Salta il menù
The word art comes from the root -- ar that in sanskrit means «go to», «move toward»; metaphorically meaning to adapt, to make, to produce. Ar can be found in latin and greek words as well: for example the verb ararísko means to adapt, árthron is the articulation, arthmós is the bond, arithmós is the number in a certain order; areté means the virtue, but in addition it can mean also something well-made. Ar is also present in the latin noun ars, artis, which generally means the ability to make something. The skill to produce something concerns many fields: mechanical, medical, linguistic, and others -- we can recall the medieval division between trivium arts (grammar, dialectic and rhetoric) and quadrivium arts (arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music). To express the same concept, Greeks used the word téchne. This underlines the human production in opposition to the generation of nature, and the fact that to produce something, a whole set of rules are necessary. So, if we want to summarize the significance of both, ars and-or téchne, we can say that their essential trait is the poiéin, which means to produce. Then, if we analyse their meaning related to a poetic production such as sculptures, paintings and music, we find a fundamental concept that concerns the idea of art through centuries: mímesis. It means representation, reproduction, simulation and imitation. It is a word which meaning can be intended in many ways. We will illustrate, synthetically, the opposite conception of mímesis in Plato and Aristotle, among the first philosophers who thought about it, to move on then to Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, according to which mímesis is a certain kind of representation. The reason why we briefly mention the greek philosophers is that we could say that in Schopenhauer there are some aristotelic and platonic elements, even if modified. We mean there is the idea of «eternal», proper in Plato, and the idea of «universal», typical in Aristotle. For Schopenhauer art is the representation of the platonic idea, the eternal and unchanged essence of everything, seen through a pure, objective, contemplation; furthermore, that essence is universal, and in this, we find an aristotelic element. We find the idea of mímesis in Nietzsche as well, but in a particular definition. Art, according to him, is not the representation of the "true" essence of life, but is the «simulation of artists’ affects». However, this is just an anticipation and a synthesis of a long issue.
Since the beginning of philosophy, we can find the word mímesis in a fragment of Democritus, DK 68 B 154, where it means the human imitation of nature, without a moral connation. It would indicate that men started making art by observing nature. In addition, later on, we will see how for Nietzsche art is not the reproduction of nature. For reasons regarding length we cannot examine other fragments or testimonies, so we will refer directly to Plato and Aristotle. Since we have to summarize, we can say that in Plato, art is mímesis, but its content is not something really beneficial for education or for life in general, because it is the reproduction of the phainómenon. Reality is not false, but it is not entirely true either, it is far from the unchangeable truth: the idea, the immutable, the enduring. As we can read in The Republic, art is considered as an imitation of the visible world, which is a representation of ideas too. Therefore, art is really far, three times far to be exact, from the true essence of things.1 This is negative from several points of view: from a metaphysical and gnoseological point of view, because it does not show the true reality of things; from a pedagogical point of view, since it does not teach what totally true is. Art, in Plato, is not related to beauty, since beauty coincides with the true being, and it is not conceived from an aesthetic perspective, but from an ontological one. For example, in Phaedrus, there is the description of how the soul, thanks to love, to the beloved’ beauty, remembers the ideas. So, in this case, the visible form of beauty is just a medium towards something immaterial.2
On the other hand, for Aristotle, the idea of mímesis is not negative, first of all because the reality that art imitates is not fake, or not completely true, but nonetheless the only possible reality. There are no participations, no different degrees, no division between ouranós and hyper ouranós, the eîdos and the "copy". In The Poetics, he explains that imitation is something positive because it is the reproduction of the universal, tó kathólou. Therefore, art cannot be negative. It is, in fact, the opposite. Since art reproduces the universal, it is similar to science, because it too tends towards the universal, and not towards the particular, typical of history.3 Instead, for Nietzsche and Schopenhauer art and science are different from each other, because they are two different ways of knowledge. The first one is intuitive, while the second one is conceptual; the first one interested in the intimate quid of things, the second one related to the categories of cause, space and time. Another difference between them is in the idea of tragedy that, we will see, is different in Schopenhauer and Nietzsche as well. If for Plato the identification among spectators and actors is immoral because of the irrational element, for Aristotle, the double movement of identification, but at the same time separation, is what causes the kathársis, which is pain and liberation from pain at the same time. Besides, in Nicomachean Ethics, the philosopher reaffirms that creativity and rationality are not disconnected. On the contrary, art is a creation accompanied by reason. Therefore, it is a good component in education.
Anyway, we did this digression because Schopenhauer and Nietzsche agree that art is a certain representation and production, even if with other shades, in other acceptations. To summarize, we can simply say that for Plato art is mímesis of the phainómena and for Aristotele art is mímesis of the kathólou. Now, according to Schopenhauer, art is mímesis of the ideas, the universal and permanent essence in things (here we have a sort of synthesis of platonic and aristotelic elements), the «immediate objectivation of the will». According to Nietzsche, it is mímesis of the «artist’s páthos», (in a huge sense that embraces a feeling, a think, an interpretation, etc.). For both art is a comfort, a solace but in two opposite conceptions: for Schopenhauer it is a comfort for life, to take distance from it, since life is above all «continuous pain», «pitiful» and «terrible». For Nietzsche art is a comfort to affirm life, despite the terrible, the injustice and the vagueness of existence, because in the end the feeling of astonishment prevails. For Schopenhauer, rationally speaking (because the will of life always longs for life), it would be more advisable to not exist, due to the "negative" aspects, considered as prevalent, and due to the impossibility to satisfy the unceasing, eternal will of life. On the other hand, for Nietzsche, the excess of creativity forces can deal with the unfair and the atrocious aspects of life. As a matter of fact we can read: «[…] He who is richest in fullness of life, the Dionysian God and man, can allow himself not only the sight of what is terrible and questionable but also the terrible deed and every luxury of destruction, decomposition, negation; in his case, what is evil, nonsensical and ugly, almost seems acceptable because of an overflow in procreating, fertilizing forces capable of turning any desert into bountiful farmland ». 4 […] However, this comparison is thought not only to underline affinities and differences between Nietzsche and his «educator» conception of art, but above all to sketch an idea of art that could hold some aspects of both positions. We think art can be thought as the representation of the «artist’s affects», but at the same time this singular element lights up one of the plural segments that forms the multilateral figure of life. The composite but unitary essence of life. A individual point of view describes itself and the common essence of the object at issue. Precisely, the particular can say something about the universal, to which it refers, that composes. So, for example, through the representation of the artist’s pain, his wonder, his perception of nature, his feeling of love and so on, the artist communicates himself but at the same time he expresses something about the pain, the wonder, the nature, the love. He describes the essence of those elements. In this we can find ideas of both Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, reconsidered. According to us, art is a relief to reaffirm life, as Nietzsche supports, and not a comfort to distance from it, as Schopenhauer believes. In fact, we will see, art cannot be a really «way out of life» as Schopenhauer would desire, probably because of the strength of its consolation, that cannot let escape from life.
On the first page of the third book of The world as will and representation, Schopenhauer specifies what is the object of our contemplation: it is the object of art, the platonic idea. Let us read Schopenhauer’s first words to explain his aesthetics:
What kind of knowledge is it that considers what continues to exist outside and independently of all relations, but which alone is really essential to the world, the true content of its phenomena, that which is subject to no change, and is therefore known with equal truth for all time, in a word, the Ideas that are the immediate and adequate objectivity of the thing-in-itself, of the will? It’s art, the work of genius. It repeats the eternal Ideas apprehended through pure contemplation, the essential and abiding element in all the phenomena of the word. According to the material in which it repeats, it is sculpture, painting, poetry or music. Its only source is knowledge of the ideas; its sole aim is communication of this knowledge.5
In this definition, we "find" both platonic and aristotelic elements, although with differences. There are the platonic ideas, but of course not the platonic idea of art. Art, according to Schopenhauer, represents the eternal essence in things, meaning the ideas; instead, for Plato, we have seen that art represents something three times far from ideas. There is the aristotelic property of universality too, because the object of art is the representation, through the particular, of the universal. However, one difference with the Stagirite is that for Schopenhauer science does not have a universal feature. Science studies phainómena related to the principle of sufficient reason, so things in time and in space, within the relation of cause and effect. Science always runs after its destination, but it never catches it. Conversely, art concerns the intimate quid of things, that humans can know beyond the sufficient reason. This essence is known through the contemplation and the absorption of the subject in the object, unknown by science, based on concepts and causes. So, let us try to explain that quote which recaps some aspects of art. First of all, we can observe there are some key words: eternal ideas, genius, contemplation, different types of art. All essential terms to describe art. According to Schopenhauer, art is the mímesis of ideas, the unchangeable forms of phainómena, the immediate objectivity of the will, through contemplation, by the genius. Genius is who is able to catch ideas and to reproduce them. The knowledge of ideas occurs through contemplation, a form of knowledge that is an identification between subject and object. The subject is assimilated by the contemplated object, so the individual will is grasped by the art’s object. This one appears itself, as absolutus, loosened from its bond with time and space, and the individual too is untied in that kind of relationship:
[…] Genius is the capacity to remain in a state of pure perception, to lose oneself in perception, to remove from the service of the will the knowledge which originally existed only for this service. In other words, genius is the ability to leave entirely out of sigh tour own interest, our willing, and our aims, and consequently to discard entirely our own personality for a time, in order to remain pure knowing subject, the clear eye of the world, and this not merely for moments, but with the necessary continuity and conscious thought to enable us to repeat by deliberate art what has been apprehended, and “what in wavering apparition gleams fix in its place with thoughts that stand for ever!6
Of course, genius are also men who enjoy art, because they have a «genial disposition» that allows them to understand the ideas chosen and depicted by the artist. Men that do not possess this sensibility cannot understand and perceive the aesthetic feeling. This sentiment, the knowledge of the depicted idea can be obtained not only through art, but also through nature. The example par excellence is given by the sublime sentiment, Gefühl des Erhabenen. In front of a storm, an intimidating aspect of nature, human being feels in danger at first, because powerless in comparison to nature’s power. He fears to be crushed by that extraneous and unmanageable power. However, later on, he is calm in front of that limitless force. He is unperturbed, in a status of contemplation, free from the will. According to Bart Vandenabeele, Schopenhauer’s idea of sublime offers an «invaluable contribution to a much-needed re-appraisal of this important aesthetic concept»,7 probably devaluated by Hegel’s aesthetic: he not only undermined the importance of nature and sensorial cognition in general, but also reduced the sublime to a most primitive and defective aesthetic form. The beautiful feeling is almost the same as the sublime, but the difference is that through beauty the connection between subject and object is immediate, since the pure knowledge is obtained without struggle.8 Now, let’s see the different forms of art described by Schopenhauer, who explains how the diverse artistic genres represent the immediate objectivation of the will: the ideas. The will reveals itself in many degrees, through ideas, its immediate objectivation, and through nature, the mediate objectivation of itself. Ideas are the immediate manifestation of der Wille because they are out of time, space and causality. Instead, nature is the mediate revelation because will expresses itself through phenomena, with their forms. So, what follows is a long description of different kinds of art, that culminates in a sort of hymn to music, as something completely different from other artistic forms – later on, we will see that Nietzsche reclaims Schopenhauer’s conception about music, above all in The birth of tragedy. Schopenhauer lingers on architecture, sculpture, paintings, about still life, animals, human, human portraits; he describes poetry, distinguishing it from history, lyrics are and finally he describes tragedy as the highest degree of objectification of the will. At the end of the third book of the World, in § 52, he lingers on music, a completely different kind of art. It is separate, independent from the other forms of art since it does not represent idea but it reveals the Ding an Sich, the will itself. Anyway, we will linger on music later on. So, if we want to resume that «unique thought» that Schopenhauer’s philosophy is, we can say that as the world is the mediate manifestation of the will, its representation in many degrees, art as well is the immediate representation of the will, through ideas, in many manifestations. The Wille zum Leben reveals itself everywhere. The lowest degree of will’s objectivation is made up of elementary and universal forces (such as gravity and impenetrability), material qualities (such as elasticity, solidity etc.), inorganic nature. The following one embraces vegetable nature; the next animals, the animal metaphysicum and the others. So, if nature is the objectivation of the Will, art is the representation of the essence of nature, id est of the ideas. Let us describe the different forms of art. Let us see the «hierarchy of arts corresponding at each level to the hierarchy of grades of the will’s objectivation.»9
The first kind of art that Schopenhauer describes is architecture, since it reproduces the essence, the idea of the lowest will degree. The last one is tragedy that represents human being, the highest objectivation of the will, since it is illuminated by the reason, for the absolute consciousness that men have about themselves and the world.10 Architecture has affinities with gravity force, the first and most primitive externalization of the will. Architecture represents the battle between gravity and solidity, showing the never-ending tension, the essence of life in its primordial and general form. This representation can be intensified (or not) through an important element: light, which is described as what invites to a pure contemplation and what increases beauty. According to Schopenhauer, only light, sunshine or moonlight, makes all the elements and their relationships really visible. In fact, according to him, light is a fundamental trait of architecture. Besides, differently from other artists, architects present the object to the beholder and not the reproduction of the idea through their eyes. So, if architecture shows the lowest degree of the will, in which it appears as natural force, Naturkraft, natural and animal paintings show the followings. By contemplating them, we have an instructive lesson from the great book of nature. We see in trees, flowers, in the whole vegetable world, the manifestation of the will as vital force, Lebenskraft. By contemplating animals, either in paintings or in nature, through their actions and behaviour, we see the will together with the consciousness, really fleeting in vegetable world and absent in the inorganic one. Unlike animal and vegetal forms, the human ones represent will’s most complete and complex objectification, at the highest degree of its awareness. In this degree there is a deep consciousness of the will about itself and the world that is absent in other beings. About human representation and beauty, in paintings, according to Schopenhauer there are two emblematic elements that consent the aesthetic contemplation: human countenance and shape. Instead, in sculpture, the fundamental trait is grace. It is related to a certain kind of movement, harmony and balance. Another important prerogative relative to human representation is action, especially visible in historical paintings – Historienmalerei. Precisely, the idea of humankind becomes completely visible only through different scenes, events and actions. This characteristic is reaffirmed, for instance, by Bryan Magee too:
When we turn for our subject-matter to the highest grade of the will’s objectification, the life of humans in all its fullness, it is the turn of language to come into its own as an aesthetic medium. Painting and sculpture have marvellous contributions to make at this level too, but they are limited in what they can deal with both by their visual nature and by the fatc that they are static in time. […] So the verbal arts above all, inherently discursive as they are, are in general the best suited for the communication of insights into the highest of all grades of the will’s objectification, the human individual with his unique personality and fate. 11
So, after these considerations, Schopenhauer focuses on poetry. Inanimate objects and nature can reveal their inner being in a single, well-conceived moment. In a single painting or sculpture. On the contrary, man needs a chain of actions accompanied by thoughts, concepts and feelings to express himself. This is the reason why man is poetry’s main subject. With its descriptions, rhythm and rhyme, man’s idea is broadly expressed. Therefore, human idea has to represent either the disposition of the species or the disposition of the individual, considered as the disposition pour excellence, because it is to be seen not as something accidental and belonging to man as a single individual, but as a symbol of the Idea of mankind. So, we can say there is a mutual connection between them, since the universal reveals itself in the individual and, at the same time, the individual belongs to inter-individual idea of humanity. It can happen to think that history represents man as well, but we need to keep in mind that it is about men and not the man -- jedoch öfter die Menschen als den Menschen ; it’s about facts and particular events. On the contrary, in poetry, the poet «apprehends the idea, the inner being of mankind outside all relation and all time, the adequate objectivity of the thing-in-itself at its highest grade ». Furthermore, «the poet has apprehended the idea of mankind from some definite side to be described; thus it is the nature of his own self that is objectified in it for him. He therefore shows us in the mirror of his mind the Idea purely and distinctly, and his description down to the last detail is as true as life itself ».12
The main difference in poetry is between the subjective representation of mankind (what is represented is, at the same time, who represents; this happens in lyric poetry) and the objective one (the depicter is different from what is depicted, this is the case of other kinds of poetry: ballad, idyll, romance, epic, drama). In lyrics the inner nature of mankind is reflected, and humans find, found and will find in the same recurring situations, its corresponding expression. Since these situations exist permanently as humanity itself. So, a lyric poet can be considered the mirror of mankind, that brings to its consciousness what it feels and does. The different poetic genres represent the idea of humanity, its will, under different lights. Each kind of poetry chooses a perspective, from which a certain aspect of the idea of mankind is presented. Among these aspects we can consider thoughts, virtues, vices, questions, feelings and so on. We have seen that lyric poetry is the manifestation of something subjective and objective at the same time, because through the individual the universal is represented. A singular revenge, a singular angst, rejoicing, wonder etc. reveals something inter-subjective. Drama, epic and romance reveal the idea of humankind by showing significant characters in pregnant situations in which they disclose themselves. Different from them is tragedy, because of its perspective, its meaning, its purpose and because of the human nature that it represents. According to Schopenhauer, tragedy is the summit of poetic arts, on one hand for the greatness of the effect, on the other for the difficulty of achieving it. Its aim is the description of the «terrible side» of existence: the pain, the misery of mankind, the triumph of wickedness and so on. Tragedy is considered the highest degree of antagonism of the will with itself, because the will to life desires a life that cannot quieten its yearning. The Trieb zum Leben is an infinite movement, that the finite world cannot incorporate. This struggle is visible through humankind’s pain, caused a priori, in relation to the nature of the common substratum of everything, and caused a posteriori, by chance, errors, injustice, «rulers» of the world. The philosopher even believes that tragedy tells a certain truth: the fact that existence is the original sin, since it is something fleeting. So, heroes atone for the «guilt» of existence itself and not for their own faults. So, all kinds of art, from architecture to tragedy, represent the eîdos, the eternal and unchangeable quid of things, the immediate objectivation of the will, in a determinate degree. By contemplating an artistic object, subject’s will is absorbed by the aesthetic object, and for this reason is placate. In this sense it is distant from life, as that reality which procures pain and injustice. Ergo,
That pure, true, and profound knowledge of the inner nature of the world now becomes for him an end in itself; at it he stops. Therefore it does not become for him a quieter of the will, as we shall see in the following book in the case of the saint who has attained resignation; it does not deliver him from life for ever, but only for a few moments. For him it is not the way out of life, but only an occasional consolation in it, until his power, enhanced by this contemplation, finally becomes tired of the spectacle, and seizes the serious side of things.13
This passage is iconic either since it summarizes a fundamental aspect of Schopenhauer’s aesthetics, or respect to one of the differences with Nietzsche’s idea of art. In fact, we are going to analyse, for Nietzsche too art is a consolation, not to distance from life, but to survive, to continue existing. Let us read a paradigmatic quote about this question:
The struggle it depicts are simplifications of the real struggles of life; its problems are abbreviations of the endlessly complex calculous of human action and desire. But the greatness and indispensability of art lie precisely in its being able to produce the appearance of a simpler world, a shorter solution of the riddle of life. No one who suffers from life can do without this appearance, just as no one can do without sleep. The harder it becomes to know the laws of life, the more ardently do we long for this appearance of simplification, even if only for moments, the greater grows the tension between general knowledge of things and the individual’s spiritual-moral capacities. Art exists so that the bow shall not break.14
It is a bright passage that explains ilself. Anyway, we will examine in depth the meaning of these words, above all the differences towards Schopenhauer. Now, let’s conclude Schopenhauer’s idea of art. At the end of the third book, in § 52, Schopenhauer lingers on music, «perhaps […] the most meaningful that has ever been given to music ».15 It is a completely different kind of art, because it does not reproduce ideas, but the will. For this reason, according to the philosopher of Gdańsk, we can consider the world not only as the consolidation of the will, its concretion and its visibility, but also the music as its «sonorous concretion», its audibility. Music reveals the essence of life. It «by-passes the Platonic Ideas; so whereas all the other arts speak of the noumenon indirectly, via them, music speaks of it directly. That is its essential nature: music is the direct articulation of the noumenon ».16 In addition, it is a description which will be reclaimed in Nietzsche’s Birth of tragedy.As the world is the will’s manifestation through its objectification, in inorganic nature, plants and animals, so music is the representation of the will «very profound, infinitely true, and really striking». These features are passed on because music is not an image of the phenomenon, a copy of the idea, the will’s adequate objectivity, but music is «a copy of the will itself». Therefore, regarding the physical world, it represents what is metaphysical, and regarding every phenomenon, it represents the thing-in-itself. Precisely, «we can regard the phenomenal world, or nature, and music as two different expressions of the same thing; and this thing itself is therefore the only medium of their analogy, a knowledge of which is required if we are to understand that analogy ».17 For this reason, music’s effect is «powerful and penetrating», intersubjective, and it might be described itself as a «universal language ».18
According to Schopenhauer, this interpretation is impossible to prove: it depends on the effect that music has on every individual. Let us try to notice the «strict Parallelismus», the «Analogie», between music and the will that objectifies itself like nature, in nature. The lowest degree of the objectification of the will is the inorganic nature, assorted inside itself and completely different from organic nature. Here we have what Schopenhauer calls «ground-bass», Grunbaß: «I recognize in the deepest tones of harmony, in the ground-bass, the lowest grades of the will’s objectivation, inorganic nature, the mass of the planet ».19 The definition of Grunbaß implies three different notions: low-pitched sound or deep base, basso continuo and the fundamental bass, theorized and coined by Rameau.20 However, the intensity of a sound should suggest images of strength, density and bulkiness, that cannot advance promptly, swiftly, because of these features. Indeed, the sound only advances gradually, very slowly by thirds, fourths and fifths, avoiding sequences of single toned intervals. Well, as everything is born from inorganic nature and it continues to develop from it, as the fundamental bass develops high-pitched sounds that represent the will in that particular gradation: the third is the equivalent to the plant related world, the fifth is the equivalent to the animal world, and the octave is the equivalent to the human world, because it’s the furthest away from the fundamental note. The natural scale recalls the musical scale. Furthermore, the four-part voices of every harmony, bass, tenor, countertenor and soprano resemble the mineral kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the animal kingdom and the human one. A parallelism that receives its confirmation through a musical rule whereby the bass voice has to remain at a greater distance compared to the distance that the other three voices must have between them. In a similar manner, the organic beings are very close and related to each other, distant from the inorganic from which the deepest abyss of all nature rises. Yet, despite this saltus, the continuity endures, because the vital principal of life is the same, and because the soprano, the farthest away from the fundamental bass, needs the other parts of harmony to exist. In melody we find the objectification of human will, with its thoughts, its emotions and its passions. Besides, «the inexhaustibleness of possible melodies corresponds to the inexhaustibleness of nature in the difference of individuals, physiognomies, and courses of life».21 Melody is also what unites what precedes it and accompanies it: as well as man cannot appear «alone and separated» from the other degrees, the other will’s objectivations, but it requires the ones that precede him (and these, in turn, require the lower ones), so does the four-part harmony, that needs all of its voices to make a good impression. Additionally, just as the will objectifies perfectly only though the «complete union» of all of the degrees, so music can express what it suggests through the arrangement of all the voices. «We could just as well call the world embodied music as embodied will ».22
At the age of twenty-one Nietzsche discovered Schopenhauer’s Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, in a bookshop in Leipzig, in October or November 1865, immediately became a schopenhauerian, and would remain so for the next ten years. Two years later Nietzsche described the discovery: “I do not know what demon whispered to me: ‘take this book home with you. […] At home I threw myself into the sofa corner with the treasure I had acquired and I started to allow that energetic, sombre genius to work upon me. […] The discovery of Schopenhauer profoundly strengthened the philosophical tendency in Nietzsche’s thinking. […] What Nietzsche most clearly affirmed was Schopenhauer as a person, his general Weltanschauung and his pessimism, but also a number of more specific aspects of his philosophy, including his views on art, music, language and style.23
So, we can move through Nietzsche’s first book to understand his young idea of art and life, and, of course, to observe schopenhauerian influence. Later on, through Nietzsche’s mature works, we will see a different aesthetics conception and a certain distance from his «educator». First of all, we can say that in The birth of tragedy, 1872, Nietzsche explains his idea about tragedy and, at the same time, art in general and life, since existence is explained with the same terms that expresses what art is. These terms are the apollonian and the dionysian. The first one is considered as «the lovely appearance of dream», the «principium individuationis», the particular; the second one is interpreted as the «intoxication», «the reign of mothers of being», the universal. Dionysian is tragedy’s music and chorus, the origin of the «artistic miracle». Apollonian are visive arts and actions on scene, the projection of the dionysian. Apollonian is the individual through which the dionysian can be expressed. So, life too can be explained by these elements, with the same meaning used by Schopenhauer in different words,24 and it could be justified only as an aesthetic phainómen, in opposition to a moral or a christian interpretation.
Anyway, this young idea about this kind of justification will change throughout the years, to evolve into the idea that wondering about life’s value is an absurd question, since the universal and ontological truth do not exist. There is no answer to the question related to being and nothingness. It is impossible to say if life makes sense or not. For Nietzsche life is necessary.25 The individual idea of life has to be considered as another matter: our personal inclination is so different from a doctrine, which has a universal and necessary pretence. Therefore, the subject should see there is no univocal response or an a priori truth; he must create his own sense, so he himself can be the creator of the answer. He will have to give himself sense, since is not placed in a transcendent reality anymore. There is no ontological, unchangeable or eternal truth. Here comes the «unsettling guest», the nihilism, the absence of response to the question «why?», meaning the aim, the direction, the finality. Nihilism is the knowledge that the truth does not exist. For Nietzsche this is not in relation to nothingness, to emptiness or towards something meaningless. On the contrary, man can determine sense himself, because there isn’t an ontological one or a prearranged one. In this nihilistic contest, art is the one which loves life for its immanence, for its semblance, as the only possible reality, not opposed to another "better" reality. Putting this digression aside that reveals also how life and art are intimately related to each other,26 let us go back to tragedy. According to Nietzsche, the origin of tragedy lies in music, a music that he describes in schopenhauerian terms. In fact, for Nietzsche too music is a «universal language», the «expression of the essence of things». So, he cites directly his educator’s words. First of all, Nietzsche explains that the enormous opposition between apolline, plastic, visive arts, and the dionysiac art of music, was revealed to «one and one alone of the great thinkers.» Then, he endorses and communicates Schopenhauer’s considerations. Let us read some of them:
[…] We can regard the phenomenal world, or nature, and music as two different expressions of the same thing; and this thing itself is therefore the only medium of their analogy, a knowledge of which is required if we are to understand that analogy. Accordingly, music, if regarded as an expression of the world, is in the highest degree a universal language that is related to the universality of concepts much as these are related to the particular things. […] This close relation that music has to the true nature of all things can also explain the fact that, when music suitable to any scene, action, event, or environment is played, it seems to disclose to us its most secret meaning, and appears to be the most accurate and distinct commentary on it. […] Music differs from all the other arts by the fact that it is not a copy of the phenomenon, or, more exactly, of the will’s adequate objectivity, but is directly a copy of the will itself, and therefore expresses the metaphysical to everything physical in the world, the thing-in-itself to every phenomenon. Accordingly, we could just as well call the world embodied music as embodied will. […] The concepts are the universalia post rem, but music gives the universalia ante rem, and reality the universalia in rem27
In this passage is evident the total agreement with Schopenhauer idea of music. – En passant, the symbol of a more general and broad concordance with him is Schopenhauer as Educator, in which Nietzsche express his wonder and his concord to Schopenhauer as philosopher and man28 Besides he considers him as the symbol of the great culture, in a period in which it was poor and subdued to economy, State and science. Instead, many years later, Nietzsche would have changed his opinion about the auditory art and the role of art in wider terms. An aphorism in Human, all too Human I, 1878, can be considered a symbol of that change: «Music […] it does not speak of the 'will' or of 'the thing itself' […]».29 Another one, in Human all too Human II, 1886, reaffirms the particular, and not universal, character of music: «[…] Music is thus not a universal language for all ages, as has so often been claimed for it, but accords precisely with a measure of time, warmth and sensibility that a quite distinct individual culture, limited as to area and duration, bears within it as an inner law. […]».30 So, for the mature Nietzsche, music speaks about musicians and not about a presumed Ding an Sich. The parting from Schopenhauer is evident, undeniable. 31
Even though these profound differences, they both used music as a metaphor of life, as something more than a simple figure of speech, to describe life. Indeed, about this aspect, Georges Liébert explains that «like Schopenhauer, his principal educator to whom he owed so much, Nietzsche makes frequent recourse to musical metaphors: metaphor of the keyboard, of the vibrating string, of dissonance, of harmony, of melody. Their function is not simply to decorate his argument or to illustrate it. Music is the metaphor of life itself ».32 Now, let us go back to tragedy. If for Schopenhauer tragedy represents the terrible aspects of life, above all the «original sin», and for these motives existence does not deserve our attachment, (from an objective and rationalistic point of view, that does not accept the inner nature of things, since the Wille zum leben always desires life); for Nietzsche, on the contrary, tragedy represents our attachment to existence, in spite of the negative aspects. Besides, of course, the «artist’s páthos».33 Not only tragedy, but art in general represents the possibility to affirm life, despite the painful aspects. However what tragedy represents can be extended to our whole life, because tragedy, in addition of representing the artist’s pathos, symbolizes some features of life. For example, when Nietzsche says that tragedy «sits in the midst of this superabundance of life, suffering, and delight, in sublime ecstasy, listening to a distant, melancholy singing which tells of the Mothers of Being, whose names are delusion, will, woe»,34 we can "substitute" the subject «tragedy» with «life» and we could get close to one of his consideration about existence, since it is at the same time overabundance, exaltation and pain. And thanks to that yearning, the amor fati and not the odium fati, the terrible is borne. However, let us read some Nietzsche’s words, to find some key-concepts, either to understand how, and why, according to him tragedy was born or to trace some elements, which appear and reappear in his considerations about art:
The Olympian magic mountain now opens up, as it were, and shows us its roots. The Greeks knew and felt the terrors and horrors of existence; in order to live at all they had to place in front of these things the resplendent, dream-born figures of the Olympians. In order to be able to live, the Greeks were obliged, by the most profound compulsion, to create these gods. This process is probably to be imagined as taking place gradually, so that, under the influence of the apolline instinct for beauty, the Olympian divine order of joy developed out of the original, Titanic divine order of terror in a series of slow transitions, in much the same way as roses burst forth from a thicket of thorns. How else could that people have borne existence’ given their extreme sensitivity, their stormy desires, their unique gift for suffering, if that same existence had not been shown to them in their gods, suffused with a higher glory? The same drive which calls art into being to complete and perfect existence and thus to seduce us into continuing to live, also gave rise to the world of the Olympians in which the Hellenic 'Will' held up a transfiguring mirror to itself.35
So, in this passage we can find that element that is and it will be central in Nietzsche’s thoughts about aesthetic: the idea of art as completion and perfection of existence. Art as a «transfiguring mirror». In the same book, Nietzsche explains that art converts the terrible and absurd into the sublime, the disgust and the insanity into the comedy.36 This does not mean that art escapes from these aspects of life; it does not mean that it ignores them either. Art uses instruments that veil the terrible, without entirely covering the "negative", so in that way life is still worth to be lived. Art, or better to say, the apollonian, is in fact defined as «the whole thing of illusions of beautiful semblance which, at every moment, make existence at all worth living at every moment and thereby urge us on to experience the next.37 This idea, together with the affirmative role that art plays in life, is also expressed in aphorism 107. Our Ultimate Gratitude to Art: «If we had not approved of the Arts and invented this sort of cult of the untrue, the insight into the general untruth and falsity of things now given us by science -- an insight into delusion and error as conditions of intelligent and sentient existence -- would be quite unendurable. Honesty would have disgust and suicide in its train. Now, however, our honesty has a counterpoise which helps us to escape such consequences; -- namely Art, as the good-will to illusion. We do not always restrain our eyes from rounding off and perfecting in imagination: and then it is no longer the eternal imperfection that we carry over the river of Becoming -- for we think we carry a goddess and are proud and artless in rendering this service. As an aesthetic phenomenon existence is still endurable to us; and by Art, eye and hand and above all the good conscience are given to us, to be able to make such a phenomenon out of ourselves, Nietzsche  […]». This idea of transfiguration is present since The birth of tragedy, 1872, until The Gay Science, 1882, The Twilight of Idols, 1889, and posthumous notes, together with the idea of art as «completion», «perfection», so as what can alleviate and affirm life. Here we can see the main and profound difference towards Schopenhauer’s idea of art. For Nietzsche art glorifies existence. Art invites to take root in life. For Schopenhauer art is a relief to take distance from existence. So, it should not wonder that Nietzsche criticizes Schopenhauer’s conception of art. Let us read an iconic aphorism that recaps their different conception:
[…] A psychologist, on the other hand, asks: what does all art do? Does it not praise? Glorify? Choose? Prefer? With all this it strengthens or weakens certain valuations. Is this merely a "moreover"? an accident? something in which the artist’s instinct had no share? Or is it not the very presupposition of the artist’s ability? Does his basic instinct aim at art, or rather at the sense of art, at life? at a desirability of life? Art is the great stimulus to life: how could one understand it as purposeless, as aimless, as l’art pour l’art? One question remains: art also makes apparent much that is ugly, hard, and questionable in life; does it not thereby spoil life for us? And indeed there have been philosophers who attributed this sense to it: "liberation from the will" was what Schopenhauer taught as the overall end of art; and with admiration he found the great utility of tragedy in its "evoking resignation." But this, as I have already suggested, is the pessimist’s perspective and "evil eye." We must appeal to the artists themselves. What does the tragic artist communicate of himself? Is it not precisely the state without fear in the face of the fearful and questionable that he is showing? This state itself is a great desideratum, whoever knows it, honors it with the greatest honors […].38
Now, understood some prerogatives of art, seen the main differences with Schopenhauer, we can outline, summarizing, another important element: we mean the relationship between art and nihilism. Since art affirms and loves life, so the immanence as the unique reality, the only possible one, not opposed by the transcendent; and since it glorifies the appearance, that it is not counter to "substance", but the same as it, art can be considered the «movement-against» a certain kind of nihilism, that one which considers the immanent reality insignificant compared to the presumed transcendent one, the «true one», the only one which makes sense and relevance. In this context, nihilism is considered as the devaluation of the reality in which we live in, in favour of another one. This is why Nietzsche considers ascetic doctrines as a form of nihilism, but more in general all doctrines or ideas, that prefer or consider as true the eternal transcendent realities in opposition to the earthly reality. Heidegger too underlines the intimate relation between art and nihilism. Precisely, he marks that art is the «distinctive countermovement to nihilism.» This is one of the five statements with which Heidegger, in his Nietzsche, summarizes Nietzsche’s idea of art. The other statements are the followings: «art is the most perspicuous and familiar configuration of the will to power»; «art must be grasped in terms of the artist»; «art is the basic occurrence of all being»; «art is worth than the truth».39 So, the artist, the viewer and the work of art are all manifestations of the will to power, justifying the merit of art in the face of the untruth, as well as existence in his world more generally. The artist is an incarnation of the will to power in the way that the creator of art entails a hyper personal re-envisioning of the world; artists truly act as creators. Artists embody the "spiritual" will in manipulating worldly materials into an image of their own creation, providing novel commentary on the world. The art must, consequently, «be grasped in the terms of the artist.» Here we have the other main difference regarding Schopenhauer. A difference that, according to us, does not entail a mutual exclusion, as we will illustrate. On one hand, the philosopher from Gdańsk considers the artistic reproduction such as the mímesis of something universal. On the other hand, the philosopher from Röcken evaluates the artistic representation as the mímesis of something particular. Let us read another aphorism that shows these differences:
What remains of art. It is true that with certain metaphysical assumptions, art has a much greater value—if it is believed, for example, that one’s character is unchangeable and that the essence of the world is continually expressed in all characters and actions. Then the artist’s work becomes the image of what endures eternally. In our way of thinking, however, the artist can give his image validity only for a time, because man as a whole has evolved and is changeable, and not even an individual is fixed or enduring. […] What place remains for art, then, after this knowledge? Above all, for thousands of years, it has taught us to see every form of life with interest and joy, and to develop our sensibility so that we finally call out, "However it may be, life is good." This teaching of art-to have joy in existence and to regard human life as a part of nature, without being moved too violently, as something that developed through laws—this teaching has taken root in us […].40
So, let us continuing and concluding regarding the relation between art and nihilism. Art knows «God’s dead:41 it knows that only one reality exists, the «earth» and it knows there is no transcendent sense and that a universal and univocal response to the riddle of the world does not exist. It is not possible to answer the question «Why does nothing exist, instead of this life?». Life’s value cannot be judged. Nevertheless, art discourages life, it does not represent a way to escape from life, even if it is full of uncertainties. Art affirms and confirms existence just as it appears, as it reveals itself. Above all, art understands that the truth itself does not exist. Art knows that the question about the objective value or nullity of life and so the response, affirmative or negative that may be, is just a human need; but most of all a human creation concerning our judgement of life. Besides, human’s mistake is expressed in the desire of evaluating something that is not human. The error consists in judging with anthropological categories what is not human, what is not subject to the same laws.42 Another error would be life without music. In these terms Nietzsche expresses, in the aphorism 33 of The Twilight of Idols: Life would be an error since music represents, again and again, the affirmation of life, despite the ugly, the injustice, the transience.43 So, art is the comprehension that there is not a universal a priori or a necessary value, aim of life. It knows that life is necessary and each man is free to ascribe and confer his own meaning to it. Art is a hymn to life for what it is, even if it is unjust, uncertain, painful and fleeting too. Art embraces the «terrible» as well, thanks to beauty, but above all thanks to the strength of life and the consideration of life as a necessity. The aphorism 276. For the new year, in The Gay Science, recaps poetically the affirmation of life, keeping in mind the «ugly» and still loving it. These considerations put into a certain prospective, do not demand to raise a general theory, but need to be integrated in a personal relationship with life. Since all values that make sense have collapsed, man becomes the creator and inventor of his own values. Man, becomes an interpreter inside an endless world of interpretations. Art is one of the forms to create sense.
From these elements, the different role that art plays in life for Schopenhauer and Nietzsche should be clear. For both art is a solace for existence, but in a different meaning. For Schopenhauer art represents the essence of life but, at the same time, the distance from it. Art is only an extemporary quietiv. It is a momentary comfort because the subject who contemplates is completely absorbed by the aesthetics object. Precisely, subjest’s will is pleased and satisfied by that kind of knowledge and it does not crave for more. For Nietzsche art is a comfort, but aimed in an opposite direction. It does not want to escape from life. Art confirms life’s necessities, its harshness and its wonders. Art praises life, thanks to its abilities and capacities in transfiguring, so that terrible res can be accepted too and so that life is worth to be lived. So, for us, the fundamental diversity between them, in relation to art, is in the different movement regarding life, a movement that on one-hand escapes (would escape) and a movement, on the other hand, that remains. The essential divergence is not in the universal or particular aesthetic object, that we believe to be closely related, despite the differences. Now, we will try to clarify the terms of this relationship, which is made of similarities and divergences as well, to outline an idea of art that can embrace elements belonging to both philosophers. Nietzsche criticizes Schopenhauer’ idea of Ding an Sich. He rejects not only the separation between an immanent plan and a transcendent one, but he refuses also the distinction between the phainomenon and the noumenon. The reality, the appearance is the "substance". The aphorism How the "true world" finally became a fable, in The Ttwilight of Idols, recaps exemplary that thought. Consequently, it is not surprising that Nietzsche disagrees about Schopenhauer’ idea of art. If there is no metaphysical substratum in the world, art does not represent the essence of life in its many degrees, ideas, since there is no ontological sense, a prior sense, but posterior human meanings and interpretations. So, art represents something individual, contingent, circumscribed. It does not reveal something meta-individual, absolute, timeless. Now, although the relevant differences between them, we totally agree with Thomas Mann about the fact that Nietzsche overcome Schopenhauer but he never stopped loving him.44 Probably because their dissimilarities originate from many points in common. Nietzsche’s thought starting from his educator and contra him.45 This is the reason why the relation between them is really complex and is characterized by an intricate dialectics of affinities and discrepancies. This is not the right place to illustrate the schopenhaurerian influence on Nietzsche’s thought as a whole, for reasons regarding space and contents.
We can very quickly mention some aspects that are affected by the schopenhauerian mark but that, at the same time, deviate them by modifying these marks of reference and/or adding different ones. Among these, are the concepts of the will to power, the idea of culture, the tragic concept of existence, the religious position, considerations about nature, knowledge as a functional instrument for life, et alia. These references should clarify that the relationship of distance-proximity between the two is very extensive and complicated. Therefore, aesthetic meditations establish one of the many aspects of Nietzsche’s philosophy that is affected by the encounter-clash with Schopenhauer. Particularly, regarding art, we can see that at a given point, the distance from his «educator» was radical: we have seen that the more mature Nietzsche believes that music is something that communicates personal emotions, the particular, even historical elements. That is a completely different idea from the one expressed in The Birth of Tragedy. Furthermore, the aphorism L’art pour l’art, present in Twilight of the Idols, is a symbol of this distance: Nietzsche harshly criticises Schopenhauer for his pessimistic point of view, therefore for his idea of art as liberator of life rather than supporter of life. Yet, beyond these differences and personal dynamics, that cannot be resolved or fully understood in published and posthumous annotations; beyond the stated retirement that probably underlines a much greater attachment than the one claimed, we feel that one of the meanings that art has may enclose schopenhauerian elements as well as nietzschean ones, without falling into contradictions. To the extent that some traits of their aesthetic conception do not rule each other out, but intertwine. Indeed, this comparison is not only focused on their affinities and differences, but it is finalised to conceive an idea of art that unites and combines elements of both artists. Precisely, we think that the consideration of art as mimesis, of the essence of life, does not leave out the idea of art as representation, as mímesis of the artists’ affects. Artist’s interpretation of life reveals some fragments of life itself. Through his own pain, we can say something about other humans’ pain, through a personal idea of nature some elements of nature and through the feeling of love, something about love, something about an intersubjective feeling. Through the artist’s perception of life something is said regarding the polilateral essence of life; and so on. The universal is claimed through the particular, and the particular expresses something of the universal: they are connected to each other. Furthermore, there isn’t a single meaning of art, but multiple interpretations that are not arranged in a constructed truth. So, that one delineated by us is just one of the significances that art has.
Let’s clarify what we mean with some examples. Let us consider a work of art mentioned by Schopenhauer before we move on to others. At the end of the third book of The World as Will and Representation, he describes Raffaello’s La Santa Cecilia as a symbol of «transition», as the effective detachment from life. A separation that art allows only for a few moments. The painting by Raffaello illustrates efficiently this transition. Putting aside all of the symbolic complications of which it is invested and that have to do with the characters that surround Cecilia -- Paolo, Giovanni, Agostino and Maddalena -- and the emblematic objects that define them (the sword, the eagle, the staff and the ampoule), the central idea of the representation resides in the abandonment by the patron saint of music, of earthly music. Cecilia turns ecstatically towards the sky -- up where the heavenly songs of the angels echo. However, these songs are also a Christian variant of the inaudible music of the spheres, while the instruments are piled randomly on the floor. Cecilia, Christian goddess of music, sacrifices instrumental music electing only vocal music instead. An instrument is a thing, a mere object, while the divine spirit breathes through the voice. Therefore it’s important to emphasize that this sacrifice is made by a character that represents music itself because it accentuates the acquisition of a higher awareness, despite music has a privileged position in the system of arts, or more precisely, within a total conception of the cosmos. Another clarification concerns the Christian-religious content of this painting. It is explained through the laic and aesthetic spirit that distinguishes Schopenhauer: Cecilia’s gaze towards the sky is the expression of her not giving up to the tension caused by the will. This shows the wisdom that characterizes a saint. Therefore, even though this painting depicts a precise character and a particular historical fact that have been interpreted by Raffaello’s point of view, it evokes something universal: holy essence, which is that common and identical element that manifests and represents different forms of sanctity. The depiction’s style may be distinct and particular, but the identical and the universal make sanctity what it is. Therefore, respect to this question, we believe that the schopenhauerian and the nietzschean conception of art can intertwine and take on one of the many meanings that art has. Moving on with other schopenhauerian references (that can be found in the third book of The World as Will and Representation), such as The Holy Night by Coreggio, The Choice of Hercules and The Genius of Fame by A. Carracci and The Hours by Poussin are other examples where the relationship between the particular and the universal is revealed. (Furthermore, these are beautiful paintings, but because of their allegorical meaning: according to the philosopher, the nominal meaning does not have to be too distant from the real one). It’s the same for Reni’s The Massacre of the Innocents and the Laocoon, to which Schopenhauer adds that the characters are not screaming because the voiced element is unrelated to the arts of sculpting and painting therefore a mere representation would have been ridiculous. Once again, even in still life, in which the Flemish excel, Schopenhauer believes that a universal essence is communicated, that of the will that is immediately objectified in the plant world. Now, moving away from the examples given from Schopenhauer, it seems that the connection between the particular and the universal may rekindle anywhere in the unlimited artistic world, from the classic works of art to the contemporary ones. Greek temples are still admired today, not because all tourists are history enthusiasts or polytheistic, but because the main idea of that architectural structure endures over time: holiness. A concept that has been altered over in time by various ornaments, but that has never changed its essence. Churches symbolize the same thing: they are places of worship. They are spaces of devotion related to different religions, built in various ways, with varied colours and different materials. Yet, something common is revealed through this diversity. Even though «God is dead», his idea endures. Sculptures, from Bernini’s to Rodin’s, suggest something intersubjective through the artist’s subjective perception. Apollo and Daphne are not just a mythological representation, neither Le penseur nor Le baiser are confined in the dantesque universe. The magnificent and dramatic use of light by Caravaggio transcends the particular representations to show, through them, the chiaroscuro which life is. Van Gogh’s Potato eaters are tired, hungry, Dutch farmers that feed off tubers that they themselves cultivated through hard work. Van Gogh depicts a precise type of poverty, accentuated by the strong features of the faces, of the hands and by the presence of only one source of light. Through this painting his personal view of sacrifice and sufferance is expressed, while, at the same time, is expressed something about the universal nature of suffering. Centuries have passed since the first tragic performance, emotions such as shame, revenge and love have changed in some aspects, nonetheless their essence remains the same. As a matter of fact, these performances still take place today and not only for cultural reasons. The reason is that tragedies still have something to tell and they always will, because they illustrate intersubjective issues through the subjective. We listen to songs from a different language, unknown sacred songs, and yet the sounds communicate something comprehensible, because it is universal. The expressions of rejoice, of pain, of hope varies from man to man, from different cultures and yet are able to communicate something identical through these differences. The way a landscape is seen, the interpretation of how a face reacts can change according to the different perceptions of a single event, and through these differences new particular representations of the universal are born. So, agreed that, for us, art is a statement, an exaltation, completion and perfection of life, as Nietzsche explains, and in this meaning there are no points of contacts with Schopenhauer (even if he maybe didn’t see that the consolation is permanent and probably for this reason a really distance is not possible), we think all kinds of art are artists’ affects, through which we can catch a glimpse of life. The artist shows himself but, at the same time, he tells us something about the multilateral essence of life. It is because of this aspect that we think that Schopenhauer’s and Nietzsche’s idea of art are not irreconcilable. On the contrary, together they say something about what art and life are.
Copyright © 2017 Fiorella Giaculli
Fiorella Giaculli. «Traces about a role of art in life, analysing Schopenhauer and Nietzsche’s aesthetics. ». Dialegesthai. Rivista telematica di filosofia [in linea], anno 19 (2017) [inserito il 30 giugno 2017], disponibile su World Wide Web: <https://mondodomani.org/dialegesthai/>, [72 KB], ISSN 1128-5478.
Cf. Plato (2007) X book, 596a-597f. There is the example of the bed, which can help to understand the different degrees. We have to think about the bed present in the phýsis, as eîdos, then there is the bed made by the artisan, which is an imitation of the bed in itself; finally there is the bed painted by the artist which is an imitation, a reproduction of the phainómenon, and not of the eîdos.
Cf. Plato (1956) 250e-257b Besides, even if Plato disapproves tragedy because of the irrational elements in which spectators identify themselves, so they "coincide" to something negative, he has a different conception about poetry, a certain kind of it, as we can still read in Phaedrus. There is a difference between poetry such as an ability, as a good composition that respects some rules, and poetry as the result of a divine inspiration, precisely divine madness (265b).
«Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also and Dythirambic poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in most of their general conception modes of imitation. They differ, however, from one another in three respects, - the medium, the objects, the manner or mode of imitation, being in each case distinct.» (1147a) «The poet and the historian differ not by writing in verse or in prose. The true difference is that one relates what has happened and, the other what may happen. Poetry therefore is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular. …» (1451b) in Aristotle (1922 pp. 7 and 35)
Nietzsche (2008) aphorism 370 What is romanticism? P.234. In the same aphorism, art is considered as something that can alleviate, placate, mitigate. In fact, he says, «Every art, every philosophy can be considered a cure and aid in the service of growing, struggling life. They always presuppose suffering and sufferers.» This concept is also present, for example, in Nietzsche’s (2005) aphorism 148, Poets as alleviators of life, p. 81: «Insofar as they want to alleviate the life of men, poets either turn their eyes away from the toilsome present or they procure for the present new colours trough a light which they direct upon it from the past
This universality is related not only to the universal essence that it represents, but also to the feelings that it communicates: «Therefore music does not express this or that particular and definite pleasure, this or that affliction, pain, sorrow, horror, gaiety, merriment or peace of mind, but joy, pain, sorrow, horror, gaiety, merriment, peace of mind themselves.» Ibidem, p. 261. This idea, we will see (cf, infra p. 15) is completely different from (mature) Nietzsche’s one.
About this concept (but also to analyse Schopenhauer’s considerations on music, musicians and the instruments he played) cf. Piana (2005) Instead, to examine the same aspects, in Nietzsche philosophy, cf. Liébert (2004)
Indeed we can read: «Thus, in an eccentric sense, one could apply to Apollo what Schopenhauer says about human beings trapped in the veil of Maya: Just as the boatman sits in his small boat, trusting his frail craft in a stormy sea that is boundless in every direction, rising and falling with the howling, mountainous waves, so in the midst of a world full of suffering and misery the individual man, calmly sits, supported by and trusting in the principium individuationis …26 (World as Will and Representation, I, p. 416) … In the same passage Schopenhauer has described for us the enormous horror which seizes people when they suddenly become confused and lose faith in the cognitive forms of the phenomenal world because the principle of sufficient reason, in one or other of its modes, appears to sustain an exception. If we add to this horror the blissful ecstasy which arises from the innermost ground of man, indeed of nature itself, whenever this breakdown of the principium individuationis occurs, we catch a glimpse of the essence of the Dionysiac, which is best conveyed by the analogy of intoxication. Not only is the bond between human beings renewed by the magic of the Dionysiac, but nature, alienated, inimical, or subjugated, celebrates once more her festival of reconciliation with her lost son, humankind. Freely the earth offers up her gifts, and the beasts of prey from mountain and desert approach in peace. The chariot of Dionysus is laden with flowers and wreaths; beneath its yoke stride panther and tiger.» Nietzsche (2007) pp. 16-17 – Of course, Apollo evokes the Vorstellung and Dyonisus evokes the Wille. -
Cf. Nietzsche (2006) The problem of Socrates, 2, p. 162 :« … Judgments, value judgments on life, for or against, can ultimately never be true: they have value only as symptoms, they can be taken seriously only as symptoms, - in themselves judgments like these are stupidities. You really have to stretch out your fingers and make a concerted attempt to grasp this amazing piece of subtlety, that the value of life cannot be estimated ….» Cf. also Nietzsche (2008)aphorism 121, Life is not an argument, p. 117 : «We have arranged for ourselves a world in which we are able to live – by positing bodies, lines, planes, causes and effects, motion and rest, form and content; without this articles of faith no one could endure living! But that does not prove them. Life is not an argument, the conditions of life might include errors.»
- Young too underlines that Schopenhauer is not «a collection of writings, but rather a 'living man', because, of course, only the living man can provide a 'model for life'.» Young (2010) p. 196. - Anyway, let us read an iconic passage in which the enthusiasm to Schopenhauer shines: « I am one of those readers of Schopenhauer who when they have read one page of him know for certain they will go on to read all the pages and will pay heed to every word he ever said. I trusted him at once and my trust is the same now as it was nine years ago. Though this is a foolish and immodest way of putting it, I understand him as though it were for me he had written. Thus it is that I have never discovered any paradox in him, though here and there a Iittle error; for what are paradoxes but assertions which carry no conviction because their author himself is not really convinced of them and makes them only so as to glitter and seduce and in general cut a figure. Schopenhauer never wants to cut a figure: for he writes for himself and no one wants to be deceived, least of all a philosopher who has made it a rule for himself: deceive no one, not even yourself! … I am describing nothing but the first, as it were physiological, impression Schopenhauer produced upon me, that magical outpouring of the inner strength of one natural creature on to another that follows the first and most fleeting encounter; and when I subsequently analyse that impression I discover it to be compounded of three elements, the elements of his honesty, his cheerfulness and his steadfastness». Nietzsche (1979) pp. 133, 136.
About music, another figure that influenced Nietzsche’s thought in relation to it, and from which he took distance later on, is Richard Wagner. It is a relation that needs another essay for its complexity and implications. We can just say something to outline the main prerogatives of that encounter. First of all, as Safranski explains, «Nietzsche became a Wagnerian because he saw Wagner’s music drama as a return to the Dionysian and a means to grant him access to the elementary strata of life. His philosophy of music in reference to Wagner was the attempt to understand the musical world of sound as the revelation of an inscrutable human truth.» Safranski (2003) p. 101. Furthermore, in Richard Wagner in Bayreuth Nietzsche exalts the musician as a «ditirambic dramaturg», «the greatest miniaturist» (even if there already are some motives of the successive distance, such as Wagner’s Christianity and Germanism). He writes that with him «the tragic idea has again been born into the world.» Nietzsche (1997 p. 213.) Besides, «Of Wagner the musician, it can be said in general that he has bestowed a language upon everything in nature which has hitherto not wanted to speak. … If the philosopher says it is one will which in animate and inanimate nature thirst for existence, the musician adds: and this will wants at every stage an existence in sound.» Ibidem, p. 240. -The philosopher is, of course, Schopenhauer. - Many years later, Nietzsche would have associate them for a negative aspect, their common idea of art as a way to escape from life. Indeed, we can read: «Every art, every philosophy may be regarded as a medicine and helping expedient of advancing or decaying life: they always presuppose suffering and sufferers. But there are two kinds of sufferers : on the one hand those suffering from the superabundance of life, who want a Dionysian art and similarly a tragic insight and prospect with regard to life, and on the other hand those suffering from the impoverishment of life, who desire repose, stillness, smooth sea, or else ecstasy, convulsion, intoxication furnished by art and philosophy. The revenge on life itself the most voluptuous kind of ecstasy for such impoverished ones!… To the double requirement of the latter Wagner just like Schopenhauer corresponds they both deny life, they calumniate it; they are thereby my antipodes.» Nietzsche (1899, pp. 74-75). In addition to this divergence, we have to bear in mind the terrible impact that Nietzsche had about Bayreuth, in an extended meaning. Safranski remembers that Nietzsche was «horrified, annoyed and even nauseated». Besides, in the aphorism How I got free from Wagner (Ibidem, p. 82), he explains that in the period of the festival, his heart had taken farewell of Wagner, since: «he had condescended step by step to everything that I despise, even to Anti-Semitism…». For space and thematic reasons, we have shown only the main traits of the relation between the philosopher and the musician. So, to examine in depth their relation, cf. Safranski (2003) chapter 4, Redemption through Art.
Cf. 24 L’art pour l’art, in Nietzsche (2006). The aphorism 22, ibidem, is emblematic as well for the divergences with his educator: «I take a single case. Schopenhauer speaks of beauty with a melancholy fervor. Why? Because he sees in it a bridge on which one will go farther, or develop a thirst to go farther. Beauty is for him a momentary redemption from the "will" — a lure to eternal redemption. Particularly, he praises beauty as the redeemer from "the focal point of the will," from sexuality — in beauty he sees the negation of the drive toward procreation. Queer saint! Somebody seems to be contradicting you; I fear it is nature. To what end is there any such thing as beauty in tone, color, fragrance, or rhythmic movement in nature? What is it that beauty evokes? Fortunately, a philosopher contradicts him too. No lesser authority than that of the divine Plato (so Schopenhauer himself calls him) maintains a different proposition: that all beauty incites procreation, that just this is the proprium of its effect, from the most sensual up to the most spiritual.»
Another acceptation of nihilism is greatly expressed by the famous aphorism in which Nietzsche announces «God’s death». The number 125, in the fourth book of The gay science. It’s impossible to resume, in few lines, the meaning of that consideration, its preconditions and consequences. For this reason we just prefer to say that its meaning is the death of all values, the loss of beliefs (religious, political, scientific). Nietzsche will say, in posthumous notes, «the lost of value of all values». Nihilism is also the consideration that there is no meaning, no truth, there is no «final cause». Regarding this topic, cf. Heidegger (1994) he interprets nihilism not only as an historic event but, most of all, as an ontological and metaphysical question. Nihilism is, as a matter of fact, in primis, the natural consequence of metaphysics, because the eimì subtracts to a real comprehension.
Paradigmatic are some aphorisms in The gay science, for example 109, 110, 111, 112 where Nietzsche underlines man’s necessity to create conventions for life, but the error is that he uses human inventions, he puts human considerations, instruments etc. where there is nothing "human". Cf. also Nietzsche (2010) where the philosopher describes language too, concepts over all, as a human need and construction.
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