Monday, January 26, 2009

Birth of Tragedy Sections 7-15

Euripides and Socrates stand as the figures most responsible for the death of tragedy; in the eyes of Nietzsche, they stand paeans for an overly rationalizing impulse, one which would prefer to see everything in terms of logical relation, and thus would prefer to stamp out any perceived lack of clarity or discord in reasoning. This is directly in contrast to the Dionysian urge, which stands somewhat as a principle of unreason (or at least as a principle in opposition to the ideals individuation and differentiation which are important principles in the methods utilized by Socrates and Euripides). In the case of Euripides, the hostility to the Dionysian is expressed in the excessive explication which occurs in his prologues and with his excessive rationalization of the events of the stage, which included the utilization of a more naturalistic style of writing and a decreased role for the chorus. Beyond leading to New Attic comedy, the death of tragedy also represented a different trend: the pursuit of one method, the logical, as a driving impulse, one which stands somewhat as the beginning of European thought in history. As he suggests on page 97, whereas the former Greek was marked by a "practical pessimism", the Socratic Greek was a "theoretical optomist who, with his faith that the nature of things can be fathomed, ascribes to knowledge and insight the power of panacea, whild understanding the error of evil par excellence."

While this new dichotomy is clearly understood, it is difficult to determine how exactly the Socratic urge is to be understood in relation to the former categories of the Apollinian and Dionysian. Certainly, Nietzsche considers it somewhat Apollinian, but he also tends to treat the Apollinian with more respect than the Socratic. Considering his earlier description of the aspects of the Apollinian, as well as his descriptions of the rationalizing effects of the Socratic, it seems possible that he considered the Socratic to be a derivative and weaker form of the Apollinian, one which is so deluded about the nature of appearance that it cannot allow itself to confront the Dionysian and, indeed, itself, in any meaningful way. This is likely why he treats it more harshly than the Dionysian: whereas the Socratic must destroy all unreason, rationalize all that does not stand in logical relation, the Apollinian managed to reach a sort of detente with the Dionysian, to allow it to exist and even engage with it in a meaningful way. Tragedy stands as the epitome of this ability, and the tragedy of Euripides destroys this relation, banishing the Dionysian and its effects.

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