*—on the Dionysian sublime & (/as) the ‘purgation’ of lived experience…

*(… —follows on from *the artist’s metaphysics & —on “incorporation”, & the Apollinian sublime. …).

*—on ‘purgation’, & the Dionysian sublime. …


For the rapture of the Dionysian state with its annihilation of the ordinary bounds and limits of existence contains, while it lasts, a lethargic element, in which all personal experiences of the past become immersed. (BT, §7, 59)

 

*. —The key, then, to truly understanding the Dionysian—as a mode of the sublime—here, lies in the two crucial elements of the ‘rapture’, and the ‘lethargic’ (—‘lethargy’. …). …

 

*These elements, much like the Apollinian and Dionysian themselves, I suppose, are interdependent.

*That is,… —the purging of ‘personal experiences’ is reliant upon, and grounded in, the ‘annihilation of the ordinary bounds and limits of experience’ that the ‘rapture’ in-of the Dionysian represents.

And—in turn—the ‘rapture’ in-of the Dionysian has this *lethargic purgation as its goal,… —as its boon. …

 

*Nietzsche’s conception of ‘lethargy’ here, then, derives from a notion of forgetting, which is associated with, or to, the river Lethe,… *—the ‘waters of oblivion’. …

 

*—In his discussion of the legacy of Heidegger’s critique of Nietzsche, and of Nietzsche’s own relation of his philosophy to that of Plato in Crossings: Nietzsche and the Space of Tragedy, John Sallis argues for the identification of Dionysus with Hades (—the Greek underworld), and attributes the ‘lethargic element’ here to Plato’s reproduction of the ‘story of Er’s descent into Hades’, which locates the river Lethe itself in Hades.[1]

 

*—By contrast (—contra Sallis, then, in effect…),—I’d argue that Nietzsche’s allusion here is to Dantean cosmology, which locates the river Lethe on Mount Purgatory *(—Purgatory (Il Purgatorio), the second ‘Cantica’ of The [Divine] Comedy), rather than to the Platonic. … —

 Into the stream she’d drawn me in my faint,

Throat-high, and now, towing me after her,

Light as a shuttle o’er the water went.

Asperges me” *[—‘thou shalt purge me’] I heard, as I drew near

The blissful brink, so sweetly as to drown

Power to recall, far more to write it here.

She stretched both hands, she seized me by the crown,

Did that fair lady, and she plunged me in,

So that I needs must drink the water down;

Then drew me forth and led me, washed and clean [—…][2]

 

*—This latter, Dantean, source is a far better fit, it seems to me, with the (obvious) positive pathos of Nietzsche’s use of the term ‘lethargic’, and of forgetting, in the context of the Dionysian.

*(and I want to return to the relationship between the Lethe, as purgative, and the Eunoe as restorative, of memory (respectively) in my discussion of the relationship between the Apollinian and the Dionysian, (—in due course *(—a place for everything…)…).

 

*—The ‘blissful’ drowning of the ‘[p]ower to recall’ that leaves Dante *(—the pilgrim) ‘washed and clean’, is preceded, and rendered necessary, by what Dorothy L. Sayers, in her notes, refers to as a ‘violent psychological disturbance’, and which Dante the poet describes as a blending of ‘[t]error and shame’ at the memories of his infidelities to Beatrice. (319) …

 

*And it’s this guilt which is purged in his immersion in the waters of the Lethe. (l.13, 315)

 

*—Purgation, then,—‘lethargy’—is precipitated by, and is inextricably bound to, a destructive moment of psychic suffering. …

 

*Following his citation of Schopenhauer’s metaphor of the sailor in the frail bark to define the Apollinian, Nietzsche appropriates and qualifies the conjunction of suffering and bliss in Schopenhauer’s conception of the sublime in The World as Will and Representation, in order to define the Dionysian…

*—‘Schopenhauer has defined for us the tremendous terror which seizes man when he is suddenly dumbfounded by the cognitive form of phenomena because the principle of sufficient reason, in some one of its manifestations, seems to suffer an exception.’ (BT, §1, 36.)

 

—In order to understand what’s at stake in Nietzsche’s account of the Dionysian sublime, I think it’s necessary here to… pause,—in order to offer a definition of Schopenhauer’s conception of the principle of sufficient reason and its undoing in the experience of the sublime in his aesthetics…

 

*Schopenhauer defines the principle of sufficient reason in its broadest and simplest terms through the formula: ‘Nothing is without a reason why it is.’[3]

 

As I argued in the first chapter-string-thread of fragments here *(—on ‘Intuition, Flux and Anti-metaphysics’…), Schopenhauer follows Kant’s argument in the ‘Transcendental Aesthetic’ that space and time are pure forms of intuition, constituting the condition of the possibility of experience.—They constitute the forms of perceived objects: —our representations. …

 

*—In On the Fourfold Root, Schopenhauer argues that all our representations can be seen to ‘stand to one another in a natural and regular connexion that in form is determinable A PRIORI. By virtue of this connexion nothing existing by itself and independent, and also nothing single and detached, can become an object for us.’ (§16, 42) …

 

—For Schopenhauer, just as space and time are the a priori condition of the possibility of experience, understood as the necessary division of the world into the discrete quanta of individuated objects, so there must exist a principle which explains the connection that necessarily exists between these objects.

 

—No object of experience can stand alone but must have a necessary connection to all other objects of experience and ‘[i]t is this connexion which is expressed by the principle of sufficient reason in its universality.’ (Ibid.)

 

The ‘root’ of the principle is fourfold: …

—‘The principle divides explanations of occurrence in the world as representation into four types of lawlike generalizations, including all logical, mathematical, causal and moral motivational phenomena.’[4]

 

—Logical laws ‘satisfy the sufficient reason of knowing.’ (Schopenhauer, FFR, §49, 226.—See Jacquette, 44)…

That is,—they explain the truth of any proposition through empirical truth: that is—of direct experience, the transcendental truth of the necessary presupposition of the a priori (—time and space), the logical truth: that the proposition must follow from the truth of another proposition or from the material truth of true empirical statement, and the metalogical truth of the law of logic: —the laws of identity, contradiction, the law of the excluded middle and correspondence theory. *(—See Magee, 31).

 

‘Physical’ (or causal) laws state that the coming into being and passing away of objects of experience and their interrelations is determined by sequences of causally interconnected events, which, in their entirety, constitute the history of the natural world. (§49, 227.—See Magee, 30)

—Dale Jacquette argues that, for Schopenhauer, these laws can therefore be said to ‘satisfy the sufficient reason of becoming’: they explain the causal reasons for the object’s coming into being and passing away. (Jacquette, 44)

 

Mathematical laws cover the framework of the sufficient reason of being of space and time (the pure forms of intuition) and form the basis of geometry and arithmetic.[5]

 

Moral laws satisfy the sufficient reason of acting and concern ‘the empirical or will to life and its motivations’. (Jacquette, 44)—They represent causes ‘experienced from within’. (Magee, 30) …

 

*For Nietzsche, following Schopenhauer, when a phenomenon appears to occupy a space too vast to comprehend, such as a vast stretch of desert or ocean; or evokes a feeling of eternity, such as is the case with ancient ruins,—the phenomenon then appears to exceed the bounds of space, time, and causality, and the principle of sufficient reason thus suffers an exception. …

 

*—This exception takes place, then,—in the exaltation of the sublime. …

 

*Schopenhauer’s conception of the sublime develops from an engagement with the tradition, emerging in, and from the eighteenth century, of aesthetic theories of the contrast between the sublime and the beautiful, and, in particular, that of Kant, in the Critique of the Power of Judgment.

 

—Schopenhauer’s aesthetic is grounded in his appropriation of philosophical concepts from the philosophies of both Kant and Plato. …

 

*—The third book of The World as Will and Representation is dedicated to his analysis of the Platonic Idea as the object of art. …

 

—In particular, he appropriates, and attempts to… marry, the Kantian ‘thing-in-itself’ and the Platonic ‘Idea’. …

—‘we find […] those two great and obscure paradoxes of the two greatest philosophers of the West—to be, not exactly identical, but yet very closely related, and distinguished by only a single modification.’ (WWR, I, §31, 170) …

 

*As I argued in the first string-thread, as far as Schopenhauer is concerned, the ‘will’ (the—Will) is the thing-in-itself. …

 

—Following Kant, he argues that time, space and causality *(—the principle of sufficient reason), are the forms of our knowledge, which is knowledge only of the phenomenal realm, constituted by ‘plurality and all arising and passing away,’ to which the thing-in-itself (—the Will) is not subject. (171) …

 

Schopenhauer uses his refutation of Kant’s claim to the objectivity of the thing-in-itself to draw a distinction (—his ‘modification’…) between the thing-in-itself and the Idea. …

 

—He argues that, for Plato, the phenomenal realm represents the realm of becoming.

 

*… —The objects of the phenomenal realm are only the imperfect shadow copies of ‘the real archetypes’ of the Ideas, which ‘always are but never become and never pass away’ and are thus not subject to time, space and causality. (Ibid.)

 

Schopenhauer argues that, for Plato, The Idea is nevertheless ‘necessarily object’,—‘something known, a representation’, and not the thing-in-itself. (Ibid.) …

 

*—The Platonic Idea, then,—as Schopenhauer appropriates and deploys the term-concept—represents the level, or grade, of the will’s most immediate objectivity.

 

—It’s not subject to the principle of sufficient reason, and is, therefore, independent of the ‘subordinate forms of the phenomenon’. (175) …

 

However,—‘it has retained the first and most universal form, namely that of representation in general’,—‘that of being object for a subject.’ (Ibid.) …

 

*—The phenomenon, for Schopenhauer, can only ever constitute the indirect objectification of the will. …

 

*… —(in-)between the phenomenon and the will, then, stands the Idea,… —‘as the only direct objectivity of the will.’ (Ibid.) …

 

*The Idea—under the aegis of Schopenhauer’s self-styled Kantian-Platonic conjunction—represents ‘the most adequate objectivity possible of the will or of the thing-in-itself; indeed it is even the whole thing-in-itself, only under the form of the representation’, of which the spatiotemporal representations (according to the principle of sufficient reason) are only so many plural copies,—‘multiplying the Idea in particular and fleeting individuals’. (175)[6]

 

*Schopenhauer argues that it’s possible to be raised from knowledge of particular things to knowledge of the Ideas through a change in the subject’s apprehension of the object: —from its imperfect extension in(to) space and time, to its timeless Idea. …

 

In order to attain to knowledge of the Ideas, the elevation of the object,—from (mere) representation to the Idea, must be accompanied (—must be matched) by a corresponding elevation of the subject,—above (mere)—individuality. (§33, 176) …

 

—And this,—elevation, consists, for Schopenhauer, in the tearing free of knowledge from service to the striving, suffering and interestedness of the will…

—‘we no longer consider the where, the when, the why and whither in things, but simply and solely the what.’ (§34, 178)

 

*And this elevation occurs (according to Schopenhauer) in—*aesthetic contemplation. …

 

*—In aesthetic contemplation, then,… —just as the object is no longer the particular, individuated spatio-temporal object, but (instead)—the ‘eternal form’ of the Idea,—the subject is no longer an individual, and ‘[w]e lose ourselves entirely in this object’. …

 

*—The subject becomes *the ‘pure will-less, painless, timeless subject of knowledge.’ (-179) …

 

For Schopenhauer, the type of knowledge (so to) which continues to exist outside and independent of phenomenal objectivity and individual subjectivity is *‘art

*(—‘the work of genius’. …) (—§36, 184) …

 

—Art ‘repeats’ the Idea, apprehended through pure contemplation.[7]

 

—And this ‘repetition’, for Schopenhauer, is accomplished through—*the beautiful and the sublime. …

 

*Schopenhauer argues that ‘pleasure’ in the beautiful arises from the coincidence of the Idea and its ‘correlative’, the pure will-less subject of knowing. (§38, 195-196.—Cf. §39, 200-201)

 

—The beautiful, for Schopenhauer (at least), constitutes, then, a ‘delight’ in the ‘pure perception’ of objects…

 

For Schopenhauer, the sublime differs from the beautiful not in kind, but by degree

 

—Through it too we are raised elevated to the level of the pure, will-less subject of knowing. (§38, 199)

 

However,… —our subjective relations (that is,—the objective manifestation of the human subject: —the body) to the ‘significant forms’ of sublime objects are radically different…

 

Sublime objects—in contrast to the beautiful, in which we are disinterested—stand in a stark opposition to the subject, and, indeed, ‘may threaten it by their might that eliminates all resistance, or their immeasurable greatness may reduce it to nought’. (201)

 

—For Schopenhauer this ‘might’,… ‘greatness’,… this… —excess,… engenders the temporary cessation of subjectivity—of the subject—who, although perceiving the obvious threat to his own bodily form (and the gender bias is Schopenhauer’s own here) posed by the objects of the sublime, is nonetheless able to ‘tear himself from his will and its relations’. …

 

—The subject is (seemingly paradoxically) elevated above subjectivity, and is ‘filled with the feeling of the sublime’,…

 

*… —‘he is in the state of exaltation’ (Ibid.—emphases added…)

 

* … For Schopenhauer, the beautiful is universal: —experienced by every subject (as an elevation beyond subjectivity) in the same way.

 

—A beautiful object is universally beautiful.—It elevates us to the state of aesthetic contemplation and the ‘will-free subject of knowing’.

 

Sublime ‘exaltation’—by contrast—is attained via the struggle of an act of will against willing…

[W]ith the sublime, that state of pure knowing is obtained first of all by a conscious and violent tearing away from the relations of the same object [as that of the beautiful] to the will which are recognised as unfavourable, by a free exaltation accompanied by consciousness, beyond the will and the knowledge related to it.[8]

—The ‘willing’ here is no longer simply that of the subject, but of ‘humanity’ (in general)…

 

It’s this which affects the ‘conscious and violent’ tearing of the will from its moorings in its mediated relations to the object, and elevates it to a direct knowledge of the Idea. …

 

—The sublime, for Schopenhauer, then, represents, in effect, an *emancipation from subjectivity and from willing.

 

*Schopenhauer identifies four degrees of the sublime, which he binds to the transition from the beautiful to the sublime, according to its relative force. (—Cf. 203-205) …

 

—The first represents the ‘faintest trace of the sublime in the beautiful’. (203) …

 

—It constitutes the ‘profound peace’ induced by the absence of stimuli which are ‘favourable or unfavourable’ to the will.

 

—Schopenhauer equates it with the geographical phenomenon of a ‘lonely region of boundless horizons, under a perfectly cloudless sky’. (Ibid.) …

 

—The subject’s response to the profound solitude and silence of such scenes drives them to a ‘contemplation’ which elevates them above the concerns of the will.

 

When any trace of organic life or conditions for the subject’s maintained sustenance are removed from this hypothetical vista, the feeling of the sublime is correspondingly heightened to, what Schopenhauer calls, a ‘tragic’ degree.

 

—The emancipation from the will is imbued with ‘a fearful character.’ (204.—emphasis added) …

 

As the excess of force, the scale of the objects, and the associated threat to the will increase, so too the feeling of the sublime itself is heightened. …

 

—The ‘struggle with hostile nature’ becomes visible to the subject,—through the image of their own broken will, in the contemplation of ‘turbulent and tempestuous motion; semi-darkness through threatening black thunder-clouds; immense bare, overhanging cliffs shutting out the view by their interlacing; rushing, foaming masses of water; complete desert [and] the wail of wind sweeping through the ravines’.  (Ibid.) …

 

As long as this ‘personal affliction’ doesn’t overwhelm them, they remain the pure subject of will-less knowledge.

 

The sublime consists here, then, in the stark contrast of the violent motion of the object to the passivity of the subject.

 

—And this contrast brings the sublime to its highest pitch. …

 

All the more radical then is the passivity of the ‘unmoved beholder’ of such spectacles, which in turn serves to… illuminate  *thetwofold nature of consciousness’. …

[H]e feels himself as individual, as the feeble phenomenon of will, which the slightest touch of these forces can annihilate, helpless against powerful nature, dependent, abandoned to chance, a vanishing nothing in the face of stupendous forces; and he also feels himself as the eternal, serene subject of knowing [….] This is the full impression of the sublime. (204-205)

 

Schopenhauer dubs the ‘ability’ of forces and objects to negate subjectivity and emancipate the subject from willing,—‘the dynamically sublime’, adopting the term from Kant. (205)[9]

 

By contrast,—he posits the ability to imagine magnitudes in space and time whose vastness also reduces the subject to nothing, which, again adopting Kantian terminology, he dubs the ‘mathematically sublime’.[10]

 

*In Birth, Nietzsche effectively adopts all of the key terms of Schopenhauer’s account of the sublime… —the inciting of terror and the cessation of subjectivity in the exception to the principle of sufficient reason,—as his starting point in his own account of the Dionysian. …

 

However, he offers a substantial qualification. … —

if we add to this terror the blissful ecstasy that wells from the innermost depths of man, indeed of nature, at this collapse of the principium individuationis, we steal a glimpse into the nature of the Dionysian, which is brought home to us most intimately by the analogy of intoxication. (§1, 36)

 

—Space, time and causality, as the forms of cognition forming the condition of the possibility of experience, give rise to, and are the ground of, the principle of individuation. …

 

—When these forms suffer exception, the *(—Apollinian) principium individuationis collapses. …

 

*… —The individual is lost to the pre-individuated ‘primal unity’. …

 

—And this collapse (of individuation) is a source of terror. …

 

However,… conjoined to this terror is a feeling of, what Nietzsche terms,—‘blissful ecstasy’. …

 

—This arises from the release of the drives and emotions repressed within-by the Apollinian drive to individuation. …

 

*That is,—there’s an element of ineluctable and irreducible violence and ‘terror’ within the Dionysian sublime, which stands as the very condition of the possibility of the feeling of ‘blissful ecstasy’…

 

—This apparent contradiction can be most clearly comprehended, Nietzsche argues, through the analogous physiological phenomenon of ‘intoxication’. …

 

—The over-stimulation of the senses, the loss of self-consciousness, and the frenzy associated with the phenomenon of intoxication, Nietzsche argues, find their analogous artistic counterpart in the Dionysian sublime. …

 

—The Dionysian sublime offers (—represents a mode of) access to the pre-individuated,—pre-Apollinian ‘primal unity’ through the laceration of the individual.

 

The ‘primal unity’ here is understood as the chaotic flux of natural drives preceding, and as the ground of, all individuation, comparable to Bergson’s later definition of the undivided continuity of ‘states’ in the flux of duration.

 

*—Understood in this way, the Dionysian sublime anticipates Nietzsche’s definition of ‘intuition’ in ‘On Truth’ (—echoed in Bergson’s philosophy). …

 

… —In the same way that, for both Nietzsche and Bergson, intuition serves to rend the stale, stultified surface (skin-film) of the concepts of the intellect, in order then to descend into the underlying flux and to return with new metaphors, so the Dionysian sublime, in Birth, represents the laceration of the forms of Apollinian individuation and a descent into the apparently paradoxical ‘bliss’ of the undivided continuity of the flux of natural drives of the ‘primal unity’.

(—and I’d argue that it’s this laceration of the concepts of the intellect and descent into the flux of experience in order to create new ‘unheard-of’ hybrid metaphors in ‘On Truth’ that is ultimately at stake in Kemp Winfree’s argument, (with which I wholeheartedly agree, by-the-by),—that ‘On Truth’ ‘repeats the question of the Dionysian’…).[11]

 

*Whilst Nietzsche here ostensibly appropriates the key terms of Schopenhauer’s definition of the sublime, this appropriation, then, is, nonetheless, ironic. …

 

*As I argued in the first chapter-string-thread *(—see:the will to power),—the ‘primal unity’ remains closer to Nietzsche’s own later formulation of ‘the will to power’,—understood as naming the differential element within the hierarchy of sub-wills from which the individuated ‘thing’ is sculpted, than it does to the metaphysical unity  at stake in the Schopenhauerian ‘will’. …

 

*—Both the Dionysian sublime and the ‘primal unity’, then, I want to argue here, represent *—the beginning of Nietzsche’s attempt to redeem Schopenhauer’s aesthetics from his metaphysics. …

 

As Claudia Crawford has demonstrated, the ‘primal unity’ in Nietzsche’s early writing remains firmly on the side of representation, and can’t be identified with the thing-in-itself. (—Crawford, Beginnings, 161-162[n])

 

Nor can it be identified with the timeless, ‘real archetype’ of the Platonic Idea, specifically in its appropriation by Schopenhauer as the most immediate objective manifestation of the ‘will’. …

 

*—Nietzsche’s concept is fundamentally anti-metaphysical. …

 

—Whereas, for Schopenhauer, the sublime engenders a sudden leap of the subject beyond individual subjectivity, and its transformation into the pure will-less subject of knowing, with a corresponding consciousness of its object shorn of its individual, phenomenal predicates, revealing the Idea,… *for Nietzsche, the Dionysian sublime reveals the undivided continuity of the flux of natural drives repressed and veiled beneath the artistic veneer of (Apollinian) individuation.  …

 

*… —‘Essence’ (so to) remains here, but in the form clarified by Deleuze’s analysis of the will to power, as that ‘one among all the senses of a thing, which gives it the force with which it has most affinity.’ *(—Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 4) …

 

*—The ‘primal unity’ and the Dionysian sublime, then, represent Nietzsche’s first provisional formulation of an ironic Platonic—anti-Platonist aesthetic.[12]

 

*—. The Dionysian represents the harnessing of natural drive to the purgation of lived experience into the pre-existing artistic forms of music and dance. …

 

—Just as the Apollinian, the Dionysian represents the transformation of nature through culture.

 

The conjunction of ‘terror’ and ‘blissful ecstasy’, constitute the Dionysian as a mode of the sublime: —the revelling in the excess over which the Apollinian sublime had been seen to triumph (—in the guise of the ‘Homeric hero’), and which now again collapses the Apollinian and the principle of individuation. …

 

The Apollinian was engendered by a necessity—the ‘longing’ on the part of the ‘primal unity’ for redemption through illusion. …

 

Its dissolution is experienced with ‘joy’ by the same ‘innermost depths of man, indeed of nature’ which, indeed, engendered it. (—Cf. 36)…

 

For Nietzsche, in order to be able to elicit this ‘joy’, the release from the delimitation and restraints of the Apollinian must, therefore, represent an equal and opposite natural, psycho-physiological necessity.

*—The ‘Dionysian emotions awake, and as they grow in intensity everything subjective vanishes into self-forgetfulness.’ (Ibid.) …

 

—The ‘growth’ of the Dionysian emotions is comparable to the process of the evolution of Apollinian ‘order’ from the ‘titanic’. *(—see *on ‘incorporation’, & the Apollinian sublime’. …)

—These emotions are awakened by the need of the ‘primal unity’.

The Apollinian can only veil or repress them,… —it can never, fully, extinguish them…

 

*—Their repression causes frustration and a tension, which grow in intensity until the Apollinian is no longer able to restrain them, and they ‘burst forth’ and are purged in the ‘self-forgetfulness’ of the Dionysian state. (§2, 39) …

 

Nietzsche argues that in the Dionysian ‘the union between man and man’, which was severed in the Apollinian process of individuation, is ‘reaffirmed’.

 

Nature,— rendered ‘alienated’ and ‘hostile’ through the interposition of the restraint and delimitation of the Apollinian,—‘celebrates once more her reconciliation with her lost son, man.’ (Ibid.) …

—The ‘rigid, hostile barriers that necessity, caprice, or “impudent convention” have fixed between man and man are broken’ and give way to ‘universal harmony,’ a state in which all individuals feel ‘as one’.[13]

 

Nietzsche argues that this unity within a ‘higher community’ (that is,—one no longer simply composed of individuals) was expressed by the Hellene through song and dance.

 

And he contrasts these with-to the plastic art forms of the Apollinian.

 

—Whereas the Apollinian Hellene only saw the gods,—‘walking in his dreams’, the Dionysian Hellene, by contrast,—‘feels himself a god’. …

* … —‘He is no longer an artist’. …

*—‘he has [himself—] become a work of art’. (§1, 37. *—all emphases added here…) …

 

The Dionysian Hellene experienced existence and the ‘primal unity’ directly and intuitively,—without the need for the mediation of abstract concepts.

 

Nietzsche refers to the physicality of the Dionysian—spontaneous movement, sound, dancing,…—as the ‘paroxysms of intoxication’: —the unconscious and uninhibited physiological response to the ecstatic, in and through which ‘the artistic power of all nature reveals itself to the highest gratification of the primordial unity.’

 

This ‘gratification’ is higher than that afforded by Apollinian art because of its immediacy, power and direct expression through the spontaneous and unrestrained discharge of physical-emotional energies. (—Cf. 37)

 

Nietzsche contrasts the ‘Dionysian Greek’, with their necessary shattering of the fetters of individuation, to the ‘pre-Apollinian’ ‘Dionysian barbarian’. …

 

*—The barbaric Dionysian festivals, he argues, were marked by ‘extravagant sexual licentiousness’, and through-during them,—‘the most savage natural instincts were unleashed’. (§2, 39) …

 

In stark contrast to the Hellenic Dionysian, Nietzsche refers to the effect of these festivals as a ‘horrible mixture of sensuality and cruelty,’ as that ‘which has always seemed to me to be the real “witches’ brew.”’ (Ibid.)

 

—It was in response to the ‘terror and horror’ of this barbaric Dionysian state that the Apollinian was originally inaugurated as the remedy. …

 

Nietzsche alludes to the myth of Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa as the symbolic analogue of this triumph: …

*—‘the figure of Apollo, rising full of pride, held out the Gorgon’s head to this grotesquely uncouth Dionysian power’. (Ibid.) …

 

*—The Apollinian doesn’t destroy the Dionysian… —It merely petrifies it,… —freezing it and holding it in place… —like a statue. …

 

*However,… when Apollo’s interdependence with the ‘titanic’ forces, and with it the necessity of the Dionysian, was realised,—the ‘opposition between Apollo and Dionysus became more hazardous and even impossible’. …

 

*When the Dionysian ‘impulses finally burst forth from the deepest roots of the Hellenic nature’ Apollinian culture could no longer simply draw a veil over these drives and forces, with their equal and undeniable claim to necessary expression.

 

In response, Hellenic culture effected a compromise and a ‘reconciliation’, in which the ‘barbaric’ forces were divested of their ‘destructive weapons’. (§2, 39)…

 

Nietzsche argues that this ‘reconciliation’ of the Apollinian and the Dionysian represents *‘the most important moment in the history of the Greek cult’. …

 

*—a moment, in fact, of cultural revolution. …

—‘The two antagonists were reconciled; the boundary lines to be observed henceforth by each were sharply defined’. (Ibid.) …

 

This reconciliation and (apparent) mutual respect, however, were incapable of putting an end to the antagonism, but served to inaugurate a new era in culture, and a re-birth, in a new and more powerful form, of the Dionysian art impulse.

 

—In the bursting forth of the Dionysian the ‘destruction of the principium individuationis for the first time becomes an artistic phenomenon.’ (Ibid.)

*(—an ‘artisticphenomenon’. …).

 

For Nietzsche,—the Hellenic Dionysian represents the sublimation of the drive to the purgation of natural drives and forces (repressed within the Apollinian) into the pre-existing artistic forms of music and dance.

 

—If the Apollinian sublime appeared as the redemption of existence from the ‘titanic’, then the Dionysian, by contrast, appears as the equal and opposite redemption of those forces. …

 

—The Apollinian redeems existence from the ‘titanic’, but is nonetheless compelled (despite itself, and against its own interests, perhaps) to admit its interdependence with it. …

 

And it’s this admission which precipitates the Hellenic re-birth of the Dionysian.

 

Nietzsche identifies a contradiction at the heart of this purgative and redemptive re-birth of the Dionysian in ‘the curious blending and duality in the emotions of the Dionysian revellers.’

 

—For Nietzsche, this duality takes the form of ‘the phenomenon that pain begets joy.’ (Ibid.)

 

… —I’ve already traced this ‘phenomenon’ through reference to the parallel between Dante’s poetic conception of purgation in the waters of the Lethe, and the paradoxical sense in which ‘ecstasy’ has a moment or state of ‘agony’ (self-mortification) as the condition of its possibility and at the root of its necessity.

 

Nietzsche’s description of this paradoxical ‘phenomenon’ emphasises its strong sexual element as the harnessing and discharge of physiological energies. …

 

—As with Dante’s sublimation of erotic love for Beatrice into a spiritual and artistic quest, Nietzsche argues that sexual physical energies are sublimated into an incarnate and immanent ‘spirituality’ (sic) in art. …

 

*Nietzsche focuses on ‘Dionysian music’ as sublime: —exciting ‘awe and terror’. (Ibid.)

 

—The elements which form the essence of this sublimity are—‘the emotional power of the tone, the uniform flow of the melody, and the utterly incomparable world of harmony.’ (Ibid.)

 

This essence (—the ‘spirit’, then) of music, Nietzsche sees as embodied—typified (that is,—made type)—in the Dionysian dithyramb. …

*—In Dionysian music, ‘man is incited to the greatest exaltation of all his symbolic faculties’. …

*—‘something never before experienced struggles for utterance’. …

 

The Dionysian Hellene was impelled to engage all of the ‘symbolic faculties’ of movement, sound, and rhythm (—etc.),… in order to express the ecstatic rapture in which the ‘essence of nature’—the drives and extreme emotions veiled and transfigured by the Apollinian—find ‘symbolic’ (sic) expression,—are embodied and discharged directly without interposition:

—‘we need a new world of symbols; and the entire symbolism of the body is called into play’. Nietzsche calls this the ‘spirit’ of music: the ‘collective release of all the symbolic powers’. (—Cf. 40-41)

 

—In music, the experience of the Dionysian is expressed and discharged immediately through the simultaneous and mutually augmenting ‘faculties’ and ‘powers’ of bodily movement and gesticulation, rhythm, and sound.

 

For Nietzsche, the release of the ‘symbolic powers’ results from the laceration and ‘ecstasy’ of the Dionysian state:

*—‘man must have already attained that height of self-abnegation which seeks to express itself symbolically through all these powers’ in order to create music. (41)

 

He continues his thinly veiled evocation of the sexual element in the constitution and purgative affect of the Dionysian…

—Into the Apollinian ‘world, built on mere appearance and moderation and artificially dammed up, there penetrated, in tones ever more bewitching and alluring, the ecstatic sound of the Dionysian festival’. (§4, 46)

 

—The Apollinian Hellene was forced to acknowledge their (thinly veiled-repressed) desire *(—need) to unleash these ‘titanic’ drives through the enjoyment of an unrestrained ecstatic celebration. …

 

*—‘The muses of the arts of “illusion” paled before an art that, in its intoxication, spoke the truth’,—the truth, indeed, which the Apollinian had itself been engendered precisely in order to veil: …

*… —‘excess in pleasure, grief, and knowledge’. (Ibid.)

 

—The individual surrendered to ‘the self-oblivion of the Dionysian states, forgetting the precepts of Apollo.

*—‘Excess revealed itself as truth.

Contradiction—‘the bliss born of pain’,—‘spoke out of the very heart of nature.’ (—46-47)…

The need to veil the truth,—the longing for redemption through illusion, was shattered and was overcome. …

No longer did the Hellene need to hide from the truth beneath a veil.

Now,—their ‘bliss’ in the excess of pleasure, grief and knowledge was born from the ‘pain’ of ‘laceration’ and revelation.

 

This irresistible ‘penetration’ of the Dionysian precipitated the final and most powerful reincarnation of the Apollinian in its militaristic apotheosis in Sparta: —‘the Doric state’. (47)

 

—Against the ‘new power’ of the Dionysian, the Apollinian in turn, in the fourth great period of Hellenic art (late VI and V, B.C.), then, was incited to rise to the ‘austere majesty’ of ‘the Doric state’—Sparta—‘Doric art and the Doric view of the world’.

And Nietzsche dubs this culminating period in the history of Hellenic culture the ‘permanent military encampment of the Apollinian.’ (BT, §4, 47.—See Silk & Stern, Nietzsche on Tragedy,—66.)

 

*Having thus completed his reading of what he effectively therefore defines as a four-fold shape of ancient Greek cultural and artistic history,… —Nietzsche proceeds to use his intuition of the central role played by the Dionysian and Apollinian modes of the sublime in this history as the basis for reaching what he dubs the ‘real goal’ of his—‘investigation’…

*(That is)—‘knowledge of the Dionysian-Apollinian genius and its art product’. (§5, 48.—emphases added)…

*… —the conjunction (then), *(—the marriage?), of Apollinian discipline, selection, delimitation, and restraint *(—incorporation), and the freedom and excess *(—purgation) of the Dionysian *(—of Dionysian music). …

 

*—the birth of tragedy. …

 

 

 


[1] John Sallis, Crossings: Nietzsche and the Space of Tragedy (London: The University of Chicago Press, 1991), 1-2, 5.—See Plato, The Republic, trans. H.D.P. Lee (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955), 621 C

[2] Dante, Purgatory, trans. Dorothy L. Sayers (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955),—‘CANTO XXXI’, 315-321, ll.94-103 (317-318).—see 320n—l.97 b.

[3] Schopenhauer, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (hereafter FFR), trans. E.J.F Payne (USA: Open Court Publishing Co., 2003), §5, 6… —Schopenhauer adapts the formula from one adopted from Wolff: ‘Nothing is without a ground or reason why it is rather than is not’. (—Ibid.)

[4] Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, 2 (—Cf. 41-47). Schopenhauer, FFR, §49, 225-227.

[5] Schopenhauer, FFR, §49, 227 Magee, 30. Jacquette, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, 44

[6] —To reiterate Nietzsche’s example (in ‘On Truth’), that I gave in the first string-thread of fragments,… —phenomenal leaves represent only the plural, imperfect copies of the Idea of the leaf, itself the most immediate objectification of the leaf-as-it-is-in-itself (the leaf = X). *(‘OTL’, 117)

[7] On Schopenhauer’s relationship to Platonic Forms or Ideas and their place in his aesthetics, see Julian Young, Schopenhauer, 77-78, 129-134 and Jacquette, ‘Introduction’ (8-9) and Paul Guyer, ‘Pleasure and Knowledge in Schopenhauer’s Aesthetics’, in Jacquette, ed., Schopenhauer, Philosophy, and the Arts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 109-132 (109).

[8] 202. On the relationship of the sublime to the beautiful in Schopenhauer’s aesthetics see Jacquette, ‘Introduction’, in Jacquette, ed., Schopenhauer, Philosophy, and the Arts. (20-22)

[9] —See Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press, 2000),—143-149

[10] WWR, I, §39, 205.—For Kant’s definition of the Mathematical sublime see Critique of the Power of Judgment, 131-143. See also Jacquette, ‘Introduction’, (21-22) and Guyer, ‘Pleasure and Knowledge in Schopenhauer’s Aesthetics’, (114-115) in Jacquette, ed., Schopenhauer, Philosophy, and the Arts 

[11] Kemp Winfree, ‘Before the Subject: Rereading Birth of Tragedy’, 68 …

[12] Cf. GS, §99, 153, where Nietzsche returns to his earlier definition of tragedy in Birth. …

*—Though he here explicitly rejects the terms of Schopenhauer’s sublime (in the exception to the principle of sufficient reason and the principle of individuation, especially as what Nietzsche now identifies as the source of all morality) appropriated in Birth, he also explicitly rejects Schopenhauer’s ‘One Will’ and the philosophical prejudice of the Platonic Idea (that—‘all lions are at bottom only one lion’…).—See also §355, 300-302…

[13] ‘[I]mpudent convention’ is a quotation from Schiller’s hymn ‘An die Freude (to joy)’ which Beethoven used in the final movement of the Ninth Symphony (the ‘“Hymn to Joy”’).

—See Kaufmann’s editor’s note, —37.

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5 thoughts on “*—on the Dionysian sublime & (/as) the ‘purgation’ of lived experience…

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