Nietzsche, Seminar Paper

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900

Nietzsche was a German Philosopher, port and composer and classical philologist. He was against Christianity and anti Semitism. He was influenced by the German composer Wagner. Wagner believed art, and music especially, can perform the same function as religion as it expresses the nature of a human.

Nietzsche’s first book ‘The Birth of Tragedy,’ (1872) impacted and influenced the history of Western thought and the interpretations of Greek culture.  It took an unconventional view on Greek culture, until then Greek culture was romanticised as light and beauty. Nietzsche developed Wagner’s idea that art can function as religion.  In the ‘Birth of Tragedy’ Nietzsche explains the Attic tragedy through two powers of art. He uses the terms Apollonian and Dionysian which are taken from the two contrasting Greek gods.

Apollo the god of all plastic arts and light agrees with Schopenhauer’s ‘principium individuations.’ In the Apollonian view of the world there is an idealised plastic art in the form of sculpture, this is an analytic distinction. All types of form or structure are Apollonian. Sculpture is the most Apollonian of the arts, since it relies entirely on form. Rational thought is also Apollonian given that it makes distinctions between the good and the bad. Apollo is the god of both dreams and reason, the dreams are "the beautiful appearance of the inner fantasy world" but we must not lose the fact that the dreams are ‘illusory quality,’ according to Nietzsche dreams are a way of separating ourselves from the chaos of life.

In comparison to this the Dionysian god represents human nature as sensual and emotional. The Dionysian god Is a break down of the Apollonian self and Intoxication and insanity represent it. Nietzsche says this mixing of illusion and reality would break down a man’s individual character. The tragedy of ancient Greece, according to Nietzsche, was the mix of the Apollonian and Dionysian forms. Ultimately a person should find a balance between Apollonian and Dionysian forces and Nietzsche believed this balance could be restored.

Along with Apollo and Dionysus Nietzsche looked at the third major God, Socrates.
The rationality Socrates showed was against what Nietzsche believed to be true, he believed that to understand a human’s existence is not down to reason alone. For Nietzsche, it was ‘Will’ that was vital, something Socrates did not believe in.

Nietzsche also wrote a chapter dedicated to Wagner. He believed the only way to rescue modern culture from self-destruction is to restore the spirit of tragedy. Nietzsche saw music as the most Dionysian forms of art and was fascinated with Wagner’s music that expressed urges of the human ‘will.’  Schopenhauer anticipated music and saw it as a language that understands experiences before perception unlike Kant who was influenced by Socratic reasoning.  Nietzsche wanted to restore European civilisation so that rationalism was no longer.  However after the ‘Birth of Tragedy’ was written, Nietzsche began to criticize Wagner as he had become an anti- Semitist and a pro-German nationalist, something Nietzsche was against.

Nietzsche’s most famous quote ‘God is dead’ was written in his book ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra.’ (1885) Before this the world had always been under the influence of the church. He did not been this literally but what Nietzsche was trying to say, was that the Christian God was no longer a possible source of any absolute moral principles. He believed that people were no longer able to recognise such cosmic order and eventually God will die as people are losing the absolute values of themselves. This loss of morality leads to nihilism, and Nietzsche saw Christianity as nihilistic.

Nietzsche believed that knowledge and rationality alone could not justify the world. He believed we must look into artist forms to understand our existence as these were the closest forms to human nature. This was similar to Schopenhauer’s immaterialism where he taught that the apparent world does not exist independently on perception. In our world people had always followed rational thought, even if you did not have a faith you would still have morals for example knowing what is good and what is bad. This is something Kant referred to as moral law. Nietzsche agreed with Kant about moral laws however he saw morals as ‘slave morality,’ the idea that people are controlled by fear if they do something wrong.

Nietzsche suggested that people can be separated into two types. People that know humanity will end are known as the ‘Ubermensche,’ the free people. ‘I teach you the Ubermensche.’ He believed man is something that shall be overcome. The other type of person living in fear is the ‘Slave.’ Like Kant, Nietzsche believed in noumenal worlds that went beyond the realm of human understanding and this is idea that linked Nietzsche to the concept of the Ubermensche.
Nietzsche’s ‘Will to power’ is similar to the concept of the ‘will’ from Schopenhauer. Nietzsche believed that every human is a function of power, and we must embrace it. Whereas Schopenhauer, who reacted to Nietzsche’s understanding of the will, said that everything exists has a ‘will’ but it is the ‘will’ that is evil, it represents people’s desires and needs, which represents endless suffering. Schopenhauer believed in the truths of Buddhist teaching, all life is suffering, suffering is caused by desire.  What differentiates Schopenhauer’s Will from Nietzsche's Will is that he wants to deny in and Nietzsche wants to embrace it.

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