricted, and what can be seen is close up and isolated, thus distinguishing between things in a way that does justice to them is distorted: there is a lack of discrimination of value and proportion.

“Antiquarian history itself degenerates from the moment it is no longer animated and inspired by the fresh life of the present. Its piety withers away, the habit of scholarliness continues without it and rotates in egoistic self-satisfaction around its own axis.” (p75)

Antiquarian history knows how to preserve but not engender life. It hinders any form resolve to attempt something new.

Critical history: “he who is oppressed by a present need, and who wants to throw off this burden at any cost.” (p72)

History becomes a ‘devastating weed’ through the thoughtless transplantation of each species history: “the critic without need, the antiquary without piety, the man who recognizes greatness but cannot himself do great things.” (p72)

In section 4 Nietzsche comes to frame the problem he recognizes in his contemporary context. The natural relationship of a nation, culture and age to its history is characterized by desire only in the service of the future and the present. Nietzsche claims that this natural relationship, that history serve the future and the present, has been disturbed by the demand that history should be a science: historicism.

“[…] all that has ever been rushes upon mankind.” (p77)

Is the Apolline and Dionysiac in Greek tragedy incommensurable/utterly disproportionate?? The proportion is potentially crucial to understanding Nietzsche’s conception of Tragedy.

“What we now see revealed, indeed brilliantly illuminated, is the tendency of Euripides, which was to expel the original and all-powerful Dionysiac element from tragedy and to re-build tragedy in a new and pure form on the foundations of a non-Dionysiac art, morality, and view of the world.” (BoT, p59)

Euripides asks the question, cast in the form of a myth, can the Dionysiac be permitted to exist at all? (BoT, p60) The Dionysiac is accepted to be inseparable from man’s condition. It requires and deserves ‘some diplomatically cautious sympathy.’ (BoT, p60) The main force opposed to the Dionysiac driver is the Socratic influence:

“This is the new opposition: the Dionysiac versus the Socratic, and the work of art that once was Greek tragedy was destroyed by it.” (BoT, p60)

Euipides is the person who employs the new Socratic influence to found drama entirely on non-Dionysiac foundations. The question Nietzsche poses is the goal of this project. Euripides is credited with the introduction of a rationalising prologue. Nietzsche claims that a modern writer for the stage would see an all-revealing and rationalising prologue as a renunciation of the effect of suspense. However, Euripides had very specific idea behind this technique:

“The effect of tragedy never rested on epic suspense, on teasing people and making them uncertain about what will happen now or later, but rather on those great rhetorical and lyrical scenes in which the passion and dialectic of the protagonist swelled into a broad and mighty stream. Everything was a preparation for pathos, not for action; and anything that was not a preparation for pathos was held to be objectionable.” (BoT, p62)

Pathos vs Action: an emotional response, rather than a physiological response. By providing the context and all the directives for the audience, Euripides enhanced the inner-emotional experience and pathos of the audience. Could this be thought of in terms of developing the ideological horizon of understanding for the audience? By subduing the audience into pathos through direct exposition and foretelling of the dramatic outcome, Euripedes was building a sphere or horizon of understanding for the audience to rest in. Perhaps the Dionysiac is the presentation of tragedy without a constructed horizon of understanding, in effect the opposite. An escape from ones horizon; a transcendence.

“As long as the nous, the sole orderer and ruler of the world, remained shut out from artistic creation, everything was together in a chaotic, primal soup; this is how Euripides must have judged things; this is why he, the forst sober man, was bound to condemn the ‘drunken’ poets.” (BoT, p63)

Euripides: “Everything must be conscious in order to be beautiful.”

Socrates: “Everything must be conscious in order to be good.”

“Socrates, however, was that second spectator who did not understand the older tragedy and therefore did not respect it; in league with Socrates, Euripides dared to be the herald of a new kind of artistic creation.” (BoT, p64)

Through this summary of Socratic and Euripidean development and criticism, pre-Socratic tragedy/drama is illuminated.

Reflection on the nature and artificiality of culture with regards to the satyr:

“…what he saw in the satyr was the original image (Urbild) of mankind, the expression of man’s highest and strongest stirrings, an enthusiastic celebrant, ecstatic at the closeness of his god, a sympathetic companion in whom the sufferings of the god are repeated, a proclaimer of wisdom from the deepest heart of nature, an emblem of the sexual omnipotence of nature which the Greek habitually regards with reverent astonishment.” (BoT, p41)

“…here the illusion of culture was wiped away by the primal image of man; here, in this bearded satyr shouting up to his god in jubilation man’s true nature was revealed. Faced with the satyr, cultured man shriveled to a mendacious caricature.” (BoT, p41)

An example of Nietzsche being highly critical and disregarding of the state of cultured man.Culture being a product of the Apolline, and of post-Socratic, post-Platonic rationalism.

“The sphere of poetry does not lie outside the world, like some fantastical impossibility contrived in a poet’s head; poetry aims to be the very opposite, the unvarnished expression of truth, and for this very reason it must cast off the deceitful finery of the so-called reality of cultured man.” (BoT, p41)

He continues into an illuminating metaphysical and hermeneutical (almost) account about the core nature of things and truth:

“The contrast between this genuine truth of nature and the cultural lie which pretends to be the only reality is like the contrast between the eternal core of things, the thing-in-itself, and the entire world of phenomena; and just as tragedy, with its metaphysical solace, points to the eternal life of that core of being despite the constant destruction of the phenomenal world, the symbolism of the chorus of satyrs is in itself a metaphorical expression of that original relationship between the thing-in-itself and phenomenon.” (BoT, p42)

Through the Dionysian we are connected to the eternal core, the thing-in-itself. Through tragedy the Dionysian connection to the eternal core is expressed.


We have established the eternal core (sort of). There are two opposing and complimenting drivers of human expression through which we connect with the world (two drivers that make up our lived experience): Dionysos and Apollo. Dionysos to the eternal core, Apollo to the veneer of image, reason and cultural boundaries and constructs.

What is the root of the objection to the image-built world of cultural constructs? (i.e. are they such a bad thing, what is the disadvantage vs. the advantage)

What benefit do we get from this primordial world where we are in close contact with the ‘eternal core’ (which in the framework of this question needs more explaining)?

“…the Dionysian Greek wants truth and nature at full strength…” (BoT, p42) (a good definition/description for tragedy??? or the purpose of tragedy??)

The event and experience of Attic Tragedy:

“…it must always be remembered that the audience of Attic tragedy identified itself with the chorus on the orchestra, so that there was fundamentally no opposition between public and chorus; the whole is just one sublime chorus, either of dancing and singing satyrs, or of those who allow themselves to be represented by these satyrs.” (BoT, p42)

The experience in the Greek theatre was interactive. There were not spectators as such, but partakers. The audience member identified and imagined that he was part of the chorus.

“The chorus of satyrs is first and foremost a vision of the Dionysiac mass, just as the world of the stage is in turn a vision of this chorus of satyrs; the strength of this vision is great enough to render the spectators gaze insensitive and unresponsive to the impression of ‘reality’ and to the cultured people occupying the rows of seats around him.” (BoT, p42)

Nietzsche’s conception of the poet:

“what makes a poet a poet is the fact that he sees himslef surrounded by figures who live and act before him, and into whose innermost essence he gazes.” He goes on: “We talk so abstractly about poetry because we are usually all bad poets. Fundamentally the aesthetic phenomenon is simple; one only has to have the ability to watch a living play (Spiel) continuously and to live constantly surrounded by crowds of spirits, then one is a poet; if one feels the impulse to transform oneself and to speak out of other bodies and souls, then one is a dramatist.” (BoT, p43)

Drama, and so tragedy, is originally an act of metamorphosis and transformation. Individuality is surrendered, in the sense that one does not merge with the music or image but sees it outside himself (by merging the idea of the physiological affect of music/tragedy) to this transformation whereby “the dithyrambic chorus is a chorus of transformed beings who have completely forgotten their civic past and their social position..” (BoT, p43)

A summary and definition for Nietzsche’s conception of drama:

“Enchantment is the precondition of all dramatic art. In this enchanted state the Dionysiac enthusiast sees himself as a satyr, and as a satyr he in turn sees the god, i.e. in his transformed state he sees a new vision outside himslef which is the Apolline perfection of his state. With this new vision the drama is complete.”

He continues:

“This insight leads us to understand Greek tragedy as a Dionusian chorus which discharges itself over and over again in an Apolline world of images […] Thus drama is the Apolline embodiment of Dionysiac insights and effects, and is thereby separated by a vast gulf from the epic.” (BoT, p44)

More on the experience of the theatre:

“Despite its entirely subservient position in relation to the god, however, the chorus is nevertheless the highest, which is to say Dionysiac, expression of nature, and therefore speaks in its enthusiasm, as does nature herself, oracular and wise words; the chorus which shares in suffering is also the wise chorus which proclaims the truth from the heart of the world.” (BoT, p45)

“Now the dithyrambic chorus is given the task of infecting the mood of the spectators with Dionysiac excitement to such a pitch that, when the tragic hero appears on the stage, they see, not some grotesquely masked human being, but rather a visionary figure, born, as it were, of their own ecstasy.” (BoT, p44)

This is the start of the discussion around the importance of the Dionysian element. It is starting to be described as a way of healing to the human condition, or even more so a celebration of the brutal nature of the world. In true nature of the world, as harsh and violent as it may be, there is cause to celebrate life, without abstractions of Apolline conception of image-driven beauty, or even religious concepts of higher being.