Nietzsche's Attempt at a Self-Criticism: Art and Morality in The Birth of Tragedy

Came, Daniel (2008) Nietzsche's Attempt at a Self-Criticism: Art and Morality in The Birth of Tragedy. Nietzsche-Studien, 33 . ISSN 9783110179729

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Nietzsche's Attempt at a Self-Criticism: Art and Morality in The Birth of Tragedy
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A general consensus exists among Nietzsche s interpreters that his retrospective assessments of his first published work, The Birth of Tragedy, are of little interpretive value. For these critical statements, it is argued, which appear in the preface to the second edition of BT entitled Attempt at a Self-Criticism and in the section on BT in Ecce Homo, do not serve as genuine self-criticism; rather, they are intended to project onto this early work views Nietzsche only later developed. My broad aim in this paper is to show that this accepted orthodoxy is mistaken, and that taking seriously Nietzsche s retrospective claims sheds considerable light on his main philosophical ambitions in BT. In particular, I want to substantiate Nietzsche s claim in ASC that BT s aestheticism summed up by the work s famous dictum that the world and existence can be justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon (BT 5) is in some sense embedded in a deep hostility to morality, hostility that is usually taken by commentators to characterize only the works from Human, All-Too-Human onwards. Taking up this claim, I am going to argue, broadly, that BT presents a fundamental opposition between moral and aesthetic value, and a related plea for a rejection of moral categories in favour of an evaluative framework conceived in aesthetic terms. My aim is to explicate this opposition and to examine Nietzsche's reasons in general for advocating the substitution of the aesthetic for the moral. I argue that this opposition forms the basic framework of BT and clarifies: (i) Nietzsche s rejection in BT of Schopenhauer s pessimism; (ii) his critique of Socratic rationalism; (iii) the meaning of the work's central notion of an aesthetic justification of existence; and shows that (iv) there are good reasons for believing that even as early as BT Nietzsche was seeking an alternative to morality. It follows, I conclude, that the orthodox, threefold periodization of Nietzsche s thought which separates BT from his later works is fundamentally misconceived

Additional Information:The final version of this article can be accessed online at
Keywords:Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, pessimism, art, morality, The Birth of Tragedy, theodicy
Subjects:V Historical and Philosophical studies > V500 Philosophy
Divisions:College of Arts
ID Code:30438
Deposited On:13 Aug 2018 11:14

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