Nietzsches Idea of Myth: The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Eighteenth-CenturyAestheticsAuthor(s): Benjamin BennettRe...
BENJAMIN BENNETTNietzsches Idea of Myth: The Birth of Tragedyfrom the Spirit of Eighteenth-CenturyAesthetics              ...
Benjamin Bennett                                          421    This point has a special bearing on Nietz-         "mythi...
422                                   Nietzsches Idea of Myththe indispensable condition of a cultures             of whic...
Benjamin Bennett                                             423"moribund myths" of Greece (Ch. x, p. 70).              th...
424                                   Nietzsches Idea of Mythjedem Moment erzeugte Vorstellung des Ur-              quotes...
Benjamin Bennett                                             425the point that, even when we are most deeply           por...
426                                    Nietzsches Idea of Mythof artistic illusion is to engage us in a mental         sio...
Benjamin Bennett                                           427fact he does, in his discussion of the history of        ima...
428                                  Nietzsches Idea of Myth associated with Apollonian illusion, and at least    truth, b...
Benjamin Bennett                                            429zum Dasein zwingende, an diesem Erscheinungs-            In...
430                                     Nietzsches Idea of Mythdelusion but, rather, a revelation of the truth           S...
Benjamin Bennett                                              431ject matter clashes with the very idea of science.       ...
432                                         Nietzsches Idea of Mythliterary philosophy and critical theory. More-         ...
Benjamin Bennett                                                433xix, p. 120); and the argument about how tragedy       ...
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Nietzsche's idea of myth, by benjamin bennett

  1. 1. Nietzsches Idea of Myth: The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Eighteenth-CenturyAestheticsAuthor(s): Benjamin BennettReviewed work(s):Source: PMLA, Vol. 94, No. 3 (May, 1979), pp. 420-433Published by: Modern Language AssociationStable URL: .Accessed: 23/09/2012 12:13Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact Modern Language Association is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to PMLA.
  2. 2. BENJAMIN BENNETTNietzsches Idea of Myth: The Birth of Tragedyfrom the Spirit of Eighteenth-CenturyAesthetics assumption that cultural movements are most I nearly pure, closest to their essence, in their oldest or most primitive manifestations. TheIT IS NOT surprisingthat The Birth of Tragedy Dionysian appears as mere licentiousness before has been read with something of an anthropo- it appears as art; therefore it is in essence licen- logical bias, as if it were an attempt to explain tious, a chaotic force that must be modified be- the origin of art or of culture in general, for it fore it can have positive cultural value. This iswas published in the midst of the great nine- Kaufmanns reasoning, but it is not Nietzsches,teenth-century development of anthropology as and its premise represents a serious error. Fora science, and Nietzsche himself later boasted of Nietzsche, the pure and the primitive are nothaving "discovered" the Dionysian. The strength identical but tend, in fact, to be opposed. Thisof this bias can be measured by its effect even on much, I think, he learned from Hegel and theWalter Kaufmann, who sets out specifically to Hegelians; the Dionysian, in its early manifesta-show that the Dionysian is not the sole principal tions, is not pure, does not show its ultimatefocus of The Birth of Tragedy. Basing his argu- essence, any more than the early manifestationsment quite plausibly on Nietzsches treatment of of Spirit represent pure Spirit for Hegel. Nietz-"Dionysian barbarians," Kaufmann maintains sche says specifically that, like the Apollonian, thethat Nietzsche, if forced to choose, would "favor" Dionysian is a "kiinstlerische Macht" artisticthe Apollonian over the Dionysian because the power or "Kunsttrieb" art drive and there-latter, taken by itself, is in essence a "destructive fore has "revealed" its true nature ("sich . . .disease." But there is obviously something wrong offenbarte") only in art, only in its later formshere, for Nietzsche also expresses direct scorn (Ch. ii, pp. 26-28); he is repelled by the primi-for the opinion that the Dionysian orgies of tive manifestations of the Dionysian preciselyBabylon were mere "Volkskrankheiten" cultural because they are not yet pure, but, because theysicknesses (Ch. i, p. 25). The text, to be sure, hold promise, he is unwilling to characterizepresents certain difficulties: although Nietzsche them as a "disease." The Apollonian and thedenies that the Dionysian is essentially pathologi- Dionysian are related by "mutual necessity"cal, he also notes that pre-Hellenic Dionysian (Ch. iv, p. 35), not in the sense that they modifyfestivals tended toward sheer bestiality, toward each other, but in the sense that they intensify"that abominable mixture of lasciviousness and each other ("sich gegenseitig steigernd"), socruelty which has always seemed to me the true that the whole essence of each may be revealedwitches brew" (Ch. ii, p. 28). But there is (Ch. iv, p. 37); and this idea is in turn indis-nothing to justify coming down as firmly on one pensable in Nietzsches general argument thatside of the question as Kaufmann does, or as Greek tragedy represents "the culmination ofthose critics whom he opposes had done before the Apollonian as well as the Dionysian artistichim. aims" (Ch. xxiv, p. 146). The Apollonian and The difficulty here, which hinges on the idea the Dionysian are not born pure but, rather, be-of what the Dionysian is "essentially," is re- come pure-they "become what they are," in asolved easily enough once we understand the an- favorite phrase of both Hegel and Nietzsche-thropological assumption that Kaufmann re- through their historical development and inter-ceives uncritically from his tradition, the action. 420
  3. 3. Benjamin Bennett 421 This point has a special bearing on Nietz- "mythical homeland," which suggests the autoch-sches idea of myth, for in regard to myth we thonous and preconscious, is used twice (Ch.tend almost automatically to associate the pure xxiii, p. 145; Ch. xxiv, p. 150); and Nietzschewith the primitive. Perhaps we can understand also talks of a "rebirth of the German myth"Nietzsches idea most easily by comparing it (Ch. xxiii, p. 143), which he appears to con-with Cassirers in Philosophie der symbolischen ceive as an atavistic awakening of belief inFormen. Cassirers thinking, though based on a Wotan and company (Ch. xxiv, p. 150). Takensound knowledge of the anthropology of his together with the earlier discussion of a char-time, takes a more comprehensive view of man acteristic "Aryan" myth, the myth of Prome-than does most technical anthropology, and Cas- theus as created by "a naive mankind" (Ch. ix,sirer is of course aware of Nietzsche. Therefore, p. 65), all this seems to expose Nietzsche to thewhen Cassirer argues that there is a stage in cul- charge of promulgating a mystical anthropologytural development at which myth no longer hap- that flouts simple logic, let alone scientificpens, he apparently implies a scientific and method. If myth is an unconscious Schopen-philosophical refutation of Nietzsches specula- hauerian metaphysics, how can it be reborn intions concerning a "rebirth" of the mythical an age conscious of Schopenhauer? If myth (Ch. xxiii, p. 143), and this refutation seems to renders experience timeless, how can it be re-be generally accepted. The recent French born in the era of Hegel and historicism?philosopher-critics, for example, rescue the The rest of the text seems only to add to thesemythical in Nietzsche only by reducing it to an problems. If we ask, for example, precisely whoeffect of the practice of metaphor; and Jaspers, the "naive" creators of myths were, we are puz-in order to systematize Nietzsches thinking, zled to find that Nietzsche goes out of his way to simply abandons the idea of the mythical in all deny the applicability of the term "naive" tobut a very limited sense.3 Homer and the myths of the Olympians (Ch. iii, My first main point is not that Cassirer is pp. 33-34). Moreover, he repeatedly refers towrong but rather that his idea of myth (and the myths as "Exempel" exempla (Ch. iii, p. 32; normal idea of myth in anthropology) is irrele- Ch. xvi, p. 103; Ch. xvii, p. 108) illustratingvant to The Birth of Tragedy. I will argue that some distinguishable general truth-a notionwith regard to the idea of myth, as well as to the that directly contradicts the idea of "uncon-concept of the Dionysian, the pure and the primi- scious metaphysics," at least if we take the lattertive are distinct for Nietzsche and that Nietzsches as more or less equivalent to Cassirers idea that idea of myth belongs not to the history of in myth the image and the meaning are entirely anthropology but rather to the history of aes- undistinguishable. Indeed, Nietzsche speaks ex- thetics, as a direct development of eighteenth- plicitly of the "Inhalt" content of a myth as century thinking on the phenomenon of artistic distinct from the myth itself (Ch. ix, p. 62; Ch. illusion.4 x, p. 70), and he once even uses the word "Mythus" to refer to the allegorical vehicle by II which Euripides expresses a conscious opinion about religion and art (Ch. xii, p. 78).5 It is in Chapters xxiii and xxiv of The Birth of There are other problems as well. WhenTragedy that Nietzsche comes closest to an an- Nietzsche commits himself to a specific idea ofthropological definition of myth. We read there how modern culture will develop historically,that before the advent of Socratism the Greeks when he says "that we are experiencing by anal-had been "compelled involuntarily to associate ogy the great main epochs of Greece, but as itall experience instantly with their myths, indeed were in reverse order, that now, for example, weto comprehend experience solely via this associ- appear to be progressing from the Alexandrianation, whereupon even the immediate present age backward toward the period of tragedy"necessarily appeared to them sub specie aeterni (Ch. xix, p. 124), he seems to be talking mereand in a sense as timeless" (Ch. xxiii, p. 143). nonsense. This statement conflicts, at least, withMyth, moreover, is spoken of as "unconscious the idea that ours is a "mythless existence" (Ch.metaphysics" (Ch. xxiii, p. 144); the term xxiv, p. 149) and the idea that myth in turn is
  4. 4. 422 Nietzsches Idea of Myththe indispensable condition of a cultures of which had been instinctivelysuppressed,into the"healthy, creative natural power" (Ch. xxiii, p. idiom of imagery. (Ch. xvi, p. 104)7 141). How shall we produce tragedy withoutfirst possessing this creative power? Is it possible And this translation toward increased conscious-for tragedy to precede myth in history? Or is ness is effected by "die Befahigung der Musik,German critical philosophy-that "in Begriffe den Mythus d.h. das bedeutsamste Exempel zugefasste dionysische Weisheit" Dionysian wis- gebaren" the ability of music to give birth to dom in conceptual form (Ch. xix, p. 124) myth, i.e., to the most significant exemplumwhich itself seems to be a contradiction in terms (Ch. xvi, p. 103). Thus myth is born-appears,-somehow able to carry out myths function? in other words, on an unprecedented level ofAt least Nietzsche appears relatively modest purity-in a sophisticated art form, where itabout his own position in intellectual history; he contributes to philosophical consciousness bydoes not claim to exercise as a thinker the providing visible illustrative examples of the"myth-creating power" of music (Ch. xvii, pp. truth. Here we also think of the ideas of "sym- 107-09); rather, he concedes freely that his bol" and "symbolism," terms Nietzsche uses pri-undertaking belongs to the realm of "aestheti- marily with reference to tragedy (e.g., Ch. viii,sche Wissenschaft" aesthetic science (Ch. i, pp. 58-59; Ch. xvi, p. 104) and definesp. 21)-if this, too, is not a contradiction in quite exactly in an earlier essay, "Die diony-terms.YPerhaps science itself somehow includes sische Weltanschauung": "Now, in tragedy, thea latent mythical power; Nietzsche in fact does truth is symbolized, it makes use of one point use the word "Mythus" to refer to a ... Appearance is now decidedly not enjoyed asset of significant images that serves the "sublime appearance [als Schein], but as a symbol, a signmetaphysical delusion" of science (Ch. xv, p. for the truth" (Werke, Pt. IIi, Vol. II [1973], p.95), the belief that scientific method can master 63). Myth is most powerful in tragedy preciselythe whole of existence. But how shall we recon- because we are no longer caught up in the myth-cile this aspect of myth with the idea of "the ical image itself (in "Schein als Schein," in theceaselessly forward-thrusting spirit of science" Apollonian) but, rather, see through it in theby which "myth is annihilated" (Ch. xvii, p. direction of truth; this separation of image and 107)? meaning is an indication for Cassirer that myth We can deal eventually with all these prob- is dead, whereas for Nietzsche it is nothing oflems if we hold fast to one basic point, that the the kind.pure and the primitive are distinct concepts. I do not mean that Nietzsche is disputingClearly Nietzsche admits the existence of primi- what later became Cassirers idea of myth; Itive myth, produced by "naive mankind," but wish merely to show how Nietzsche uses thethe later development of myth in conscious art is word and how important this usage is if we arean intensification, not a modification, of the es- to make sense out of The Birth of Tragedy.sentially mythical; in conscious art, myth be- Again, primitive myth does exist, but myth ascomes more fully itself. The Olympian myths, employed in sophisticated, "symbolic" art formsfor example, achieve their proper being only in is more profound and intense, more nearly pure,the complex artificiality of the Homeric poems, than in its primitive phase. Myth, like the Di-even though they do not originate there; and onysian that generates it, is essentially an artisticmyth then attains still higher perfection, its phenomenon, revealing its whole nature onlymaximum mythicalness, its "deepest content," in gradually, in the development of art. Thus, ifthe art of tragedy (Ch. x, p. 70). Nietzsche modern Germans produce "true" music (Ch.says: xvii, p. 109), there is no special reason why such music should not generate true myth, and itDie metaphysischeFreude am Tragischen ist eine is even conceivable that a new mythical contentUebersetzung der instinctiv unbewussten diony-sischen Weisheit in die Sprachedes Bildes. might appear "under the old mythical cloak" of Germanic legend (Ch. x, p. 69), filling theThe metaphysicaljoy awakened by the tragic is a legends with new life and meaning in the sametranslationof Dionysian wisdom, the consciousness way that music reinterpreted and revitalized the
  5. 5. Benjamin Bennett 423"moribund myths" of Greece (Ch. x, p. 70). the world as an "aesthetic phenomenon," and its But if myth is essentially art and is fully itself development might be called the aesthetic educa-only in conscious art forms, how shall we ac- tion of man.count for primitive, or "naive," myth? We must To put it differently, our relation to reality isdistinguish somehow among levels of artistic in- normally passive, whereas our relation to art istensity, and a method of doing this is suggested active, or at least voluntary. Reality is normallyclearly by the underlying metaphysics of The thought of as a given, which we must accept andBirth of Tragedy: deal with on its terms, whereas a work of art,Hier zeigt sich das Dionysische, an dem Apollini- being the product of a human volition and inten-schen gemessen, als die ewige und urspriingliche tion like our own, is more subject to our judg-Kunstgewalt, die iiberhaupt die ganze Welt der ment; if we accept it, we do so voluntarily, soErscheinungins Dasein ruft. that our acceptance becomes an image of the act of creation itself.9 The function of myth, in[At its philosophicaldeepest,] the Dionysian, mea- other words, is to place us in an active or artisticsured againstthe Apollonian, appearsas the eternal relation even to reality, and this idea in turnand original artisticpower that calls the whole phe-nomenal world into existence. reminds us of Nietzsches later doctrine of amor (Ch. xxv, pp. 150-51) fati or of Schillers idea that existence must be overcome by an act of free affirmation.10MythThat is to say, reality itself, the whole world as is thus not properly an object of belief, and inwe experience it, is essentially art. This is Nietz- fact Nietzsche makes the point that an insistencesches version of the Schopenhauerian proposi- on the "credibility" of myth is a sign that thetion "The world is my idea," and this is what myth is dead (Ch. x, p. 70). We must relate toNietzsche means earlier when he says that "nur myth not as believers but as conscious creators,als aesthetisches Phinomen ist das Dasein und and the myth itself must therefore be pliable,die Welt ewig gerechtfertigt" only as an aes- responsive to the creative intent of different indi-thetic phenomenon is existence, or the world, viduals. Here we think of the liberties taken byeternally justified (Ch. v, p. 43). Our normal Sophocles or the explicit choice made by Pindar,relation to existence, our taking of the world as in the First Olympian, between available myths"plumpe Wirklichkeit" gross reality (Ch. i, p. of Pelops. The state of belonging to a mythical24) rather than as beautiful artistic illusion, is a culture and understanding existence in terms offalse relation (or, in Nietzsches careful termi- ones myths is thus not really a state at all but,nology, an "unjustifiable" relation), and the rather, a constantly renewed act of artisticgeneral function of myth, as a "concentrated creation: 1world image" or "abbreviation of the phenome-nal" (Ch. xxiii, p. 141), is to correct this rela- jene ganze Philosophie des Waldgottes . . . wurde von den Griechen durch jene kinstlerische Mittel-tion by referring reality to an artistically ordered welt der Olympier fortwihrend von Neuem uber-structure; myth serves in this way even in its wunden [last emphasismine].primitive phase, when its structure is not yet rec- that whole pessimisticphilosophyof the sylvan godognized as an artistic creation. Hence myth be-comes most fully itself, fulfills its function most [Silenus pessimism]was conquered over and over again, for the Greeks, by the artistic mediatingeffectively, in conscious art, when it becomes world of the Olympians. (Ch. iii, p. 32)"symbol," an illusion we enjoy while seeingthrough it toward the truth it expresses; for in For the Greeks, even the process of sitting in athis form myth awakens in us the truest possible theater and watching was a repeated creativerelation to the phenomenal in general. It teaches, act, not a state: "in several successive dischargesby analogy with its own nature, that the whole the dramatic vision is emitted by this ultimatephenomenal world is only the created, artificial ground of the tragedy [i.e., the Dionysian energysymbol of a generating truth behind it.8 Myth is of the chorus, hence of the rapt audience asthus basically the same in both its primitive and well]" (Ch. viii, p. 58). Indeed, existence itselfits revealed forms; it is the measure of our aes- is a repeated creative act, not merely a state inthetic relation to reality, of our ability to take which we find ourselves; existence is "eine in
  6. 6. 424 Nietzsches Idea of Mythjedem Moment erzeugte Vorstellung des Ur- quotes as the age-old Dionysian wisdom of Sile-Einen" an ideation created in every instant by nus (Ch. iii, p. 31) is stated explicitly in the best-the Original One (Ch. iv, p. 35), and in the known chorus of Oedipus at Colonus.12 Wetragic theater we sense for a moment that "we shall return to this passage from Nietzsche laterare in truth that Original Being [Urwesen] it- and attempt to resolve the difficulty, but for theself" (Ch. xvii, p. 105), that the repeated act of time being, at least one important problem in hiscreation can be regarded as our own. thinking on myth is clear. Myth necessarily im- Hence the opposition between myth and sci- plies a historical tendency toward separation be-ence. In essence science is a form of art, a crea- tween image and meaning, as part of its increas-tive, world-shaping activity; but it is an art that ing consciousness of itself as artificial structure;denies its own nature by conceiving of itself as at the same time, however, it is for some reasonthe pure passive reception of facts, and so it impossible, or at least impermissible, even at thehinders the development of myth as myth. In pinnacle of conscious art in tragedy, to demandmerely experiencing the world, man is always an exact verbal formulation of the works mean-essentially an artist or mythmaker, and the de- ing. And the very existence of this problem,velopment from primitive myth toward con- again, is a measure of the distance betweenscious art, toward myths achieved conscious- Nietzsches idea of myth and Cassirers.ness of itself as myth, is thus mans developmenttoward himself. This idea of development, more-over, as I have suggested, is clearly a Hegelian IIIfeature of Nietzsches thought. Let us note, however, that, although image It is evident that, at least in the abstract, thereand meaning tend to separate as myth culmi- is an important parallel between Nietzsches ideanates in conscious art, there are definite limits on of myth and the idea of artistic illusion. Al-how far this separation can go: though myth, as a "concentrated world image,"Zugleich aber miissen wir zugeben, dass die vorhin represents reality for us, it is not merely a deci-aufgestellte Bedeutung des tragischen Mythus den pherable allegory. The Homeric myths are agriechischenDichtern, geschweige den griechischen "mediating world" placed between ourselves andPhilosophen, niemals in begrifflicherDeutlichkeit existence for the specific purpose of concealingdurchsichtig geworden ist; ihre Helden sprechen the true horror of our condition; and even ingewissermaassen oberflachlicher sie handeln;der als tragic myth, where image and meaning are mostMythus findet in dem gesprochenenWort durchaus separate, the poet still cannot "grasp" verballynicht seine adaquateObjectivation.Das Gefiige der the truth behind what he envisions. Thus, byScenen und die anschaulichen Bilderoffenbaren eine representing reality for us, myth in a strongtiefere Weisheit,als der Dichter selbst in Worte und sense is our reality; myth is the image that pro-Begriffefassen kann. tects us from the despair of direct metaphysicalAt the same time, however, we must concede that knowledge (Ch. iii, pp. 31-32)-or, in tragicthe meaning of the tragic myth, as set forth above, myth (which is also a "mediating world" [Ch.never became conceptuallyclear or transparentfor xxiv, p. 146]), from the overwhelming metaphys-the Greek poets, let alone the Greek philosophers; ical power of the music-and so makes life pos-to an extent their heroes speak more superficially sible. Essentially, then, myth is the world wethan they act; the myth by no means receives an live in.adequateobjectificationin the spoken word. In the To this extent myth requires that we take it asdramathe visible images and the structureof scenesreveal a deeper wisdom than the poet himself is reality. At the same time, however, Nietzscheable to grasp in words and concepts. argues that it is not a reality we believe in but, (Ch. xvii, pp. 105-06) rather, the product of a constantly renewed crea- tive act on our part, so that we necessarily re-Now it is by no means immediately obvious main aware of its artificiality. This combinationwhat is meant here by the poets inability to of active involvement and critical awareness is"grasp" (fassen) his meaning verbally; surely what myth has in common with artistic illusion.Nietzsche has not forgotten that what he himself Nietzsche uses the analogy of dreams to make
  7. 7. Benjamin Bennett 425the point that, even when we are most deeply portant idea of myth or illusion as a constantlyimmersed in Apollonian illusion, we still experi- renewed creative act seems to owe something toence "die durchschimmernde Empfindung ihres Schillers argument that the "reality of things isScheins" the glimmering feeling of its illusori- the things own work; the appearance of things isness (Ch. i, p. 22); in the midst of the dream mans work, and by enjoying appearance, thewe know that "It is a dream [and] wish to con- mind no longer enjoys what it receives, but whattinue dreaming it!" (Ch. i, p. 23; Ch. iv, p. 34); it itself does" (Sikular-Ausgabe, xnI, 105). In-"that fine line which the dream image may not deed, Nietzsches entire approach, the basing ofoverstep without becoming pathological-for aesthetics on a theory of constitutive "Triebe"then the illusion begins to deceive us as gross drives in human nature, is the same as that ofreality-that fine line is indispensable in the fig- Uber die dsthetische Erziehung; and the reciproc-ure of Apollo" (Ch. i, p. 24). This limitation on ity, or mutual necessity, of Apollonian andthe extent to which we may be deluded applies Dionysian is clearly similar to the relation be-interchangeably to myth and to the individual tween Schillers "Formtrieb" form drive andartwork; and it is clearest of all in tragic myth, "Stofftrieb"substance drive.13which depends for its existence on our intense Schillers main concern in his essay on theawareness of a truth deeper than that of the chorus, however, as well as in his theory of artimage. The tragic image, the myth as generated as "Spiel" play, is to define the extent and na-by the music, "seemed to reveal Something, as ture of artistic illusion, a task Nietzsche carries awell as to conceal it"; although we are absorbed step further in his idea of myth. The idea ofin its "totally illuminated visibility," we also ex- illusion, as received by Schiller, is characteristicperience a longing "beyond our own gaze," a of eighteenth-century thought, at least sincelonging in the direction of hidden truth (Ch. Baumgarten, and is set forth most simply byxxiv, p. 146). Myth, therefore-at least in its Moses Mendelssohn:more fully developed Apollonian and tragic If an imitation has so much similarity with itsstages-is essentially artistic illusion, an illusion original that our senses can convince themselves atto which we submit while still knowing it to be least for a moment that they are seeing the originalmere illusion, and it is significant that what itself, I term this deceptionan aestheticillusion.Nietzsche says in The Birth of Tragedy about Poetic languagemust addressitself wholly to ourmyth as the precondition of cultural creativity is senses; therefore all poetic speech must illude usalmost exactly what he says about artistic illu- [illudiren]aesthetically.sion in "Die dionysische Weltanschauung" In order to be beautiful, an imitationmust illude(Werke, Pt. III, Vol. ii, p. 53). us aesthetically;our higher mental faculties, how- This is more than a fortuitous similarity of ever, must remainassuredthat it is an imitation,notideas. In fact Nietzsches notion of myth occu- nature itself.14pies an important place in the history of the idea And the problem raised by the idea that the aimof artistic illusion, as we can begin to see by of poetry is to "illude" the lower or (etymologi-understanding how deeply The Birth of Tragedy cally) "aesthetic" mental faculties, while theis influenced by Schillers aesthetics. Not only higher rational faculties remain exempt, is that itdoes Nietzsche affirm and develop the thinking does not seem to allow poetry an immediateof Schillers "Ober den Gebrauch des Chors in moral function. Even Lessing is not sure of hisder Trag6die" (Ch. vii, pp. 50-51), not only ground here;" but Kant and later Schiller ap-does he examine the concepts "naYve"and "sen- proach the problem with new intellectual tools,timental" (Ch. ii, p. 29, for the latter), not only and for our purposes it is sufficient to recall thedoes the incipient idea of amor fati recall a cen- solution Schiller fastens on: that the submissiontral argument in Schillers Uber die iisthetische to aesthetic illusion is in itself morally valuableErziehung des Menschen and in the essay "Uber because our reason, by finding itself elevateddas Erhabene," but in fact the whole idea of above the illusive power acting on our lower"Der sch6ne Schein" beautiful illusion, as faculties, is reminded of the true freedom it pos-Nietzsche uses it, is obviously Schillerian (Ch. i, sesses even outside the sphere of art. We alwaysp. 22 et passim). Moreover, the extremely im- are rationally free, in essence, but the function
  8. 8. 426 Nietzsches Idea of Mythof artistic illusion is to engage us in a mental sion into the general cultural notion of myth. Inexercise by which we are specifically reminded Nietzsches view, the higher, or truth-seeking,of our freedom and so encouraged to act mental faculties tend not to raise and stabilizemorally. human existence but to destroy it. This is the This idea occurs, at varying degrees of depth "Hamlet-doctrine," that knowledge of truth de-and subtlety, in practically all Schillers aesthetic stroys the will to live; "In der Bewusstheit derwritings. In the essay "Uber den Grund des einmal geschauten Wahrheit sieht jetzt derVergniigens an tragischen Gegenstanden," Mensch iiberall nur das Entsetzliche oder Ab-Schiller argues that the business of tragedy is to surde des Seins . . . jetzt erkennt er die Weisheitplunge us so deeply into a direct experience of des Waldgottes Silen: es ekelt ihn" In the con-the actual perversity ("Zweckwidrigkeit") of the sciousness of truth, once he has beheld it, manworld that we are compelled to discover in our- now sees everywhere only the horror or absurd-selves the free moral purposefulness ("Zweck- ity of being . . . now he acknowledges the wis-maBigkeit") by which we are raised above the dom of the sylvan god Silenus: he is revoltedworld and enabled to live humanly. In "Uber (Ch. vii, p. 53). Hence the absolute necessity ofdas Erhabene," it is our sense of the illusoriness myth or illusion in general; we simply cannotof "the pathetic" that enables us to experience live without it. And hence the relationship be-our inner independence from the "artificial mis- tween myth and artistic, or self-conscious, illu-fortune" we find in art and thus helps us develop sion; for if we were not always at least dimlya moral facility ("Fertigkeit") for dealing with conscious of the horrible truth, we would havereal misfortune. In the twenty-sixth letter of Uber no incentive to renew constantly that creativedie dsthetische Erziehung, Schiller argues that act by which we maintain the mythical image."aesthetic illusion" trains us to distinguish that Hence also myths inexorable historical tendencyarea of our existence in which we are truly free. toward greater consciousness of itself as art. IfAnd, finally, in the essay on the chorus in trag- we suppose that primitive myth is not so muchedy, which Nietzsche treats directly, we read art as belief, then it must be a fragile belief,that art, by not really deceiving us, actually since it contradicts the horrible truth without en-makes us free, places us in an active or creative listing our creative energy in the struggle to sup-relation to existence as a whole (Sakular- press that truth. Therefore, in order not to loseAusgabe, xi, 147; xII, 279; xvi, 120). their life-giving protective belief, the adherents This basic idea, that artistic illusion promotes of primitive myth are eventually obliged to exertfreedom indirectly, is also present in The Birth themselves as conscious artists; they then be-of Tragedy, but in a parodied form. Nietzsche come more deeply aware of the truth than theyargues that the function of the tragic myth is to had been earlier, owing to the more obvious dis-distract us from the music, so that the music can crepancy between illusion and truth in consciousexpress its metaphysical essence with a freedom art, and must now exert themselves morethat would otherwise overpower us, not affect strongly still. In this way myth progresses histor-us. "The myth protects us from the music, just ically toward "symbol" and, for the Greeks,as, on the other hand, it provides music with its culminates in tragedy, an art form in which thehighest freedom" (Ch. xxi, p. 130). Myth for truth is too strongly present to be concealed andNietzsche, like artistic illusion for Schiller, is a can be dealt with only by being liberated andkind of intellectual diversionary tactic that fos- affirmedin the joy of "metaphysical consolation"ters freedom, but freedom of a radically different (Ch. vii, p. 52; Ch. xvii, p. 105). This de-sort from Schillers. Though he reads Schiller velopment is part of what Nietzsche means whenattentively and receives from him the idea of he says that tragedy "committed suicide" (Ch.artistic illusion, Nietzsche is not willing to accept xi, p. 71); tragedy is art intensified to the pointthe glorification of reason or the relegation of where it must display and affirm precisely thatart to an ancillary status with respect to moral- truth which it is the nature of art, from primitiveity.16 myth on, to conceal. And it is this "transvaluation" that Nietzsche But then why does Nietzsche not give us acarries out by expanding the idea of artistic illu- detailed description of this historical process? In
  9. 9. Benjamin Bennett 427fact he does, in his discussion of the history of image-making) mental faculties. Thus Nietz-science, in connection with which, as we have sches idea of myth really belongs to the historynoted, he once even uses the term "myth." The of aesthetics; it is an attempt to go furtherscientific attitude originates, with the "demon" toward Schillers avowed but not achieved goal,Socrates (Ch. xii, p. 79), as an unfettered toward a conception of absolute validity and"natural power" (Ch. xiii, p. 87) that sweeps necessity in art, a conception of art as the trueaway the remains of Greek mythical art; it is a generating center of human existence, serving nonatural or an instinctive defense mechanism by purpose higher than itself. And this point, itwhich we are protected against the merciless seems to me, deepens our sense of the historicalconfrontation with truth that would otherwise position not only of Nietzsches own thought butfollow necessarily on the culmination and col- also of various literary tendencies in whichlapse, the "suicide," of artistic illusion in tragedy. Nietzsche plays a significant role--turn-of-the-Socratism is not excessively self-conscious but, century aestheticism, for example, and modern rather, insufficiently so; it is an eruption of pure literary mythopoeia in general.instinct, of precisely that "naivete" (Ch. xiii, p. 87) which Nietzsche denies is present in Homer.Socratic optimism, the notion that all existence IV is ultimately knowable, thus has the character ofprimitive myth: it is an illusion not cognizant of We are now ready to anchor the argumentits illusoriness. But primitive myth, again, is by more firmly in Nietzsches text by defining thenature a fragile illusion; both Euripides in the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Nietzsche re-Bacchae and Socrates in his dream (Ch. xii, pp. peatedly stresses the absolute reciprocity of the78-79; Ch. xiv, p. 92) experience deep uncer- two drives. They are, he says, mutually neces-tainty about their basic attitudes. And Nietzsche sary, so that if one weakens or vanishes, then theis careful to point out that only "in its lower other does too: "And since you, Euripides,stages" (Ch. xv, p. 98) is Socratic optimism op- abandoned Dionysus, Apollo abandoned you asposed to art, whereas the true destiny of Socra- well" (Ch. x, p. 71). They are also mutuallytism, like that of earlier Greek myth, is the pro- intensifying, so that each increase or purificationduction of "a new art" and ultimately a tragic of one is accompanied by a similar developmentart of "metaphysical consolation" (Ch. xviii, p. in the other; it is on this assumption that Nietz- 115). The intermediate stages of sciences pro- sche bases his faith for the future: "Wheregress from primitive myth to conscious art, Dionysian forces make themselves felt as tem-moreover, are suggested in the discussion of pestuously as in our experience, there also"theoretical man" (Ch. xv, p. 94), who, when Apollo, wrapped in a cloud, must already havehe is honest with himself, as Lessing was (Ch. descended among us; surely the next few genera-xv, p. 95), recognizes that perfect knowledge is tions will behold his most opulently beautiful ef-not desirable after all; thus science begins to fects" (Ch. xxv, p. 151). Apollonian art does notrealize its true mythical or self-consciously illu- now flourish in our culture, but the existence ofsory nature. Dionysian stirrings implies that Apollo must be We shall return to Nietzsches idea of how the here in some latent art will come about, but let us now hold It is not immediately apparent, however, howthe main point fast. What disturbs Nietzsche in this absolute reciprocity is derived from the defi-the eighteenth-century view of artistic illusion is nitions of the drives. Nietzsche speaks of thethe idea of higher and lower mental faculties, an Dionysian most often as "Weisheit" wisdom,idea that for Schiller places art in the service of whereas he calls the Apollonian "Illusion"; andmorality. Nietzsche attempts to overcome this whereas the former is a mental ability or attitude,value judgment by seeing artistic illusion as a the latter (as Nietzsche uses the word) is anspecial case of the general cultural phenomenon object of cognition or a mental image. Thus, inof myth, which in turn owes its existence to the order to coordinate the definitions, we mustpresence of a dangerous antivital tendency in the identify the characteristic object of Dionysiansupposedly higher (truth-seeking, as opposed to wisdom and the characteristic mental attitude
  10. 10. 428 Nietzsches Idea of Myth associated with Apollonian illusion, and at least truth, by which Dionysian wisdom is made au-for the Dionysian this is not difficult. Dionysian thentic, is in turn the mental attitude character-wisdom involves knowledge of truth ("Wahr- istic of the Apollonian. As I have argued, mythheit"), the horrible truth of the emptiness of in its purer form, as artistic illusion, is for Nietz-existence, the truth that the best thing for man is sche a constantly repeated creative act, and thisnot to exist in the first place (Ch. iv, p. 37; Ch. ceaseless creativity, which is the essence of ourvii, p. 53; Ch. viii, pp. 54-55). apparent submission to illusion, manifests the Yet this truth cannot be known in the way Apollonian drive, the struggle against truth. We that we know a fact; it cannot be accepted. If we may thus schematize our results as follows, withgenuinely believe that there is no valid reason brackets for the terms Nietzsche treats obscurely:for existing, then either we must simply die ofpessimism, as Nietzsche somewhat ludicrously A pollonian Dionysianimagines the "melancholy Etruscans" to have Object: "Illusion" [truth]done (Ch. iii, p. 32), or else we must protect Attitude: [creation, wisdom ourselves with a "tragic culture" (Ch. xviii, p. "Schaffen"l1] Characteristic: active passive 112), by which Nietzsche does not mean a cul-ture that produces tragedy. A tragic culture-for Tragic myth: Prometheus Oedipusexample, Brahmanic India-is a culture where By the last item I do not mean that the myths of"metaphysical consolation" itself, which in Dio- Prometheus and Oedipus are respectively Apol-nysian tragedy is our preterillusory affirmation lonian and Dionysian; obviously every myth hasof truth, functions as an illusion (see Ch. xviii, both an Apollonian and a Dionysian aspect. Butpp. 111-12). This is an important point. If we neither is it an accident that Nietzsche fastens onsimply accept the truth that existence is empty these two myths as especially characteristic of (which acceptance, or "Buddhist negation of thewill," Nietzsche regards as a "danger" [Ch. vii, tragedy. In Oedipus, the myth of "wisdom as a crime against nature" (Ch. ix, p. 63), the Dio-p. 52]), then the truth itself, the absolutely hor-rible truth, becomes an illusion for us, and we nysian reveals the Apollonian; "the hero, by hisno longer confront it as truth; the Buddhists purely passive behavior, achieves his supreme activity" (Ch. ix, p. 62). And in Prometheus,unworldly reconciliation with truth serves as a the myth of the artist, the reverse happens; ti-comfort, whereas in the truth as truth there is no tanic creativity is realized as a "higher wisdom"comfort but only either despair or the extrava- that foresees the Olympian "twilight of thegantly world-affirmingjoy of tragedy. Tragic cul-ture, therefore, unlike the "artistic culture" of gods" (Ch. ix, p. 64). This interchange, or mu- tual revelation, of Apollonian and DionysianGreece (Ch. xviii, p. 112), is not strongly Dio- drives is in turn specifically characteristic ofnysian, does not involve direct contact withtruth.17The truth is absolutely horrible, and the tragedy, the absolute climax of art, where each drive embraces the others function without los-only possible authentic relation to it, the only ing its own. Now the myth, normally our Apol-possible contact with the truth as truth, is the lonian defense against truth, carries out the Dio-activity of struggling against it. To go back to a nysian function of revealing the truth, byquestion raised above, we can now see why theGreek poet cannot "grasp in words and con- showing "the shattering of the individual" (Ch. viii, p. 58). And now, conversely, our normallycepts" his Dionysian wisdom, for such a graspwould constitute his acceptance of the truth as a pessimistic Dionysian wisdom is transformed into a kind of consolation, an affirmation ofconceivable, allowable, "transparent" state ofaffairs. The Greek poet thus authentically con- creativity, a commitment to assertive, illusion-fronts truth precisely by not "grasping" it; in a creating action (normally the Apollonian); na- ture, in her Dionysian aspect, no longer whispersspecific poetic context, like that of the Colonus, that it were better never to have been born but,the truth can to a degree be spoken, or sung, but rather, urges us:not grasped, not conceptually mastered, not ac-cepted.18 Seid wie ich bin! Unter dem unaufhbrlichenWech- And this necessary attitude of struggle against sel der Erscheinungendie ewig schopferische,ewig
  11. 11. Benjamin Bennett 429zum Dasein zwingende, an diesem Erscheinungs- In one sense it is true to say that the Apollonianwechsel sich ewig befriedigendeUrmutter! is the ceaselessly renewed act of artistic or myth- ical creation by which we surround ourselvesBe as I am! Beneath the unceasingflux of phenom- with a world in which it is possible to live; theena, the eternally creative primal womb that forces world of our experience is our own work of art,this flux into existence and derives its satisfactiontherefrom. (Ch. xvi, p. 104) which we constantly create anew. But the pur- pose of this repeated creative act is precisely to In any event, the question of why the drives illude ourselves about our existence, to rescuemust necessarily remain "in strict proportion to ourselves from the knowledge of an absoluteeach other" (Ch. xxv, p. 151) can now be abyss in which nothing exists outside what wesettled. To the extent that we confront the truth create. We may, therefore, become aware of theas truth (Dionysianly) we must also be in the illusoriness of phenomena-Nietzsche impliesprocess of creating and of illuding ourselves that eventually we must-but if we speak of (Apollonianly) with a world in which human ourselves as the creators of the illusion, if welife is possible; otherwise we simply could not speak (say, with Fichte) of the ego as worldexist. And conversely, the brilliance and beauty creator, then our pretended knowledge presup--the obvious artificiality, or "createdness"-of poses a point of view wholly detached from thethe world in which we live (which means the illusory or phenomenal world; and such detach-illusion by which we live) are a direct measure ment is impossible, since our very existence de-of the extent to which we need illusion, that is, pends on our illudedness. That the Greeks werethe extent to which we confront the truth as "compelled" to relate all experience to theirtruth. The interchange between the Apollonian myths is thus not really a limitation of Greekand the Dionysian in tragedy is thus the revela- culture. If we imagine that our own less con-tion of an absolute bond between the two at all sciously mythical existence is somehow broader,levels of development. affording us a clearer, less prejudiced view of But this point raises another question. If our things, then we are deceiving ourselves, for thereown relatively systematic discussion accurately simply is no existence outside illusion; evenrepresents Nietzsches thought, why does Nietz- science, as Nietzsche insists, is a form of artisticsche himself not argue more systematically? illusion. We can say that we are illuded, but weWhy does he leave the Dionysian object and the cannot say exactly how we are illuded withoutApollonian attitude (both bracketed in the pretending to know and accept the whole truth,above scheme) more obscure than they have to and such a pretense is necessarily The answer to this question has to do with We cannot accept the truth as we accept aNietzsches idea of his own work as a historical fact, and we cannot know systematically ouract within the process it describes, for in terms situation as the generating center of existence;of this idea the form of The Birth of Tragedy this is essentially Schopenhauers objection, andturns out to be the maximum permissible sys- Nietzsches, to the Fichtean terminology oftematization of its subject matter. "ego" and "productive imagination." But for Enough has been said above to explain why Nietzsche the unique function of art is that itNietzsche takes the "artistic drives" as his basic leads us, despite the impossibility of knowledge,concepts, instead of deducing these drives logic- toward a valid intimation of what we truly, as we have, from a specific idea of truth. Nietzsche himself, as a theorist, is willing toFor if truth, as Nietzsche understands it, is used describe "our empirical existence, like that ofas the basis of a conceptual system that pretends the whole world, as an ideation created in everyto constitute a valid description of human nature instant by the Original One" (Ch. iv, p. 35);and the human condition, then the very validity but only beyond the realm of theory, onlyof the system must contradict the truth it is in the midst of the ritual of tragedy, does it hap-based on, namely, that the best thing for us is pen that "we are really, for a moment, the Origi-not to be, that human life is in the final analysis nal Being itself, and feel its immense appetitewithout meaning or valid order. And the same and desire for existence" (Ch. xvii, p. 105).kind of argument applies to the idea of creation. Those fleeting moments in the theater are not a
  12. 12. 430 Nietzsches Idea of Mythdelusion but, rather, a revelation of the truth Socratism is for us "the net of art" (includingabout ourselves as world creators, which truth is those art forms, like religion and science, thatby nature entirely inaccessible to theory and we do not yet recognize as art), and if it is de-would therefore undermine the structure of any stroyed, then all hope for artistic renewal is lost.conceptual system that attempted to include or The net must therefore be perfected, and Nietz-"grasp" it as a constituent proposition. Thus, by sche is speaking hopefully when he sees Socrateschoosing not to systematize his ideas fully, influence stretching "into the indefinite future"Nietzsche gives his treatise greater internal con- (Ch. xv, p. 93).sistency and epistemological soundness than it But why should it not be possible simply towould otherwise possess. overthrow Socratic culture and replace it with an artistic or Apollonian culture, once we have learned from the Greeks exactly what an artistic V culture is? This question, in essence, has already been answered. What we learn from the Greeks But does Nietzsche really want to construct a is that our whole world is a ceaselessly re-sound conceptual argument? Why should he created work of art, and that beyond this web ofwant this? Why does he describe his work as a illusion is nothing but the abyss. Culture, incontribution to "aesthetic science"? Is this not a other words, or the web of human artifice, isconcession to precisely that Socratic quality of existence, and to "overthrow" ones culture,culture which must be overcome? By construct- however unsatisfactory one may find it, is thusing a conceptual system, or by practicing aes- to negate existence, or simply to commit suicide.thetics as a science, does one not simply rein- For us, therefore, there is no way out of Socraticforce Socratic culture? culture. We must transform our culture as it is In fact one does, and in fact this is exactly into an artistic culture;20 we must realize itswhat Nietzsche desires. Toward the middle of essential mythicalness.his book (Ch. xv, pp. 96-98; Ch. xviii, p. 112), And this is the task to which Nietzsche setshe speaks repeatedly of the "net" of science or out to make his contribution in The Birth ofSocratic culture and concludes with a crucial Tragedy. German critical and idealistic philos-question: ophy, or "Dionysian wisdom in conceptual. . . wird jenes "Umschlagen"zu immer neuen form," may perhaps not, strictly speaking, beConfigurationen Genius und gerade des musik- des Dionysian wisdom as experienced by the Greeks;treibenden Sokrates fihren? Wird das uiber das but according to Nietzsche, it does at least ef-Dasein gebreiteteNetz der Kunst, sei es auch unter fectively destroy any faith we may still have haddem Namen der Religion oder der Wissenschaft, in the perfectibility of scientific knowledge, andimmer fester und zarter geflochtenwerden oder ist it thus initiates "a culture . . . which I [Nietz-ihm bestimmt, unter dem ruhelos barbarischen sche] venture to designate as tragic" (Ch. xviii,Treibenund Wirbeln,das sich jetzt "die Gegenwart" p. 114). A tragic culture, however-by which,nennt, in Fetzen zu reissen? as I have pointed out, Nietzsche means not a. . . will that "overturning" tendency of science [the quasi-Hellenic culture but rather a culture com-to reach its limits and generate a need for art] lead parable to Indian Brahmanism-is not what wetowardever new configurations genius, and of the of are aiming at. If we have learned anything frommusic-making Socrates in particular?Will the net the Greeks, then what we will do is not acceptthat is spreadover our existence, the net of art (even our pessimistic thinking (which is what tragicif under the name of religion or science), be woven culture does) but, rather, affirm the Socratic at-constantly tighter and finer, or is it destined to be titude despite Kant and Schopenhauer, despitetorn to shreds by the restlesslybarbaricbustle and our knowledge of its emptiness; for insofar as weconfusion that calls itself "the presentage"? do this, Socratic culture as a whole will take on (Ch. xv, p. 98) for us the character of an artistic illusion, toA few commentators have supposed that what which we submit while still knowing its illusori-Nietzsche desires here is the tearing apart of the ness. What we will do is practice the absurd dis-net, but in fact he wants the opposite. The net of cipline of "aesthetic science," in which the sub-
  13. 13. Benjamin Bennett 431ject matter clashes with the very idea of science. describe but also to be "the birth of tragedy,"Thus Socratism will be changed from blind be- the crucial historical meeting ground of twolief into artistic illusion; in other words, it will be forces that, once joined, will tend to realizerealized as a higher and more refined form of the Socratisms artistic destiny.myth it has always been in essence. Or perhaps, We can now also see why Nietzsche assumesin the interest of consistent terminology, we that the present historical process will culminateshould speak of transformed Socratism as a immediately in tragedy rather than in some other"mythical content" that will vitalize our tradi- art form. In Greece the general mythical shapetional fictional images. But, however it is de- of the culture had not been tragic until Diony-scribed, Socratism must be affirmed by the sian music imposed a tragic interpretation on thestriver for a new artistic age. myths; but in Germany the life-giving myth Nietzsche is not yet quite immodest enough, (Socratism) has become tragic independently ofat this stage in his career, to assert that his own music. German critical philosophy, as "Diony-work will be sufficient to effect the cultural sian wisdom in conceptual form," does nottransformation in question. He regards The transcend Socratism but, rather, belongs to So-Birth of Tragedy, rather, as a contribution to the cratism; it is Socratisms own turning againsthistorical process characterized by a mysterious itself, in that it uses "the arsenal of science itself"unity between German music and German . .. to demonstrate the limits and the contin-philosophy" (Ch. xix, p. 124). German philos- gency of knowledge as such" (Ch. xviii, p. 114).ophy has transformed "the delight of Socratic Thus the interchange of Apollonian and Diony-knowledge" into "tragic knowledge" (Ch. xv, p. sian, which is characteristic of tragedy, has al-97) by destroying our faith in "the knowability ready occurred in Germany; myth (i.e., scienceand fathomability of all world riddles" (Ch. grown self-critical) now already reveals the hor-xviii, p. 114), and it has thus put us in danger of rible truth, whereas the affirmative, life-becoming a "tragic culture"; but our growing preserving function has already been assumed bypessimism is balanced by the affirmative energy music. Tragedy, therefore, and of all art onlyof German music, the "myth-creating" power of tragedy, is ready to be born. All that is needed iswhich will transform our world view into a joy- that philosophy and music be brought into directful artistic illusion, thus making possible a true contact; all that is needed, at least in the termsartistic culture, a "rebirth of Hellenic antiquity" of a logic rather more internally consistent than (Ch. xx, p. 127). The symbol of our present what Nietzsche is usually credited with, is "aes-cultural state is Diirers "Knight with Death and thetic science," a science that, despite ourthe Devil"; but this arid image is suddenly trans- knowledge of the unacceptable truth behind it, isformed, "plunged into an abundance of life, suf- still practiced joyfully and affirmatively as afering, and delight," when it is touched by "the science. It is significant, therefore, and indicativeDionysian magic" of music (Ch. xx, pp. 127- of the essential continuity of Nietzsches thought,28). What is needed, therefore, is only that the that the later book, entitled Die frihliche Wis-connection between philosophy and music be senschaft Cheerful Science, is the book thatmade, that the crumbling primitive-mythical concludes by saying, "tragedy now begins."fabric of science and the new energy of music be Of course, it is fairly clear that Germany hasbrought into contact with each other, as the not played that role in the growth of modern art"moribund mythical structure" of Greece had which Nietzsche assigned it, any more than itbeen brought into contact with an earlier music; has played the role Marx assigned it in the de-and the obvious vehicle for such contact in the velopment of communism. But this failure doespresent age is "aesthetic science," the form of not entirely invalidate Nietzsches prophetic vi-The Birth of Tragedy. Simply by being, on the sion, or Marxs. Not only the search for a basicone hand, "wissenschaftlich," Socratic, episte- continuity between myth and conscious art butmologically scrupulous and dealing, on the other also the notion of aesthetic science as an ironic,hand, with the metaphysical forces of art, calling self-consciously illusory intellectual disciplineattention directly to the unfathomable mystery has to an extent been realized in this century, inof music, Nietzsches book attempts not only to the increasing self-questioning complexity of
  14. 14. 432 Nietzsches Idea of Mythliterary philosophy and critical theory. More- hauer and Hegel) to questions of eighteenth-over, the epistemological restraint of The Birth century aesthetics has the effect, again, of pro-of Tragedy serves in some degree to detach viding us with a freshly integrated historicalNietzsches aesthetic-mythical argument from sense of our own intellectual situation.the rather forbidding metaphysics on which it isbased. Thus the recognition that this argument University of Virginiaarises in turn from an application of idealistic Charlottesvilleand dialectical philosophy (mainly Schopen-Notes 1 Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychol- a number of associations in any mind familiar withogist, Antichrist (1950; rpt. New York: Meridian, 1956), earlier German philosophy: e.g., Kants denial, in thepp. 108-09. Friedrich Nietzsche, Die Geburt der Kritik der Urteilskraft, that beautiful science or aTrag6die, Werke, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Mon- science of the beautiful is possible; and Hegels idea oftinari, Pt. in, Vol. I (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1972), Ch. ii, the science of art as superseding art itself. The phrasepp. 27-28. All references to Die Geburt der Tragbdie is thus meant to disturb and alert the reader.(The Birth of Tragedy) are identified by chapter and 7 It must be noted that the word "instinctiv"is anpage number from this volume. All English transla- adverb, not an adjective;Nietzsche is talking, not abouttions of Nietzsche, as well as of other German writers, an "instinctiveand unconscious"wisdom, but about anare my own. Richard Schacht refers to the Babylonian "instinctively unconscious" wisdom; i.e., we (or theorgies that repel Nietzsche as "pre-Dionysiansavagery" Greeks) have an instinct that keeps this wisdom un-("Nietzsche on Art in The Birth of Tragedy," in conscious. I try to elucidate this idea below. See nn.Aesthetics: A Critical Anthology, ed. George Dickie 12, 18.and R. J. Sclafani [New York: St. Martins, 1977], 8 On a similar idea of teaching by analogy, see myp. 287), but this phrase begs the question; Nietzsche "Vorspiel auf dem Theater: The Ironic Basis ofsays "Dionysian barbarians." Kaufmanns important Goethes Faust," German Quarterly, 49 (1976), 438-point about the positive aspect of Socratismis developed the argument below. 9 The classic statement of this idea is by pseudo- 2 Ernst Cassirer, Das mythische Denken, Vol. ii of Longinus, who says that great poetry fills us with anPhilosophie der symbolischen Formen (Darmstadt: extravagant pride, as if we were the creators of whatWissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1973), esp. Sec. 4, we hear (Ch. vii, Sec. 2 [Paris MS., fol. 182^]).pp. 281-311. 10This idea becomes increasinglyprominent in Schil- 3 See Jacques Derrida, "La Mythologie blanche," lers aesthetics as it develops chronologically, e.g., inPoetique, 5 (1971), 1-52, and other items in this num- the third letter of Uber die dsthetische Erziehung desber of Poetique; also Bernard Pautrat, Versions du Menschen (in Schillers Siimtliche Werke, Sakular-Aus-soleil (Paris: Editions du Seuil, 1971). And Karl gabe [Stuttgart: Cotta, 1904], Vol. xii) and in theJaspers, Nietzsche: Einfithrung in das Verstiindnis seines essays on the sublime and on the chorus in tragedyPhilosophierens, 3rd ed. (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1950), (Sakular-Ausgabe,Vols. xII, xvI). The general relationpp. 366-74. Jaspers assumes something like Cassirers between Schiller and Nietzsche is discussed below. Seeidea of myth; he assumes that myth is a phenomenon also Schacht, pp. 281-82.of the past, which must be resurrected and, once 11Thomas Mann, unlike most Nietzsche critics, un-resurrected,believed in (esp. p. 367). My point is that derstood this point very well. See my "Casting OutNietzsche uses the word "myth" to refer to something Nines: Structure, Parody and Myth in Tonio Kr6ger,"always present and always being created, in varying Revue des Langues Vivantes, 42 (1976), 142-46.degrees of intensity. The issue is thus basically word 12 The Sophoclean passage is, in its standardbut per-usage, and my argument below parallels Jaspers on haps questionable translation: "The best thing is not to"Die Unmitteilbarkeitder Wahrheit"(p. 224). be born; but once born, by far the second best is to 4 For the sake of compactness I neglect certain return as fast as possible whence one came" (Colonus,thinkers, like Schelling, who are very important in the 11. 1225-28). This idea appears frequently in antiquitygeneral area of myth and aesthetics. See my tentative as the wisdom of Silenus, the best-known passagediscussion in "Tis Sixty Years Since," German Quar- being Plutarch, Consolatio ad Apollonium, 115B-E.terly, 45 (1972), 684-702. Again, the presence of precisely these words in a tragedy 5 Pautrat, in an excellent discussion of one Nietz- makes one wonder exactly what Nietzsche means by theschean "allegory," shows that for Nietzsche allegory poets "unconsciousness." See n. 7 not at all a shallow or trivial mode (pp. 20-28). 13 In addition, Nietzsche mentions Schillers thinking 6 The words "aesthetic science" immediately awaken on lyric poetry (Ch. v, p. 39) and on the idyll (Ch.
  15. 15. Benjamin Bennett 433xix, p. 120); and the argument about how tragedy The Birth of Tragedy," Diacritics, 2, No. 4 (1972),enabled the Greeks to maintain an attitude "between 44-53. Misled by the words "metaphysicalconsolation,"India and Rome" (Ch. xxi, p. 129), between actionless de Man equates tragic culture with "Dionysian" cul-otherworldliness and crass this-worldliness, is exactly ture (p. 52), a misconception that makes it impossiblethe type of political-aesthetic argument Schiller ad- to understandthe reciprocity of the drives. Apollonianvances in Uber die iisthetische Erziehung. Also, on the culture and "Dionysian culture" (a phrase Nietzschecrucial Schillerian idea of "Spiel," compare Ch. xxiv, does not use) are one and the same. The individualp. 148, and Ch. xxv, p. 150, as well as "Die dionysische work of art can be either Apollonian or Dionysian toWeltanschauung,"where the definitions of Apollonian the exclusion of the other; but a whole culture isand Dionysian turn on this idea (Werke, Pt. II, Vol. II, Apollonian precisely to the extent that it is Dionysian,p. 46). and vice versa. If Apollonian Greece had not also 14 Mendelssohn, "Von der Herrschaft iiber die Nei- been fundamentallyDionysian (see Ch. ii, p. 30), thengungen," Secs. 11, 12, in Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Dionysian music would simply have been incomprehen-Moses Mendelssohn, Friedrich Nicolai, Briefwechsel sibly alien to it and would never have gained entrance.iiber das Trauerspiel, ed. Schulte-Sasse (Munich: Wink- Schacht also speaks of "tragic culture" as an object ofler, 1972), p. 99. See also Alexander Gottlieb Baum- "hope" for Nietzsche (p. 311); Schachts essay, ingarten, Meditationes philosophicae de nonnullis ad general, is the perfect example of an otherwise admir-poema pertinentibus (1735; facs. rpt. Berkeley: Univ. able argumentthat neglects the historicityof Nietzschesof California Press, 1954), Secs. 7, 9. "artisticdrives" and falls into the trap of regardingthe 15 In the Hamburgische Dramaturgie, Lessing ap- physiological states of dream and intoxication as "moreproaches this question by way of the Aristotelian ques- fundamental" than the developed achievements oftion of a characters "goodness," passes via a discus- conscious art (p. 282).sion of Richard 111 to Diderots question of "general" 18 We can now understandthe locution "instinctivelyand "specific" characters, and at the end of No. 95 unconscious" (see n. 7). The instinct that keeps theleaves this last unanswered (Siimtliche Schriften, ed. truth unconscious or ungrasped is an instinct to con-Karl Lachmann and Franz Muncker, 3rd ed., 23 vols. front the truth as truth.[Stuttgart: Goschen, 1886-1924], x, 187-88). 1"In The Birth of Tragedy itself, Nietzsche is cau- 16 On Schillers and Goethes failures to achieve a tious with the word "schaffen,"although he does use itcomplete understandingof Hellenic antiquity, see Ch. to describe the origin of the Olympians (Ch. iii, p. 32).xx, p. 127; on the inapplicability of moral categories He had not yet been so cautious in "Die dionysischeto tragedy, see Ch. xxii, pp. 138-39. Schiller claims, of Weltanschauung,"where he says of the origin of an-course, that, far from subordinatingart to morality, he cient tragedy, "Der Ekel am Weiterlebenwird als Mittelshows that art cultivates an intermediate area between zum Schaffen empfunden" The revulsion against con-rational and sensual existence, thus enabling us to tinuing to live is felt as a means of creation (Werke,achieve wholeness of being; this wholeness, however, Pt. IlI, Vol. II, p. 62); nothing in The Birth of Tragedyultimately serves a moral freedom Nietzsche does not itself comes quite this close to my own description ofbelieve in. Nor, it appears, does Nietzsche believe in the union of Apollonian and Dionysian above. 20 Again we are reminded of Schiller: "Wenn derany mediation between the drives; the idea of "Spiel,"which in Uber die isthetische Erziehung is the mediating Kiinstler an einem Uhrwerk zu bessern hat, so laBt erforce, is prominent in "Die dionysische Weltan- die Rader ablaufen; aber das lebendige Uhrwerk desschauung," but it is almost entirely eliminated in the Staats muB gebessert werden, indem es schlagt" Whendeveloped thought of The Birth of Tragedy. the craftsman has to fix a clockwork, he lets it run 17 Failure to grasp this point leads Paul de Man into down; but the living clockwork of the state must bea serious error in "Genesis and Genealogy in Nietzsches repairedwhile it is ticking (Sakular-Ausgabe, 9). xII,