The Birth of Tragedy
According to Nietzsche, life is justified in tragic myth as an aesthetic phenomenon.
Music and the chorus play important roles as symbols of tragic myth.
The birth of great art has nothing to do with politics, but the power of music and
drama to represent the Dionysian process without representing individuals except
Music is more primal than language; it invokes and echoes in an immediacy and
complexity that language cannot achieve.
Music is the dreamer; the stage is a dream. The dream is its own justification; the
dreamer is content with the dream as a dream, and the dreamer doesn't analyze
the dream (no rational interpretation of the dream.)
The dream, the Apolline, is the channeling/managing of the Dionysian in such a way
Most forms of art die slowly (a natural death), and are superceded by their beautiful
children and disciples. However, tragedy died a violent suicide at the hands of
After Euripides, true Greek optimism, of the transforming of the terror of existence
into something joyful, turns into something false.
In Euripides, the chorus, the spectators and the actors are separate. Why does this
happen? Why does he “dumb down” the language?
Because Euripides is not a very good writer, and because he doesn't understand
great art, doesn't understand the conflict and tension in great art, nor how it arises
from Dionysian culture and Apolline mood.
He condemns his predecessors for being “drunk”, for creating purely out of instinct.
He finds their tragedies unclear.
Nietzsche says that the simulation of Euripides comes not from Apolline culture and
Dionysian impulses, but from cool, rationalization. Thus, it's not real drama; the
conflict of existence is not being expressed.
Nietzsche also condemns Socrates, who is a bigger danger than Euripides. Socrates
murders and condemns great art, and the existing ethics of the Greeks.
Knowledge = virtue = happiness -> this is the bizarrest of equations for Nietzsche.Socrates believes that knowledge can heal the Schopenhauerean world of misery.
New Greek optimism: reason can solve everything.
But this is not the same thing as the Apolline optimism that raises the amoral truth
of existence. The Socratic tendency is a false optimism. He is an ascetic man, a sick
man, who rejects the sensuous as illusory and proclaims instead the intelligible
world of reason.
All reality changes; only what can not change can be known; only what is known
can be good. This is Socratic ascetism. This is the decline of aesthetics.
Socratic opposition to art is an opposition to instinct. Instinct is prevalent to human
existence, and it can and must be corrected by reason. Nietzsche points out that it
is only from a Socratic view that the Greeks suffer from a lack of reason. It is by
Socratic rationalism that Socrates persuaded his interlocutors that their existence is
Reason is so overdeveloped in Socrates that it is at the very core of his being. He
had the same power that a mystic or a great artist would have, but his instinct is
out of whack.