NIETZSCHE—"On Truth and Lies" and excerpts from the Genealogy of Morals—Highlights 

 "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral [Ultramoral] Sense" (#.# = section#.paragraph#)


• A FABLE (of ANTHROPOCENTRISM—and a Lesson in PERSPECTIVISM): Nietzsche begins with a "fable" about "how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life. Rather, it is human, and only its possessor and begetter takes it so solemnly—as though the world's axis turned within it. But if we could communicate with the gnat, we would learn that he likewise flies through the air with the same solemnity, that he feels the flying center of the universe within himself" (1.1). . . . "If but for an instant he ['man'] could escape from the prison walls of this faith, his 'self consciousness' would be immediately destroyed. It is even a difficult thing for him to admit to himself that the insect or the bird perceives an entirely different world from the one that man does, and that the question of which of these perceptions of the world is the more correct one is quite meaningless, for this would have to have been decided previously in accordance with the criterion of the correct perception, which means, in accordance with a criterion which is not available." (1.9) . . . "if each of us had a different kind of sense perception—if we could only perceive things now as a bird, now as a worm, now as a plant, or if one of us saw a stimulus as red, another as blue, while a third even heard the same stimulus as a sound—then no one would speak of such a regularity of nature, rather, nature would be grasped only as a creation which is subjective in the highest degree" (1.10).

What if one imagined (or could imagine) another species as a perspectival center? (Would this be gnat-centrism?!)

• The human INTELLECT (& SELF-DECEPTION): "The pride connected with knowing and sensing lies like a blinding fog over the eyes and senses of men, thus deceiving them concerning the value of existence. For this pride contains within itself the most flattering estimation of the value of knowing. Deception is the most general effect of such pride" (1.2). . .  . "As a means for the preserving of the individual, the intellect unfolds its principal powers in dissimulation, which is the means by which weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves—since they have been denied the chance to wage the battle for existence with horns or with the sharp teeth of beasts of prey. This art of dissimulation reaches its peak in man" (1.3).

Note that the reference to the self-preservation of "weaker, less robust individuals" is no doubt influenced by Darwin.

• The UNCONSCIOUS!: "What does man actually know about himself? Is he, indeed, ever able to perceive himself completely, as if laid out in a lighted display case? Does nature not conceal most things from him—even concerning his own body—in order to confine and lock him within a proud, deceptive consciousness, aloof from the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers! She threw away the key. And woe to that fatal curiosity which might one day have the power to peer out and down through a crack in the chamber of consciousness and then suspect that man is sustained in the indifference of his ignorance by that which is pitiless, greedy, insatiable, and murderous—as if hanging in dreams on the back of a tiger" (1.3).

This is one of those passages in which Nietzsche clearly anticipates Freud's notions of the unconscious and libido.

• The SOCIAL CONTRACT (& "TRUTH"): Because "man wishes to exist socially and with the herd . . . he needs to make peace," which includes agreements about what is "true": "that which shall count as 'truth' from now on is established. That is to say, a uniformly valid and binding designation is invented for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth. For the contrast between truth and lie arises here for the first time" (1.4).

This description of the evolution of society no doubt alludes to Locke's "social contract" and Rousseau's "state of nature." But also note how it anticipates Foucault's notion of discourses of power and their "invention" & use of "truth"; and the "contrast between truth and lie" no doubt led to Foucault's historicization of what is (allowed to be) "true" ("dans le vrai") in different era & cultures.

"TRUTH" & INTERESTEDness: "It is in a similarly restricted sense that man now wants nothing but truth: he desires the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth. He is indifferent toward pure knowledge which has no consequences; toward those truths which are possibly harmful and destructive he is even hostilely inclined" (1.4).

Again: Foucault (and Eagleton) will emphasize that "truth" is never disinterested. (In Freudian terms, one might say that the claim of disinterest & objectivity is a rationalization at work, not reason.)

"TRUTH" and LANGUAGE: "what about these linguistic conventions themselves? Are they perhaps products of knowledge, that is, of the sense of truth? Are designations congruent with things? Is language the adequate expression of all realities?" (1.4).

These questions anticipate Saussure and structural linguistics, one main gist of which is that words—or signifiers—are inevitably arbitrary representations of the "thing"—or the referent.

• LANGUAGE (continued): "What is a word? It is the copy in sound of a nerve stimulus. But the further inference from the nerve stimulus to a cause outside of us is already the result of a false and unjustifiable application of the principle of sufficient reason. . . . We separate things according to gender, designating the tree as masculine and the plant as feminine. What arbitrary assignments! How far this oversteps the canons of certainty! . . . The 'thing in itself' (which is precisely what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be) is likewise something quite incomprehensible to the creator of language and something not in the least worth striving for. This creator only designates the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors" (1.5).

That the "'thing in itself'" is "incomprehensible" comes directly from Kant, of course. And that language really "only designates the relations of things to men" is more of humankind's inveterate anthropocentrism/morphism.

LANGUAGE as (a series of) METAPHOR(s): "To begin with, a nerve stimulus is transferred into an image [i.e., a perception]: first metaphor. The image, in turn, is imitated in a sound: second metaphor. And each time there is a complete overleaping of one sphere, right into the middle of an entirely new and different one." . . . "It is this way with all of us concerning language: we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things—metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities." In sum: "the mysterious X of the thing in itself first appears as a nerve stimulus, then as an image, and finally as a sound" (1.5). . . . "the concept" is "merely the residue of a metaphor, and . . . the illusion which is involved in the artistic transference of a nerve stimulus into images is, if not the mother, then the grandmother of every single concept" (1.8).

How language arises from a whole SERIES of metaphorical transactions or "translations" is, in my mind, the most intriguing notion in the essay. To put it in the language of 20th-c. linguistics, sensation => perception => signifier (the word, either written or spoken ["sound"]) + signified (the concept).

• WORDS as "LIES" (of OVERGENERALIZATION): As for the "the formation of concepts"—"Every word instantly becomes a concept precisely insofar as it is not supposed to serve as a reminder of the unique and entirely individual original experience to which it owes its origin; but rather, a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases—which means, purely and simply, cases which are never equal and thus altogether unequal. Every concept arises from the equation of unequal things. Just as it is certain that one leaf is never totally the same as another, so it is certain that the concept 'leaf' is formed by arbitrarily discarding these individual differences and by forgetting the distinguishing aspects" (1.6).

Nietzsche's critique of CONCEPTS themselves claims that they are all false generalizations, or essentializations. Thus it is also an attack on essentialism in general—including Plato's idealist theory of Forms, of some metaphysical realm in which the ideal "table" serves as a template for all particular & actual tables. In the terms of medieval philosophy, Nietzsche is a "nominalist," not a "realist." The former philosophers believed that abstract concepts exist in name only, while the latter claimed that such concepts actually pointed to a real "universal" (e.g., Plato's Form of the Good).

ANTHROPOMORPHIC LANGUAGE (vs. NATURE) I: "We obtain the concept, as we do the form, by overlooking what is individual and actual; whereas nature is acquainted with no forms and no concepts, and likewise with no species[!], but only with an X which remains inaccessible and undefinable for us. For even our contrast between individual and species is something anthropomorphic and does not originate in the essence of things; although we should not presume to claim that this contrast does not correspond to the essence of things: that would of course be a dogmatic assertion and, as such, would be just as indemonstrable as its opposite" (1.6)!

I love the (quite characteristically Nietzschean) disclaimer that, "although we should not presume to claim that" a particular human conception "does not correspond to the essence of things: that would . . . be a dogmatic assertion and, as such, would be just as indemonstrable as its opposite"! This precious quibbling via both sides of the coin sounds very much like Derrida—but of course it does, since Nietzsche was a major influence.

• "WHAT IS TRUTH?": "What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force" (1.7).

The heavily-Foucault-influenced postcolonial critic Edward Said found this passage quote-worthy, and I'm sure he was neither the first or the last.

• TRUTHS = "LIES": "to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors. . . . this is the duty to lie according to a fixed convention, to lie with the herd and in a manner binding upon everyone. Now man of course forgets that this is the way things stand for him. Thus he lies in the manner indicated, unconsciously and in accordance with habits which are centuries old; and precisely by means of this unconsciousness and forgetfulness he arrives at his sense of truth. . . . The venerability, reliability, and utility of truth is something which a person demonstrates for himself from the contrast with the liar, whom no one trusts and everyone excludes" (1.8).

Social "truths" are not only "lies," but a "forgetting," an "unconsciousness"—something like a cultural Freudian repression of language's origins. . . . Also notable is the dependence of the meaning of truth and honesty upon—by contrast—"the liar." This anticipates Derrida's notion of supplementarity (by which binary terms like "truth" and lies" deconstruct themselves in part by not entailing "pure" meaning: they "depend" upon each other's meaning). And the passage (and entire essay) forecasts Foucault's discursive analysis of truth/reason and falsehood/madness (and therefore exclusion) as a culturally defined central binary of power.

• "TRUTHS" as SOCIAL FOUNDATIONS: For social order, then, there is "the construction of a pyramidal order according to castes and degrees, the creation of a new world of laws, privileges, subordinations, and clearly marked boundaries—a new world, one which now confronts that other vivid world of first impressions as more solid, more universal, better known, and more human than the immediately perceived world, and thus as the regulative and imperative world." . . . "so every people has a similarly mathematically divided conceptual heaven above themselves . . . an unstable foundation . . . constructed of spiders' webs" (1.8).

As should be evident by now, that ideas and truths become a "pyramidal order with castes and grades, to create a new world of laws, privileges, suborders, delimitations" is also proto-Foucaultian, in its implications about the power of social discourses.

ANTHROPOMORPHIC LANGUAGE (vs. NATURE) II: "If I make up the definition of a mammal, and then, after inspecting a camel, declare 'look, a mammal,' I have indeed brought a truth to light in this way, but it is a truth of limited value. That is to say, it is a thoroughly anthropomorphic truth which contains not a single point which would be 'true in itself' or really and universally valid apart from man. At bottom, what the investigator of such truths is seeking is only the metamorphosis of the world into man. He strives to understand the world as something analogous to man, and at best he achieves by his struggles the feeling of assimilation" (1.8).

I need not remind you that all "anthropomorphic truths" are "interested" truths.

• "TRUTH" as FORGETTING (and "CREATING"): "Only by forgetting this primitive world of metaphor can one live with any repose, security, and consistency: only by forgetting that he himself is an artistically creating subject, does man live with any repose, security, and consistency" (1.9).

Note that the fact that humankind is an "artistically creating subject" will receive a different spin in the second part of this essay.

• (A Pretty Kantian) SKEPTICISM: "After all, what is a law of nature as such for us? We are not acquainted with it in itself, but only with its effects, which means in its relation to other laws of nature—which, in turn, are known to us only as sums of relations. Therefore all these relations always refer again to others and are thoroughly incomprehensible to us in their essence. All that we actually know about these laws of nature is what we ourselves bring to them—time and space, and therefore relationships of succession and number" (1.10).

Of course, we recognize this as pretty straightforward Kant in its reference to his a priori categories.


• "TRUTH" as "CREATING" (encore)—MYTH & ART: "The drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive, which one cannot for a single instant dispense with in thought, for one would thereby dispense with man himself. This drive is not truly vanquished and scarcely subdued by the fact that a regular and rigid new world is constructed as its prison from its own ephemeral products, the concepts. It seeks a new realm and another channel for its activity, and it finds this in myth and in art generally. This drive continually confuses the conceptual categories and cells by bringing forward new transferences, metaphors, and metonymies. It continually manifests an ardent desire to refashion the world which presents itself to waking man, so that it will be as colorful, irregular, lacking in results and coherence, charming, and eternally new as the world of dreams" (2.2).

In this section's opening, Nietzsche now emphasizes the positive aspect of our lying—er, "metaphor-making"—capacities: such a prevaricating species should probably be pretty good at "myth" and "art"? (Indeed, my long impression has been that this section was an appended afterthought?) Note, too, how much more of a "poet" or "aesthete" Nietzsche seems to be in his very (almost Romantic) word choices about human creativity, compared to Kant & Hegel's treatises on art.

• The ARTIST as (WILLING/CONSCIOUS/CREATIVE) "LIAR": "But man has an invincible inclination to allow himself to be deceived and is, as it were, enchanted with happiness when the rhapsodist tells him epic fables as if they were true, or when the actor in the theater acts more royally than any real king. So long as it is able to deceive without injuring, that master of deception, the intellect, is free; it is released from its former slavery and celebrates its Saturnalia. It is never more luxuriant, richer, prouder, more clever and more daring. With creative pleasure it throws metaphors into confusion and displaces the boundary stones of abstractions . . . . The intellect has now thrown the token of bondage from itself. . . . now it has become the master and it dares to wipe from its face the expression of indigence. . . . That immense framework and planking of concepts to which the needy man clings his whole life long in order to preserve himself is nothing but a scaffolding and toy for the most audacious feats of the liberated intellect. And when it smashes this framework to pieces, throws it into confusion, and puts it back together in an ironic fashion, pairing the most alien things and separating the closest, it is demonstrating that it has no need of these makeshifts of indigence and that it will now be guided by intuitions rather than by concepts. There is no regular path which leads from these intuitions into the land of ghostly schemata, the land of abstractions. There exists no word for these intuitions; when man sees them he grows dumb, or else he speaks only in forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts. He does this so that by shattering and mocking the old conceptual barriers he may at least correspond creatively to the impression of the powerful present intuition" (2.3).

Against the rigid regularity—the "scaffolding" and "framework" and "barriers"—of society's "pack o' lies" (and rationalist "abstactions"), the artist remains undaunted: against such forces of coercion (pardon the Foucaultian lingo), the artistic impulse "throws metaphors into confusion" and "speaks only in forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts." (To sum up Nietzsche's general "artistic" attitude: if all discourse is a "lie," anyway, isn't consciously playing with language the best thing to do!? But not just art; ethics, too, now becomes an act of creation, of one's very values. The iconoclast in the passage above can thus be read as both the creative artist and Nietzsche's "philosopher of the future.")

• The ARTIST (vs. the RATIONALIST)—HISTORICIZED: "There are ages in which the rational man and the intuitive man stand side by side, the one in fear of intuition, the other with scorn for abstraction. The latter is just as irrational as the former is inartistic. They both desire to rule over life: the former, by knowing how to meet his principal needs by means of foresight, prudence, and regularity; the latter, by disregarding these needs and, as an 'overjoyed hero,' counting as real only that life which has been disguised as illusion and beauty. Whenever, as was perhaps the case in ancient Greece, the intuitive man handles his weapons more authoritatively and victoriously than his opponent, then, under favorable circumstances, a culture can take shape and art's mastery over life can be established" (2.4).

The briefest glance at Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy reveals that ancient Greece is one of his favorite epochs, a culture in which the "intuitive man" was triumphant, resulting in "art's mastery over life."

• The ARTIST vs. the RATIONALIST—the CONTRAST continued: " the intuitive man, standing in the midst of a culture, already reaps from his intuition a harvest of continually inflowing illumination, cheer, and redemption . . . . To be sure, he suffers more intensely, when he suffers; he even suffers more frequently, since he does not understand how to learn from experience and keeps falling over and over again into the same ditch. . . . How differently the stoical man who learns from experience and governs himself by concepts is affected by the same misfortunes! . . . He wears no quivering and changeable human face, but, as it were, a mask with dignified, symmetrical features. He does not cry; he does not even alter his voice. When a real storm cloud thunders above him, he wraps himself in his cloak, and with slow steps he walks from beneath it" (2.4).

I've always found this finale very strange, tone-wise, although it seems a bit clearer in this translation. This "stoical man" (simply the "Stoic" in another translation) is obviously a reappearance of the "rational man" above, whose modus vivendi is contrasted with the pretty happy-go-lucky "intuitive man." But Nietzsche's tone here feels more like pity than scorn? . . . BTW, this "stoic" fellow is also very much related to the "ascetic" of The Genealogy of Morality. And another connection: the dichotomy here between the forces of "reason" and "intuition" is closely related to his more famous distinction between the "Apollonian" (the "light" of order & reason) and the "Dionysian" (the "dark" & wild & irrational) in The Birth of Tragedy. However, there the greatness of Greek art is argued to be more the product of the union of these two human types/faculties, which seems a more sophisticated treatment of the binary?


 From On the Genealogy of Morality [Morals] (390-435)

[Note: sorry, but this outline refers to a different edition & translation (that I used last time, in 2016); however, you should be able to easily find the referenced passages via essay & section #s.]

Preface: 1

• The UNCONSCIOUS: "We are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, even to ourselves, and there is a good reason for this. We have never looked for ourselves,—so how are we ever supposed to find ourselves?" (390; all italics N.'s unless otherwise indicated!).

Preface: 2

• N.'s topic: "the descent[!] of our moral prejudices" (390).

Preface: 3

• On Good & Evil: "my curiosity and suspicion were bound to fix on the question of what origin our terms good and evil actually have. [. . .] Fortunately I learnt, in time, to separate theological from moral prejudice and I no longer searched for the origin of evil beyond the world[!]." So the real question: "under what conditions did man invent the value judgments good and evil? and what value do they themselves have?" (391; MY ellipses in square brackets; the rest are N.'s).

Preface: 4

• There is actually a "dual pre-history of good and evil [. . .] (namely in the sphere of nobles and slaves)" (392).

Preface: 6

• So let us give voice to this new demand: we need a critique of moral values, the value of these values should itself, for once, be examined [. . . .] People have taken the value of these 'values' as given, as factual, as beyond all questioning; up till now, nobody has had the remotest doubt or hesitation in placing higher value on 'the good man' than on 'the evil', higher value in the sense of advancement, benefit and prosperity for man in general (and this includes man's future). What if the opposite were true? What if a regressive trait lurked in 'the good man', likewise a danger, an enticement, a poison, a narcotic, so that the present lived at the expense of the future?" (393).

Preface: 8

• [An Aside on Aphorisms:] "the aphoristic form causes difficulty: this is because this form is not taken seriously enough these days. An aphorism, properly stamped and moulded, has not been 'deciphered' just because it has been read out; on the contrary, this is just the beginning of its proper interpretation, and for this, an art of interpretation is needed" (394).

First Essay ("'Good and Evil,' 'Good and Bad'"): 2

The Key REVERSAL: "the real breeding-ground for the concept 'good' has been sought and located in the wrong place [. . .] the judgment 'good' does not emanate from those to whom goodness is shown! Instead it has been 'the good' themselves, meaning the noble, the mighty, the high-placed and the high-minded, who saw and judged themselves and their actions as good [. . .] in contrast to everything lowly, low-minded, common and plebeian. It was from this pathos of distance that they first claimed the right to create values and give these values names: usefulness was none of their concern! The standpoint of usefulness is as alien and inappropriate as it can be to such a heated eruption of the highest rank-ordering and rank-defining value judgments [. . . .] The pathos of nobility and distance [. . .] the continuing and predominant feeling of complete and fundamental superiority of a higher ruling kind in relation to a lower kind, to those 'below'—that is the origin of the antithesis 'good' and 'bad'. (The seigneurial privilege of giving names even allows us to conceive of the origin of language itself as a manifestation of the power of the rulers: they say 'this is so and so' [. . .] and thereby take possession of it, as it were.) It is because of this origin that the word 'good' is not absolutely necessarily attached to 'unegoistic' actions: as the superstition of these moral genealogists would have it. On the contrary, it is only with a decline of aristocratic value-judgments that this whole antithesis between 'egoistic' and 'unegoistic' forces itself more and more on man's conscience,—it is, to use my language, the herd instinct which, with that, finally gets its word in (and makes words)" (396).

First Essay: 6

• The PRIESTS (who supposedly ultimately so NAY to LIFE): "From the very beginning there has been something unhealthy about these priestly aristocracies and in the customs dominant there, which are turned away from action and which are partly brooding and partly emotionally explosive, resulting in the almost inevitable bowel complaints and neurasthenia which have plagued the clergy down the ages; but as for the remedy they themselves found for their sickness,—surely one must say that its after-effects have shown it to be a hundred times more dangerous than the disease it was meant to cure? People are still ill from the after-effects of these priestly quack-cures! [. . .] man first became an interesting animal on the foundation of this essentially dangerous form of human existence, the priest, and that the human soul became deep in the higher sense and turned evil for the first time—and of course, these are the two basic forms of man's superiority, hitherto, over other animals!" (397).

First Essay: 7

The WARRIOR (Nobility) vs. the PRIEST: leading up to the Big REVERSAL, N. imagines "the priestly caste and warrior caste confront one another in jealousy": "The chivalric-aristocratic value-judgments are based on a powerful physicality, a blossoming, rich, even effervescent good health which includes the things needed to maintain it, war, adventure, hunting, dancing, jousting and everything else that contains strong, free, happy action. The priestly-aristocratic method of valuation [. . .] has different criteria: woe betide it when it comes to war! As we know, priests make the most evil enemies—but why? Because they are the most powerless. Out of this powerlessness, their hate swells into something huge and uncanny to a most intellectual and poisonous level. The greatest haters in world history, and the most intelligent [. . .] have always been priests" . . . . N. traces the priestly "caste" back to Judaism, who first perform this revaluation of morals: "Nothing which has been done on earth against 'the noble', 'the mighty', 'the masters' and 'the rulers', is worth mentioning compared with what the Jews have done against them: the Jews, that priestly people, which in the last resort was able to gain satisfaction from its enemies and conquerors only through a radical revaluation of their values, that is, through an act of the most deliberate revenge [. . . .] It was the Jews who, rejecting the aristocratic value equation (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = blessed) ventured, with awe-inspiring consistency, to bring about a reversal and held it in the teeth of their unfathomable hatred (the hatred of the powerless), saying, 'Only those who suffer are good, only the poor, the powerless, the lowly are good; the suffering, the deprived, the sick, the ugly, are the only pious people, the only ones saved, salvation is for them alone, whereas you rich, the noble and powerful, you are eternally wicked, cruel, lustful, insatiate, godless, you will also be eternally wretched, cursed and damned!' . . . We know who became heir to this Jewish revaluation"—and so "the slaves' revolt in morality begins with the Jews: a revolt which has two thousand years of history behind it and which has only been lost sight of because—it was victorious" (398).

First Essay: 8

• But what about (Christian) LOVE?: "the reverse is true! This love grew out of the hatred [. . .] as the triumphant crown expanding ever wider in the purest brightness and radiance of the sun, the crown which, as it were, in the realm of light and height, was pursuing the aims of that hatred, victory, spoils, seduction with the same urgency with which the roots of that hatred were burrowing ever more thoroughly and greedily into everything that was deep and evil. This Jesus of Nazareth, as the embodiment of the gospel of love, this 'redeemer' bringing salvation and victory to the poor, the sick, to sinners—was he not seduction in its most sinister and irresistible form, seduction and the circuitous route to just those very Jewish values and innovative ideals? Did Israel not reach the pinnacle of her sublime vengefulness via this very 'redeemer' [. . .]? Is it not part of a secret black art of a truly great politics of revenge" (399)?

First Essay: 9

• "'But why do you talk about nobler ideals! Let's bow to the facts: the people have won—or "the slaves", the "plebeians", "the herd"'": "this intoxication has succeeded." But what about modern institutional religion, then?: "Certainly it is by now crude and boorish, something which is repugnant to a more tender intellect, to a truly modern taste. Should not the church at least try to be more refined? . . . Nowadays it alienates, more than it seduces . . . Who amongst us would be a free-thinker if it were not for the Church?" (399).

First Essay: 10

• "The beginning of the slaves' revolt in morality occurs when ressentiment itself turns creative and gives birth to values: the ressentiment of those beings who, being denied the proper response of action, compensate for it only with imaginary revenge. "This is "only a pale contrast created after the event compared to its positive basic concept, saturated with life and passion, 'We the noble, the good, the beautiful and the happy!'" (400) . . . "The 'well-born' felt they were 'the happy'; they did not need first of all to construct their happiness artificially by looking at their enemies, or in some cases by talking themselves into it, lying themselves into it [. . .] all very much the opposite of 'happiness' at the level of the powerless, the oppressed, and those rankled with poisonous and hostile feelings, for whom it manifests itself as essentially a narcotic [. . .] as something passive. While the noble man is confident and frank with himself [. . .] the man of ressentiment is neither upright nor na├»ve, nor honest and straight with himself. His soul squints; his mind loves dark corners, secret paths and back-doors, everything secretive appeals to him as being his world, his security, his comfort; he knows all about keeping quiet, not forgetting, waiting, temporarily humbling and abasing himself [. . . .]" In contrast, "noble men" are characterized by "the complete certainty of function of the governing unconscious instincts, nor indeed as important as a certain lack of cleverness, such as a daring charge at danger or at the enemy, or those frenzied sudden fits of anger, love, reverence, gratitude and revenge by which noble souls down the ages have recognized one another" (401).

• Notice how the "slave morality" actually creates the "good" out of his notion of "evil" (as "honesty" relied upon the "thief" for its very definition in "Truth & Lies"); this will become a crucial move for Derrida and deconstruction: the "slave" "has conceived of the 'evil enemy', 'the evil one'" as a basic idea to which he now thinks up a copy and counterpart, the 'good one' himself!" (402).

First Essay: 11

• Oh, oh: the (Aryan?!) BLOND BEAST: "At the centre of all these noble races we cannot fail to see the blond beast of prey, the magnificent blond beast avidly prowling round for spoil and victory this hidden centre needs release from time to time, the beast must out again, must return to the wild:—Roman, Arabian, Germanic, Japanese nobility, Homeric heroes, Scandinavian Vikings—in this requirement they are all alike. [But notice—against the misconception that Nietzsche called for some white/northern European race of "supermen"—that these "beasts" are not all "Aryan." Indeed, as if to stand Marxist dialectic on its head, it's pretty much a privileging of feudal societies!?] It was the noble race which left the concept of 'barbarian' in their traces wherever they went" (402; note also that N. himself was neither blond, nor particular "beastly" in his physique!).

• (More on the victory/ascendancy of) Slave Morality: "Assuming that what is at any rate believed as 'truth' were indeed true, that it is the meaning of all culture to breed a tame and civilized animal, a household pet, out of the beast of prey 'man', then one would undoubtedly have to view all instinctive reaction and instinctive ressentiment, by means of which the noble races and their ideals were finally wrecked and overpowered, as the actual instruments of culture" (403).

First Essay: 13

• N.'s NATURALIST Ethics: "There is nothing strange about the fact that lambs bear a grudge towards large birds of prey: but that is no reason to blame the large birds of prey for carrying off the little lambs. And if the lambs say to each other, 'These birds of prey are evil; and whoever is least like a bird of prey and most like its opposite, a lamb,—is good, isn't he?', then there is no reason to raise objections to this setting-up of an ideal beyond the fact that the birds of prey will view it somewhat derisively" (404)!

• The WILL (vs. the Subject, the "Thing-in-Itself"): "A quantum of force is just such a quantum of drive, will, action, in fact it is nothing but this driving, willing and acting, and only the seduction of language (and the fundamental errors of reason petrified within it), which construes and misconstrues all actions as conditional upon an agency, a 'subject', can make it appear otherwise." Even Kant & science have accepted this "seduction," this cultural lie of things-as-agents: "all our science, in spite of its coolness and freedom from emotion, still stands exposed to the seduction of language and has not ridded itself of the changelings foisted upon it, the 'subjects' (the atom is, for example, just such a changeling, likewise the Kantian 'thing-in-itself')" (404-405; an early version of the modern argument for PROCESS over THINGS, as in quantum physics, etc.?)!

• (More on the victory/ascendancy of) Slave Morality: This way of thinking does "not defend defend any belief more passionately than that the strong are free to be weak, and the birds of prey are free to be lambs:—in this way, they gain the right to make the birds of prey responsible for being birds of prey . . . When the oppressed, the downtrodden, the violated say to each other with the vindictive cunning of powerlessness: 'Let us be different from evil people, let us be good! And a good person is anyone who does not rape, does not harm anyone, who does not attack, does not retaliate, who leaves the taking of revenge to God, who keeps hidden as we do, avoids all evil and asks little from life in general, like us who are patient, humble and upright'—this means, if heard coolly and impartially, nothing more than 'We weak people are just weak; it is good to do nothing for which we are not strong enough'" (this passage reminds me of several similar utterances in William Blake). . . . "This type of man needs to believe in an unbiased 'subject' with freedom of choice, because he has an instinct of self-preservation and self-affirmation in which every lie is sanctified. The reason the subject (or, as we more colloquially say, the soul) has been, until now, the best doctrine on earth, is perhaps because it facilitated that sublime self-deception whereby the majority of the dying, the weak and the oppressed of every kind could construe weakness itself as freedom, and their particular mode of existence as an accomplishment" (405).

First Essay: 17

• More on the distinction between the "master"'s "good vs. bad" binary and the "slave"'s "good vs. EVIL" one: this book should clarify, N. says, why his "last book" is called "Beyond Good and Evil . . . at least this does not mean 'Beyond Good and Bad'" (407).

Second Essay ("'Guilt,' 'Bad Conscience,' and Related Matters"): 1

Repression: Note that N.'s main argument in this section (that guilt and "bad conscious" originate in humankind's coming to consciousness of "responsibility" regarding an actual debt, a "promise") begins by emphasize humankind as above all a repressing or "suppressing" or "forgetful animal" (408). So we have to keep being REMINDED of our "debt," as it were [see next] . . . .

Second Essay: 3

• Much of Religious RITUAL, etc., originated as a PAINFUL REMINDER (of our "debt")?!: "wherever on earth you still find ceremonial, solemnity, mystery, gloomy shades in the lives of men and peoples, something of the dread with which everyone, everywhere, used to make promises, give pledges and commendation, is still working: the past, the most prolonged, deepest, hardest past, breathes on us and rises up in us when we become 'solemn'. When man decided he had to make a memory for himself, it never happened without blood, torments and sacrifices: the most horrifying sacrifices and forfeits [. . .] the most disgusting mutilations [. . .] the cruellest rituals of all religious cults (and all religions are, at their most fundamental, systems of cruelty[!?])—all this has its origin in that particular instinct which discovered that pain was the most powerful aid to mnemonics. The whole of asceticism belongs here as well" (410). . . . "With the aid of this sort of memory, people finally came to 'reason'!—Ah, reason, solemnity, mastering of emotions, this really dismal thing called reflection, all these privileges and splendours man has: what a price had to be paid for them! how much blood and horror lies at the basis of all 'good things'!" (411).

Second Essay: 6

• Debt (& Punishment for Debt) => Guilt encore: "In this sphere of legal obligations then, we find the breeding-ground of the moral conceptual world of 'guilt', 'conscience', 'duty', 'sacred duty',—all began with a thorough and prolonged blood-letting [as 'contractual' punishment for an unpaid debt], like the beginning of all great things on earth. And may we not add that this world has really never quite lost a certain odour of blood and torture? (not even with old Kant: the categorical imperative smells of cruelty . . . )"! Such socially sanctioned punishments get more "refined" & "civilized" [one of the central historical interests of Foucault, BTW, in his quite Nietzschean studies of the prison system, etc.]: N. notes "the ever-growing intellectualization and 'deification' of cruelty, which runs through the whole history of higher culture (and indeed, constitutes it in an important sense[!])" (413). In sum, we are a cruel species?: "To see somebody suffer is nice, to make somebody suffer even nicer—that is a hard proposition, but an ancient, powerful, human-all-too-human proposition to which, by the way, even the apes might subscribe" (414).

Second Essay: 12

The WILL to POWER: The beginning of this important passage sounds a lot like New Historicism's relativist & "perspectivist" view of history and "truth" (and the centrality of POWER in determining the "truth"): "anything in existence, having somehow come about, is continually interpreted anew, requisitioned anew, transformed and redirected to a new purpose by a power superior to it; that everything that occurs in the organic world consists of overpowering, dominating, and in their turn, overpowering and dominating consist of re-interpretation, adjustment, in the process of which their former 'meaning' [. . .] and 'purpose' must necessarily be obscured or completely obliterated. No matter how perfectly you have understood the usefulness of any physiological organ (or legal institution, social custom, political usage, art form or religious rite) you have not yet thereby grasped how it emerged," although "people down the ages have believed that the obvious purpose of a thing, its utility, form and shape are its reason for existence [. . . .] So people think punishment has evolved for the purpose of punishing. But every purpose and use is just a sign that the will to power has achieved mastery over something less powerful, and has impressed upon it its own idea [. . .] of a use function; and the whole history of a 'thing', an organ, a tradition can to this extent be a continuous chain of signs, continually revealing new interpretations and adaptations, the causes of which need not be connected even amongst themselves, but rather sometimes just follow and replace one another at random. (416 ; this sounds very much like Foucault's postmodern view of history). . . . "I lay stress on this major point of historical method, especially as it runs counter to just that prevailing instinct and fashion which would much rather come to terms with absolute randomness, and even the mechanistic senselessness of all events, than the theory that a power-will is acted out in all that happens." This (pretty Darwinian) life-force, moreover, cannot be simply explained by "adaptation": such a facile view "overlook[s] the prime importance which the spontaneous, aggressive, expansive, re-interpreting, re-directing and formative forces have, which 'adaptation' follows only when they have had their effect" (417).

Second Essay: 13

• This section can be read as a "prelude" (again) to Foucault's later writing on the history of "the purpose of punishment" (418), the prison systems, etc.—which (again!) cannot be explained via a simple series of historical causes & effects.

Second Essay: 16

• BAD CONSCIENCE: "I look on bad conscience as a serious illness to which man was forced to succumb by the pressure of the most fundamental of all changes which he experienced,—that change whereby he finally found himself imprisoned within the confines of society and peace." N. then makes one of his many alter-species analogies in comparing this situation to sea animals forced to adapt to the land: "all instincts were devalued and 'suspended.' [. . .] the poor things were reduced to relying on thinking, inference, calculation, and the connecting of cause with effect, that is, to relying on their 'consciousness', that most impoverished and error-prone organ! I do not think there has ever been such a feeling of misery on earth, such a leaden discomfort,—and meanwhile, the old instincts had not suddenly ceased to make their demands!" [In psychoanalytic terms, one might read this as an allegory for the rise of ego consciousness.] Now these new land animals—er, humans!—"had to seek new and as it were underground gratifications. All instincts which are not discharged outwardly turn inwards—this is what I call the internalization of man: with it there now evolves in man what will later be called his 'soul'. The whole inner world [. . .] was expanded and extended itself and gained depth, breadth and height in proportion to the degree that the external discharge of man's instincts was obstructed [i.e., blocked, repressed]. Those terrible bulwarks with which state organizations protected themselves against the old instincts of freedom—punishments are a primary instance of this kind of bulkwark—had the result that all those instincts of the wild, free, roving man were turned [. . .] against man himself. Animosity, cruelty, the pleasure of pursuing, raiding, changing and destroying—all this was pitted against the person who had such instincts: that is the origin of 'bad conscience'. Lacking external enemies and obstacles, and forced into the oppressive narrowness and conformity of custom, man impatiently ripped himself apart, persecuted himself, gnawed at himself, gave himself no peace and abused himself, this animal who battered himself raw on the bars of his cage and who is supposed to be 'tamed'; man [. . .] has had to create from within himself an adventure, a torture-chamber, an unsafe and hazardous wilderness—this fool, this prisoner consumed with longing and despair, became the inventor of 'bad conscience'." This resulted, again, from "a forcible breach with his animal past [. . .] a declaration of war against all the old instincts on which, up till then, his strength, pleasure and formidableness had been based. [. . .] the prospect of an animal soul turning against itself, taking a part against itself, was something so new, profound, unheard-of, puzzling, contradictory and momentous [. . .] on earth that the whole character of the world changed in an essential way" (419).

Second Essay: 17

• BAD CONSCIENCE encore: "This instinct of freedom, forcibly made latent [. . .] this instinct of freedom forced back, repressed, incarcerated within itself and finally able to discharge and unleash itself only against itself: that, and that alone, is bad conscience in its beginnings" (420).

Second Essay: 21

• CHRISTIANITY's role in all this, then—as welcome appeaser of GUILT!?: for "all at once, we confront the paradoxical and horrifying expedient through which a martyred humanity has sought temporary relief, Christianity's stroke of genius: none other than God sacrificing himself for man's guilt, none other than God paying himself back, God as the only one able to redeem man from what, to man himself, has become irredeemable—the creditor sacrificing himself for his debtor, out of love (would you credit it?—), out of love for the debtor!" (421).

Second Essay: 22

• CHRISTIANITY continued: "Guilt towards God: this thought becomes an instrument of torture. In 'God' he seizes upon the ultimate antithesis he can find to his real and irredeemable animal instincts, he re-interprets these self-same animal instincts as guilt before God" (421). N. reads this as a pretty psychopathological event: "We have here a sort of madness of the will showing itself in mental cruelty which is absolutely unparalleled: man's will to find himself guilty and condemned without hope of reprieve, his will to think of himself as punished [. . .] this will to set up an ideal—that of a 'holy God'—, in order to be palpably convinced of his own absolute worthlessness in the face of this ideal. [. . .] This is all almost excessively interesting[!], but there is also a black, gloomy, unnerving sadness to it as well, so that one has to force oneself to forego peering for too long into these abysses. Here is sickness, without a doubt, the most terrible sickness ever to rage in man:—and whoever is still able to hear [. . .] how the shout of love has rung out during this night of torture and absurdity, the shout of most yearning rapture, of salvation through love, turns away, gripped by an unconquerable horror . . . There is so much in man that is horrifying! . . . The world has been a madhouse for too long!" (422).

Second Essay: 23

• In contrast, the GREEK GODS: "there are nobler ways of making use of the invention of gods than man's self-crucifixion and self-abuse, ways in which Europe excelled during the last millennia,—this can fortunately be deduced from any glance at the Greek gods, these reflections of noble and proud men [of course!] in whom the animal in man felt deified, did not tear itself apart and did not rage against itself! These Greeks [. . .] used their gods expressly to keep 'bad conscience' at bay so that they could carry on enjoying their freedom of soul" (422).

Second Essay: 24

• A Final Thought: "'Is an ideal set up or destroyed here?' you might ask me . . . But have you ever asked yourselves properly how costly the setting up of every ideal on earth has been? How much reality always had to be vilified and misunderstood in the process, how many lies had to be sanctified, how much conscience had to be troubled, how much 'god' had to be sacrificed every time? If a shrine is to be set up, a shrine has to be destroyed: that is the law" (423; or as Carl Jung said, "You can take away a man's gods, only to give him others in return"?!).

Third Essay ("What Do Ascetic Ideals Mean?"): 1

• This third essay rather combines the first and second. If the first involves the development of "slave morality" and the second, guilt & "bad conscience," this essay involves those men most implicated in (and suffering from) both: the "ascetics" who have turned "inward"—to an inner world of ressentiment (including self-resentment) and guilt and religious "truths"—and thus away from N.'s healthy life of "instinct" and creative-values "play." (Note that, towards the end of the essay, N. claims that even scientists and most self-proclaimed "atheists" are themselves still "ascetics" in their monomaniacal emphasis on the "truth" [section 24].)

Third Essay: 11

• The ASCETIC "treats life as a wrong path [. . .] which can only be set right by action—ought to be set right: he demands that we should accompany him, and when he can, he imposes his valuation of existence." [Then some more Nietzschean perspectivism:] "Read from a distant planet, the majuscule script of our earthly existence would perhaps seduce the reader to the conclusion that the earth was the ascetic planet par excellence, an outpost of discontented, arrogant and nasty creatures who harboured a deep disgust for themselves, for the world, for all life and hurt themselves as much as possible out of pleasure in hurting:—probably their only pleasure." And again, REPRESSION is a major player here: "For an ascetic life is a self-contradiction: here an unparalleled ressentiment rules, that of an unfulfilled instinct and power-will which wants to be master, not over something in life, but over life itself and its deepest, strongest, most profound conditions; here, an attempt is made to use power to block the sources of the power" (426).

Third Essay: 12

• ASCETICISM & Philosophy/Reason (this can't be good!): "Assuming that such an incorporate will to contradiction and counter-nature can be made to philosophize [. . . .] it will look for error precisely where the actual instinct of life most unconditionally judges there to be truth. For example, it will demote physicality to the status of illusion" . . . . Such a proclaimed victory "over the senses, over appearance," is really "an act of violation and cruelty inflicted on reason: a voluptuousness which reaches its peak when the ascetic self-contempt and self-ridicule of reason decrees: 'there is a realm of truth and being, but reason is firmly excluded from it!'" [Recall that this is KANT's position that N. is slamming!] And "even in the Kantian concept of 'the intelligible character of things', something of this lewd ascetic conflict [. . .] still lingers, which likes to set reason against reason: 'intelligible character' means, in Kant, a sort of quality of things about which all that the intellect can comprehend is that it is, for the intellect—completely incomprehensible" (427)!

• One of N.'s finer statements re Perspectivism (vs. "Objectivity"): First, N. gives credit to Kant & co. for "such resolute reversals of familiar perspectives and valuations [. . .] to see differently [. . .] is no small discipline and preparation of the intellect for its future 'objectivity'—the latter understood not as 'contemplation [. . .] without interest' (which is, as such, a non-concept and an absurdity[!]), but as having in our power our 'pros' and 'cons': so as to be able to engage and disengage them so that we can use the difference in perspectives and affective interpretations for knowledge. From now on [. . .] let us be more wary of the dangerous old conceptual fairy-tale which has set up a 'pure, will-less, painless, timeless, subject of knowledge', let us be wary of the tentacles of such contradictory concepts as 'pure reason', 'absolute spirituality', 'knowledge as such':—here we are asked to think an eye which cannot be thought at all, an eye turned in no direction at all, an eye where the active and interpretative powers are to be suppressed, absent, but through which seeing still becomes a seeing-something, so it is an absurdity and non-concept of eye that is demanded. There is only a perspective seeing, only a perspective 'knowing'; the more affects we allow to speak about a thing, the more eyes, various eyes we are able to use for the same thing, the more complete will be our 'concept' of the thing, our 'objectivity'" (427).

Third Essay: 13

• Another Nietzschean REVERSAL: "this ascetic priest, this apparent enemy of life, this negative man,—he actually belongs to the really great forces in life which conserve and create the positive . . . What causes this sickliness? For man is more ill, uncertain, changeable and unstable than any other animal, without a doubt,—he is the sick animal" . . . . In sum, N. will go on to say that the "ascetic"—in the guise of the priest, etc.—provides a "healing" of sorts for the masses' "bad consciousness," etc.—much like Christianity came along and offered a 'sacrificial lamb" to partially assuage the same. The ascetic is also yet another manifestation of humankind's "will" (however pathological)—and for that should also get some respect. Thus the finale of this section: "His 'no' which he says to life brings a wealth of more tender 'yeses' to light as though by magic; and even when he wounds himself, this master of [. . .] self-destruction,—afterwards it is the wound itself which forces him to live.

Third Essay: 16

• But, oh, the CHURCH: And so "You can now guess what [. . .] the healing instinct of life has at least tried to do through the ascetic priest and what purpose was served by a temporary tyranny of such paradoxical [. . .] concepts as 'guilt', 'sin', 'sinfulness', 'corruption', 'damnation': to make the sick harmless to a certain degree" and "to exploit the bad instincts of all sufferers for the purpose of self-discipline, self-surveillance and self-overcoming." Of course, "'medication' of this sort, mere affect-medication, cannot possibly yield a real cure" via a situation in which "the sick [are] packed together and organized (—the word 'church' is the most popular name for it[!]) [. . .] and for a long time that was all! And it was a great deal! It was a very great deal! . . . In this essay I proceed [. . .] on the assumption, which I do not first have to justify with regard to readers of the kind I need[!]: that 'sinfulness' in man is not a fact, but rather the interpretation of a fact"—and even the "fact" is "from a perspective of morals and religion which is no longer binding on us. . . ." (Wow) . . . Ha!: what a great phrase, to call what he deems a nonsensible concept "just a fat word in place of a spindly question mark" (429). . . . (Finally, it's a section like this, with all its privileging of the "healthy" over the "sick"—recall that the "blond beast" was a picture of physical health—that reminds me to note that N. himself was pretty sickly most of his adult life. His continual praise of physical health might well be considered [to use Jung's term] an act of compensation.)

Third Essay: 24

• And the "FREE THINKERS"?: "These 'no'-sayers and outsiders of today [. . .] who make up the glory of our time, all these pale atheists, Antichrists, immoralists, nihilists, these sceptics, ephectics, hectics[!] of the mind [. . .] these last idealists of knowledge in whom, alone, intellectual conscience dwells and is embodied these days,—they believe they are all as liberated as possible from the ascetic ideal, these 'free, very free spirits': and yet [. . .] this ideal is quite simply their ideal as well [. . .] they themselves are its most intellectualized product, its most advanced front-line troops and scouts, its most insidious, delicate and elusive form of seduction [. . . .] These are very far from being free spirits: because they still believe in truth. . . ." Compare these folks to the "that invincible order of [Muslim] Assassins, the order of free spirits par excellence," who knew that "'nothing is true, everything is permitted' . . . Certainly that was freedom of the mind [. . . .] nothing is stranger to these people who are absolute in one thing, these so-called 'free spirits' [. . .] precisely in their faith in truth they are more rigid and more absolute than anyone else" (430). For these "free thinkers," there is still "that unconditional will to truth," which is still "faith in the ascetic ideal itself, even if, as an unconscious imperative [. . .] it is the faith in a metaphysical value" (431).

Third Essay: 25

• What about ART, then? (recall the 2nd section of "Truth & Lies"): if "Both [. . .] science and the ascetic ideal [. . .] overestimate truth," at last there is still "Art [. . .] in which lying sanctifies itself and the will to deception has good conscience on its side," and so it "is much more fundamentally opposed to the ascetic ideal than science is: this was sensed instinctively by Plato, the greatest enemy of art Europe has yet produced" (431-432; because he realized its threat to "truth," and so banned poetry, at least, from his Republic)! . . . In contrast, eras dominated by—scholars!?: "Look at the epochs in the life of a people during which scholars predominated: they are times of exhaustion, often of twilight, of decline,—gone are the overflowing energy, the certainty of life, the certainty as to the future" (432).

• Also, old "TRUTHS"—like the ascetic ideal & "transcendence"—hold on hard: "Do you really think that, for example, the defeat of theological astronomy meant a defeat of that ideal? . . . Has man perhaps become less in need of a transcendental solution to the riddle of his existence because this existence has since come to look still more arbitrary, idle, and dispensable in the visible order of things?" (432). . . . Even the Kantian revolution hasn't "trickled down"!: "Do people in all seriousness still really believe, (as theologians imagined for a while), that, say, Kant's victory over theological conceptual dogmatism ('God', 'soul', 'freedom', 'immortality') damaged that ideal?" (433).

Third Essay: 28

• (And yet we conclude with) the WILL to POWER: "Man, the bravest animal and most prone to suffer, does not deny suffering as such: he wills it, he even seeks it out, provided he is shown a meaning for it, a purpose of suffering. The meaningless of suffering, not the suffering, was the curse which has so far blanketed mankind,—and the ascetic ideal offered man a meaning! Up to now it was the only meaning, but any meaning at all is better than no meaning at all [. . . .] Within it, suffering was given an interpretation; the enormous emptiness seemed filled; the door was shut on all suicidal nihilism. The interpretation—without a doubt—brought new suffering with it, deeper, more internal, more poisonous suffering, suffering that gnawed away more intensely at life: it brought all suffering within the perspective of guilt . . . But in spite of all that—man was saved, he had a meaning [. . . ] the will itself was saved. [. . .] this hatred of the human, and even more of the animalistic, even more of the material, this horror of the senses, of reason itself, this fear of happiness and beauty, this longing to get away from appearance, transience, growth, death, wishing, longing itself—all that means [. . .] a will to nothingness, an aversion to life, a rebellion against the most fundamental prerequisites of life, but it is and remains a will!" (435).


 APPENDIX: On the Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (42-87)

[Note: sorry, but this outline refers to a different edition & translation (that I used last time, in 2016); however, you should be able to easily find the referenced passages via section #.]

• Nietzsche's central argument here is that Attic Greek drama the greatest art, like, ever, because it was a supreme synthesis of Dionysian and the Apollonian art. The Apollonian is characterized by the "civilized" ideals of reason and order and individuality, and is best embodied in the "plastic arts" (sculpture and architecture, and to a lesser extent, epic poetry). The Dionysian is the "savage" and the instinctual, the transcendence of individuality by an orgiastic union in the "One," best embodied in music (and to a lesser extent, lyric ["dithyrambic"] poetry). Below, I claim that the Apollonian and Dionysian conflict can be loosely read, in Freudian terms, as the tension/conflict between the "rationalism" of ego consciousness (& superego) vs. the arational impulses of the unconscious id; another "loose" analogy is the opposition between the artistic styles of (neo-)Classicism vs. Romanticism. However, N.'s detailed twists in this seminal work of art theory & art history make both of these equations only partial fits.

• The editors of our anthology offer a slightly different Freudian reading: "Today, The Birth of Tragedy is appreciated as one of the most important attempts within European modernism to acknowledge the so-called destructive forces and energies of life and subject them to philosophical work. In this respect it anticipates Freud's focus on the play between Eros and Thanatos explored in such works as [. . .] Civilization and its Discontents (1930)" (Pearson and Large 36).


• Intro summary: "the continuing development of art is tied to the duality of the Apollonian and the Dionysian [. . . .] To both of their artistic deities, Apollo and Dionysus, is linked our knowledge that in the Greek world there existed a tremendous opposition, in terms of origin and goals, between the Apollonian art of the sculptor and the imageless Dionysian art of music: these two very different drives run in parallel with one another, for the most part diverging openly with one another and continually stimulating each other to ever new and more powerful births, in order to perpetuate in themselves the struggle of that opposition only apparently[!] bridged by the shared name of 'art'; until finally, through a metaphysical miracle of the Hellenic 'will', they appear coupled with one another and through this coupling at last give birth to a work of art which is as Dionysian as it is Apollonian—Attic tragedy" (42).

• The DIONYSIAN: "Schopenhauer has depicted the tremendous horror which grips man when he suddenly loses his way among the cognitive forms of the phenomenal world,11 as the principle of reason in any of its forms appears to break down. When we add to this horror the blissful rapture which rises up from the innermost depths of man [. . .] as a result of the very same collapse of the principium individuationis, we steal a glimpse into the essence of the Dionysian, with which we will become best acquainted through the analogy of intoxication" (44-45). . . . "Under the spell of the Dionysian it is not only the bond between man and man which is re-established: nature in its estranged, hostile, or subjugated forms also celebrates its reconciliation with its prodigal son, man." It is "as if the veil of Maya had been rent and only its shreds still fluttered in front of the mysterious original Unity" (45).

• In several of N.'s descriptions of the "Dionysian," I am reminded of section VII of Wallace Steven's "Sunday Morning" (Stevens was a "fan" of N., BTW):

Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.


• As for the ARTIST: "In relation to these direct artistic states of nature, every artist is an 'imitator', that is, either Apollonian dream-artist or Dionysian artist of intoxication, or finally—as for example in Greek tragedy—simultaneously artist of dream and intoxication" (46).

• The Greek (attempt at) synthesis—at first, in religion: "This reconciliation is the most important moment in the history of Greek religion [. . . .] It was the reconciliation of two adversaries," but "at bottom the chasm which separated them remained unbridged. If, however, we see how the Dionysian power revealed itself under the pressure of that peace settlement, then we recognize in the Dionysian orgies of the Greeks [. . .] the meaning of festivities of world redemption and days of transfiguration. Here nature first attains its artistic exultation, here the tearing asunder of the principium individuationis [that is, human individualism] first becomes an artistic phenomenon" (47).

• The CONTRAST, continued: "If music was apparently already known as an Apollonian art, this was strictly speaking only as the wave-like beat of rhythm, whose plastic force was developed for the representation of Apollonian states. The music of Apollo was Doric architecture rendered in sound, but in the merely suggestive notes characteristic of the cithara. Carefully kept at a distance is precisely that element which defines the character of Dionysian music and so of music itself, the shattering force of sound, the unified flow of melody and the utterly incomparable world of harmony. In the Dionysian dithyramb, all the symbolic faculties of man are stimulated to the highest pitch of intensity; something never before experienced struggles towards expression, the annihilation of the veil of Maya, unity as the spirit of the species, even of nature" (48).


• Characteristically, N. views Greek culture (positively) as pre- or beyond our modern obsession with "GOOD & EVIL": "Whoever approaches these Olympians with another religion at heart, in search of moral elevation, even saintliness, disembodied spirituality, glances of compassion and love, will soon be obliged to turn his back on them. There is nothing here to remind us of asceticism, spirituality, and duty: everything here speaks to us of a sumptuous, even triumphant, existence, an existence in which everything is deified, regardless of whether it is good or evil" (49).

• Nor is N.'s binary a simple privileging of the Dionysian over the Apollonian; the latter ultimately maintains cultural survival. And their very mythology was a further "screen" from "savage" Dionysian realities: "The Greek knew and felt the terrors and horrors of existence: in order to be able to live at all, he had to use the brilliant Olympians, born of dream, as a screen" (49). . . . "In order to be able to live, the Greeks were obliged to create these gods, out of the deepest necessity: a process which we should probably imagine in the following way—through the Apollonian drive towards beauty, the Olympians' divine reign of joy developed in a slow series of transitions from the original Titans' divine reign of terror" (50).


• Again, the "APOLLONIAN" is more the voice of "civilized" rationalism & order (& individualism): "This apotheosis of individuation, if we think of it as at all imperative and prescriptive, knows only one law, the individual, that is, respect for the limits of the individual, moderation in the Hellenic sense. Apollo, as an ethical deity, demands of his disciples moderation and in order to maintain it, self-knowledge" (52).

But the APOLLONIAN something like Freud's ego (& superego) evolved from an original unconscious substratum—that is, the DIONYSIAN might be equated to Freud's unconscious id—whose desires cannot be long repressed: "The effect aroused by the Dionysian also seemed 'Titanic' and 'barbaric' to the Apollonian Greek: while he was at the same time unable to conceal from himself the fact that he was inwardly related to those fallen Titans [. . . .] Indeed, he was obliged to sense something even greater than this: his whole existence, with all its beauty and moderation, rested on a hidden substratum of suffering and knowledge, which was once again revealed to him by the Dionysian. And look! Apollo was unable to live without Dionysus! [. . .] And so, wherever the Dionysian broke through, the Apollonian was cancelled, absorbed, and annihilated." And thus "the Dionysian and the Apollonian have dominated the essence of the Hellenic in an ongoing sequence of new births in a relationship of reciprocal stimulation and intensification" (53).

• And so the duo's ultimate "divine marriage" in Attic drama [that is, primarily in the plays of Aeschylus & Sophocles]: "here the sublime and highly praised work of art of Attic tragedy and the dramatic dithyramb offers itself to our eyes as the common goal of both drives, whose secret marriage, following a long struggle, has glorified itself in such a child—at once Antigone and Cassandra" (54).


• In something of an aside, N. sounds something like Kant—and/or T. S. Eliot—in the following: "we know the subjective artist only as a bad artist and demand above all in art the defeat of the subjective, redemption from the 'I' and the silencing of each individual will and craving, indeed we cannot conceive of the slightest possibility of truly artistic creation without objectivity, without pure disinterested[?!] contemplation" (55). (Hmmm; note that this is Nietzsche's first publication, as a younger—more idealistic!—fellow. His reason for this appeal to disinterest" is clearer elsewhere in this work: the true artist is ultimately a "mere" mouthpiece for the "spirit" of Apollo and/or Dionysus. [Yes, you might discern some "remains" of Hegel here!])


• As for Greek drama itself: "Let us think how disconcerted we felt by the chorus and the tragic hero of that tragedy, both of which were as difficult to reconcile with our habits as with the tradition—until we rediscovered that duality itself as the origin and essence of Greek tragedy, as the expression of two interwoven artistic drives, the Apollonian and the Dionysian" (62). [However, given the fact that very few of us have much knowledge of the actual music of these Greek choruses, it's difficult to evaluate N.'s argument here.]


• Almost more interesting (to me) is N.'s various descriptions of "decline" of Attic drama in Euripides—thru too much Apollonian "reason"?! The main "culprit" here is Socrates (& thus Greek rationalist philosophy in general). For starters, if Socrates had an inner unconscious voice, a "daemon," it was a weirdly moralistic inner voice: "In certain circumstances, when his great powers of reason began to waver, a divine voice made itself heard and gave him a sure indication. This voice, when it comes, always dissuades. [. . .] While in all productive people it is precisely instinct which is the creative-affirmative force and it is consciousness which criticizes and dissuades, in Socrates, however, instinct becomes the critic and consciousness the creator—a true monstrosity per defectum! Actually, we have before us here a monstrous defectus of that mystic disposition, so that Socrates might be characterized as the very type of the non-mystic, in whom the logical nature has through uncontrolled growth developed itself to excess in the same way as instinctive wisdom has in the mystic" (66). (In terms of N.'s later philosophy, Socrates is something of the original ascetic and NAY-sayer. Note also that, in his early writers, N. is pretty pro-Romantic and "mystic" and aesthete—well, he never stopped being an aesthete!)


• Also interesting, in N.'s continuing castigation of Greek philosophy, is his treatment of Plato, which is more sympathetic in finding Plato's dialogues to be something of an amalgam of philosophy & poetry (67-68). N. even sees in Plato the beginnings of the novel (68)!

• With Euripides and the New Comedy, Dionysius is pretty much cast out of the aesthetic pantheon: "This displacement of the chorus" already begun by Sophocles "is the first step towards the annihilation of the chorus, whose phases follow one another with frightening rapidity in Euripides, Agathon, and the New Comedy. The optimistic dialectic drives music out of tragedy with the whip of its syllogisms: that is, it destroys the essence of tragedy, which can only be interpreted as a manifestation and transformation into images of Dionysian states, as visible symbolization of music, as the dream-world of a Dionysian intoxication" (69). [This might be the place to remind you that one of the spurs & inspirations for this entire book was N.'s love for the music of his German contemporary Richard Wagner, whose operas were, of course, dramas WITH MUSIC!]


• Socrates—again—as (cursed!) emblem of rationalism, even "science": "and so the image of the dying Socrates, the man elevated above the fear of death through knowledge and reasoning, is the heraldic shield[!] hung above the entrance gate to science in order to remind everyone of its purpose, namely to make existence appear intelligible and so justified: and, if reasons prove insufficient, even myth must finally serve this end, myth which I have just characterized even as the necessary consequence, indeed as the intended goal of science" (71). [That even "modern" science is very much implicated in "myth" becomes a later theme in N.] . . . Moreover, "the whole incalculable sum of energy which has been consumed by this world tendency"—i.e., scientific rationalism—has been "employed not in the service of knowledge but instead to the practical, that is, egoistic ends of individuals and peoples": again, even the scientific "will to knowledge" is always—interested. But science and religion have produced great social benefits, in saving us from a suicidal pessimism—"a pessimism which moreover exists and has existed everywhere in the world, where art in some form or other, particularly as religion and science, has not appeared as a remedy and defence against that miasma" (72). (Science/rationalist philosophy and religion as manifestations of—ART!? How different this is from Hegel's hierarchy, of art=>religion=>philosophy! Recall, too, that art is superior to N. because "it knows it's a lie"!) . . . Indeed & finally: "If we look with eyes strengthened and refreshed by the sight of the Greeks at the highest spheres of that world which surges around us, then we perceive how the craving of an insatiable optimistic knowledge, which appears in an exemplary form in Socrates, is transformed into tragic resignation and need for art" (73).


• Some SUMMARY; 1st, more on the loss/decline of the Dionysian: "we have sought to clarify how tragedy dies with the disappearance of the spirit of music as surely as it can only be born from that same spirit"; then a nice DEFINITION: "my gaze remains fixed on those two artistic deities of the Greeks, Apollo and Dionysus, and recognizes in them the living and clearly visible representatives of two worlds of art which differ in their deepest essence and their highest goals. Apollo stands before me as the transfiguring genius of the principium individuationis, through which alone true redemption in appearance can be attained, while under the mystical cry of exultation of Dionysus the spell of individuation is burst apart and the path to the Mothers of Being[!], to the innermost core of things, lies open" (73-74).

• In this section, N. then appeals to (his favorite German Idealist philosopher & major influence at the time,) Schopenhauer, in arguing for the primacy of music: "The revelation of this tremendous opposition which stretches like a yawning abyss between the Apollonian plastic arts and the Dionysian art of music has been granted to only one of the great thinkers to the extent that [. . .] he recognized that music possessed a character and origin different from all other arts, because music, unlike all the other arts, is not a copy of the phenomenon but an unmediated copy of the will itself, and so represents the metaphysical in relation to the whole physical world and the thing in itself in relation to the phenomenal world" (74; this is no doubt more "metaphysical" than the later N. would allow!). . . . "So, following Schopenhauer's doctrine, we understand music as the unmediated language of will" (76).

• Another paean to the Dionysian: "In Dionysian art and in its tragic symbolism [. . .] nature speaks to us in its true undistorted voice: 'Be as I am! Beneath the incessantly changing phenomena, I am the eternally creative original mother, eternally compelling people to exist, eternally finding satisfaction in this changing world of phenomena!'" (76).


• Returning to Socrates as emblem of an anti-art impulse in human culture: "The whole of our modern world is caught in the net of Alexandrian [i.e., late Greek] culture and takes as its ideal the theoretical man who is equipped with the highest powers of knowledge, works in the service of science, and whose archetype and progenitor is Socrates" (77). German Idealism, at least, was something of an improvement, in their greater skepticism towards absolute truths: "The great audacity and wisdom of Kant and Schopenhauer succeeded in winning the most difficult victory, the victory over the optimism which lies hidden in the essence of logic, the optimism which is also the substratum of our culture. While this optimism, founded firmly on" eternal truths, "had believed that all the enigmas of the world could be known and fathomed, and had treated space, time, and causality as utterly absolute laws of the most universal validity, Kant revealed how all these only really served to elevate the mere phenomenon, the work of Maya, to the status of the single and highest reality and to put it in the place of the innermost and true essence of things, thereby making real knowledge of the latter impossible" (78).


• The positive contributions of German Idealism again: "Let us recall then how Kant and Schopenhauer made it possible for the spirit of German philosophy [. . .] to annihilate the complacent delight in existence taken by the scientific Socratic system, through the demonstration of the latter's limits" (79).


• MUSIC encore: "Indeed, at bottom, the relation between music and drama is precisely the opposite: music is the real idea of the world, drama is only the reflection of this idea, its isolated shadow image" (83).


• Even Musical DISSONANCE fits the DIONYSIAN schema!: Why does music include "even ugliness and disharmony" in its "artistic game"? Well, "this original and not easily understood phenomenon of Dionysian art may be grasped in intelligible and unmediated form in the miraculous meaning of musical dissonance: music alone, when placed alongside the world, can give an idea of what is to be understood by the justification of the world as an aesthetic phenomenon. The pleasure produced by the tragic myth shares the same home as the pleasurable sensation of dissonance in music. The Dionysian, with its original joy perceived even in pain, is the shared maternal womb of music and of tragic myth" (86).


• The FINALE I (one more summary!): "Music and tragic myth are equal expressions of the Dionysian capacity of a people and are inseparable from one another. Both stem originally from an artistic domain which lies beyond the Apollonian; both transfigure a region in whose chords of joy both dissonance and the terrible world-image fade away seductively [. . . .] Here the Dionysian shows itself, in comparison with the Apollonian, as the eternal and original power of art, which calls the whole world of phenomena into existence [. . . .] If we could imagine dissonance in human form—and what is man but that?—then this dissonance, in order to be able to live, would need a magnificent illusion to cast a veil of beauty over its own essence. This is the true artistic intention of Apollo: whose name summarizes all those countless illusions of beautiful appearance, which in each moment make existence worth living and compel us to live on to experience the next moment" (86).

• The FINALE II: " But that this effect [of the two artistic powers] is necessary should be sensed intuitively and most surely by everyone, who has once, even in dream, felt himself transported back into an ancient Hellenic existence[!]: strolling beneath lofty Ionian colonnades [. . .] surrounded by men who move with solemn stride or delicate gait, speaking a language of harmonious sounds and rhythmic gestures—would he not, in the face of this continual stream of beauty, have to raise big hand to Apollo and call out: 'Blessed people of the Hellenes! How great Dionysus must be among you, if the god of Delos [i.e., Apollo] considers such magic necessary to cure you of your dithyrambic madness!'—But a venerable old Athenian [. . .] might reply to someone so moved: 'Yet say this too, you miraculous stranger: how much must this people have suffered in order to become so beautiful!'" (87).


 APPENDIX: "Epigrams and Interludes" (my selections) (from Beyond Good and Evil) (PDF)

• See Blackboard: Course Documents (PDFs)

• Okay, okay, here are my absolute favorites from my selections!::::

Section 68: "I have done that," says my memory. "I cannot have done that," says my pride, and remains inexorable. Eventually—memory yields.
73a: Many a peacock hides his peacock tail from all eyes—and calls that his pride.
75: The degree and kind of a man's sexuality reach up into the ultimate pinnacle of his spirit.
76: Under peaceful conditions a warlike man sets upon [attacks] himself.
78: Whoever despises himself still respects himself as one who despises.
94: A man's maturity—consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child, at play.
97: What? A great man? I always see only the actor of his own ideal.
98: If we train our conscience, it kisses us while it hurts us.
106: In music the [very] passions enjoy themselves.
108: There are no moral phenomena at all, but only a moral interpretation of phenomena—
116: The great epochs of our life come when we gain the courage to rechristen our evil as what is best in us.
117: The will to overcome an affect is ultimately only the will of another, or of several other, affects.
125: When we have to change our mind about a person, we hold the inconvenience he causes us very much against him.
128: The more abstract the truth is that you would teach, the more you have to seduce the senses to it.
132: One is best punished for one's virtues.
138: When we are awake we also do what we do in our dreams: we invent and make up the person with whom we associate—and immediately forget it.
141: The abdomen [belly] is the reason why man does not easily take himself for a god.
143: Our vanity desires that what we do best should be considered what is hardest for us. Concerning the origin of many a morality.
149: What a time experiences as evil is usually an untimely echo of what was formerly experienced as good—the atavism of a more ancient ideal.
153: Whatever is done from love always occurs beyond good and evil.
156: Madness is rare in individuals—but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule.
157: The thought of suicide is a powerful comfort: it helps one through many a dreadful night.
158: To our strongest drive, the tyrant in us, not only our reason bows but also our conscience.
159: One has to repay good and ill—but why precisely to the person who has done us good or ill?
166: Even when the mouth lies, the way it looks still tells the truth.
168: Christianity gave Eros poison to drink: he did not die of it but degenerated—into a vice.
169: Talking much about oneself can also be a means to conceal oneself.
185: "I don't like him."—Why?—"I am not equal to him."—Has any human being ever answered that way?


Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. 1886. Translated by Walter Kaufmann, Vintage Books, 1966.

---. The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music. 1872. Nietzsche, The Nietzsche Reader, pp. 42-87.

---. The Nietzsche Reader. Edited by Keith Ansell-Pearson and Duncan Large, Blackwell Publishing, 2006.

---. On the Genealogy of Morality. 1887. Nietzsche, The Nietzsche Reader, pp. 390-435.

---. "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense." 1873. Nietzsche, The Nietzsche Reader, pp. 114-123.

Pearson, Keith Ansell, and Duncan Large. "[Part II: Early Writings:] Introduction." Nietzsche, The Nietzsche Reader, pp. 33-41.

 —TCG, Sept. 2016; Sept. 2018

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