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The Birth Of Tragedy And Other Writings !!BETTER!!

Nietzsche found in classical Athenian tragedy an art form that transcended the pessimism and nihilism of a fundamentally meaningless world. The Greek spectators, by looking into the abyss of human suffering and affirming it, passionately and joyously affirmed the meaning of their own existence. They knew themselves to be infinitely more than petty individuals, finding self-affirmation not in another life, not in a world to come, but in the terror and ecstasy alike celebrated in the performance of tragedies.

The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings

After the time of Aeschylus and Sophocles, there was an age where tragedy died. Nietzsche ties this to the influence of writers like Euripides and the coming of rationality, represented by Socrates. Euripides reduced the use of the chorus and was more naturalistic in his representation of human drama, making it more reflective of the realities of daily life. Socrates emphasized reason to such a degree that he diffused the value of myth and suffering to human knowledge. For Nietzsche, these two intellectuals helped drain the ability of the individual to participate in forms of art, because they saw things too soberly and rationally. The participation mystique aspect of art and myth was lost, and along with it, much of man's ability to live creatively in optimistic harmony with the sufferings of life. Nietzsche concludes that it may be possible to reattain the balance of Dionysian and Apollonian in modern art through the operas of Richard Wagner, in a rebirth of tragedy.

The issue, then, or so Nietzsche thought, is how to experience and understand the Dionysian side of life without destroying the obvious values of the Apollonian side. It is not healthy for an individual, or for a whole society, to become entirely absorbed in the rule of one or the other. The soundest (healthiest) foothold is in both. Nietzsche's theory of Athenian tragic drama suggests exactly how, before Euripides and Socrates, the Dionysian and Apollonian elements of life were artistically woven together. The Greek spectator became healthy through direct experience of the Dionysian within the protective spirit-of-tragedy on the Apollonian stage.

Daniels' book is divided into six chapters and includes both a detailed chronology of Nietzsche's life and a guide for further reading. The first chapter elucidates the influences that inform BT, and the final chapter treats the relationship between BT and Nietzsche's later writings. The intervening four chapters are sensibly divided and largely remain faithful to the structure of Nietzsche's text. Although Douglas Burnham and Martin Jesinghausen have recently argued that BT is divided into two parts, with the fault line occurring after section twelve,[2] Daniels rightly follows the more standard view that the work has a tripartite structure and is thus divided into Nietzsche's accounts of the birth (sections 1-10), death (sections 11-15), and rebirth of tragedy (sections 16-25). The only discrepancy between Daniels' work and the structure of Nietzsche's text is that Daniels devotes two chapters to discussing Nietzsche's account of the birth of tragedy. Whereas Daniels' second chapter treats the Apollonian-Dionysian dialectic in sections 1-6, chapter three deals with tragedy proper in sections 7-10. The fourth and fifth chapters are then devoted to themes relating to the death and rebirth of tragedy, respectively.

The unity and coherence of the work does, however, decline in the concluding chapters. Although chapter five presents a helpful discussion of the music-making Socrates (141-147) and chapter six explores the relationship between philosophy and art in Nietzsche's later works (180-187), both chapters tend to stray from their subject matter. In his account of Nietzsche's hopes for a rebirth of tragedy in chapter five, Daniels includes a detour through Nietzsche's 1873 essay "On Truth and Lies in a Non-Moral Sense" (157-160). Similarly, the penultimate section of chapter six, which is about the relationship of BT to Nietzsche's later writings, contains an extended excursus on Nietzsche and Rilke (187-200).

Daniels rightly rejects Young's reading, first, by arguing that the Apollonian element in tragedy is not a mere veiling of the Dionysian, but rather a life-affirming representation of the Dionysian itself. Second, Daniels responds to Young by introducing an important distinction between descriptive pessimism, which merely describes the suffering that characterizes existence, and prescriptive pessimism, which prescribes that we ought to deny life given the truth of descriptive pessimism (98). On the one hand, this distinction allows Daniels to explain the way in which Nietzsche is, like Schopenhauer and Silenus, a pessimist in the descriptive sense but not, in contrast to Schopenhauer and Silenus, a pessimist in the prescriptive sense. On the other hand, Daniels argues that the Greeks did not, as Young claims, "deceive or delude themselves" (103) about the value of life because they were able to conflate the "is" of description and the "ought" of prescription into a unity (102).

Nevertheless, the distinction Daniels makes between descriptive and prescriptive pessimism is important because it helps explain how Socratic philosophy destroyed tragedy in ancient Greece and how Kant and Schopenhauer have contributed to the rebirth of tragedy in the modern world. According to Daniels, Socrates destroyed tragedy by supplanting the descriptive pessimism of Silenus with an optimistic program that attributes to reason the power to cure the suffering that is, on the pessimistic model, ineluctable (5, 132). As Daniels also explains, Nietzsche thinks that Socratic optimism begins to erode with Kant's epistemology and then suffers its collapse with Schopenhauer's pessimism (5). However, Nietzsche argues that if philosophically inclined individuals now confronted with the truth of descriptive pessimism can learn to play music (or just appreciate Wagner's), the prescriptive pessimism of Schopenhauer can be reversed (147).

In the final chapter, Daniels assesses BT in relation to Nietzsche's later writings. Not only does he rightly argue that the anti-moral thrust of Nietzsche's first work contains the seeds for his later critique of Christianity (178), Daniels also claims that BT merely outlines, in conceptual form, an aesthetic justification of existence as "a bare possibility" (182). Because it does not execute such a justification, the text points beyond itself to Dionysian art, and although the Dionysian art that the young Nietzsche has in mind is clearly that of Wagnerian opera, Daniels argues that BT is later "redeemed with Nietzsche's own poetry," which, for Daniels, is Nietzsche's Dionysian-Dithyrambs (200). Here, Daniels' view can be further supported by the fact that scholars have argued that Zarathustra is Nietzsche's own tragedy,[5] and so it can be construed as the work in which Nietzsche's concept of the Dionysian becomes a supreme deed (EH "Zarathustra" 6).[6]For these and other reasons, Daniels is certainly right to conclude his work by claiming that BT "is central to understanding Nietzsche's later philosophy" and that the questions of his first text "recurred to Nietzsche throughout his life with renewed importance" (208).

The Birth of Tragedy in summary is an examination of the human experience of life through the lens of classical tragedy and a lesson on the evolution of Greek religious elements into cultural/artistic ones. Nietzsche posits that two dynamically opposed symbolic figures, Apollo and Dionysus from Greek culture, provide an example of the struggle of modern man against the chaos of life. The essay opens with the idea that the relationship between the two symbols is responsible for the "continuous evolution" of art. Art, believes Nietzsche, can give meaning to an otherwise meaningless existence.

Immediately, Nietzsche sets the images of Apollo and Dionysus in contrast with each other. However, the two rely on each other to reach a state of art. It is the ideal mix of Apollonian and Dionysian elements that create ancient Greek drama. According to Nietzsche, it was when the Apollonian element overtook the Dionysian that Greek art deteriorated and Roman individualism began. The modern world continues to be infected by the Apollonian, as exemplified by Socrates and Italian opera. Rejection of the "romance culture" that has plagued Germany and a return to the dualistic relationship of the elements of antiquity can bring "rebirth" in the modern age.

Friedrich Nietszche's first book, The Birth of Tragedy, was published in 1872. The book is a connection of art and culture, a treatise on the human condition through the lens of ancient Greek cultural elements. Nietzsche posits that the art of tragedy has been lost to Roman intellectualism and individuation. In regaining the lost art of antiquity, the tragic condition of modern man can undergo a "rebirth." In particular, Nietzsche uses two Greek gods, Apollo and Dionysus, to illustrate how art that assuages the modern spirit can be achieved. The ideal mix of these elements, Nietzsche claims, is responsible for the creation of ancient Greek drama. The Dionysian element represents intoxication and ecstasy that praises the outer limits of experience, particularly in music. The Apollonian element represents dreams and soothsaying that creates an illusion of a rational and orderly existence through plastic arts. While The Birth of Tragedy is not an example of Nietzsche's mature philosophy, it became an influential piece among 20th century classists and philosophers.

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Again, in the case of Richard Wagner, my brother, from the first, laidthe utmost stress upon the man's personality, and could only regardhis works and views as an expression of the artist's whole being,despite the fact that he by no means understood every one of thoseworks at that time. My brother was the first who ever manifested suchenthusiastic affection for Schopenhauer and Wagner, and he was also thefirst of that numerous band of young followers who ultimately inscribedthe two great names upon their banner. Whether Schopenhauer and Wagnerever really corresponded to the glorified pictures my brother paintedof them, both in his letters and other writings, is a question which wecan no longer answer in the affirmative. Perhaps what he saw in themwas only what he himself wished to be some day. 041b061a72


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