Monday, February 16, 2009

Nietzsche's Criticism

In section 370, Nietzsche asks what Romanticism is and, in doing so, contrasts it with the Dionysian. Contrasting interpretations of creative power, he describes the Dionysian as "The desire for destruction, change, and becoming... an expression of overflowing energy that is pregnant with future." The question of Nietzsche's creative destruction, of what exactly such a method entails, is answered in his own techniques of self-criticism. Nietzsche does not desire his work to be solid and static but rather, that is always change; he continually grows and continually reflects upon the work which he has done, questioning his own prior values, adding prefaces and additional chapters to work long since finished, and reimagining his own conceptions of his key terms. The is illustrated in section 370's dealing with the Dionysian where it becomes a more focused power than that imagined in The Birth of Tragedy, one which is no longer contrasted with the Apollinian but instead the Romantic; it goes from being a mad force of undoing to a penultimate creative power, one which does not renounce, but eternally says yes.

Such criticism is especially clear in Nietzsche's treatment of Schopenhauer and Wagner in section 99: here again we see Nietzsche engaging in very important self-criticism. Nietzsche is no longer quoting long passages of Shopenhauer or celebrating Wagner as the genius of the age; both are considered in their strengths and weakness and both are found wanting in certain important senses. The intellectual conscience mentioned in section 2 is obeyed and Nietzsche cannot help but move away from the individuals and thoughts that he once endorsed. This is seen especially clear in the recurring themes that occur throughout all of Nietzsche's work (Wagner and Schopenhauer, of course, but also Christianity, music, the arts, and morality).

Section 317 is very telling in this respect: reflection on past events leads us to the recognition that what was once very sure may not be in the future. Taken in relation to his own philosophy, it is a recognition of the change that has occurred in his own philosophy and the change that shall continue as long as Nietzsche remains rooted in his critical method. Continuous change and "yes-saying" is only made possible when one is in the critical mindset, that is, when one can be comfortable enough to continuously question the core beliefs that one holds. Section 106 perhaps illustrates the hope that Nietzsche has for his own thought: "For a doctrine to become a tree, it has to be believed, it has to be considered irrefutable. The tree needs storms, doubts, worms, and nastiness to reveal the nature and the strength of the seedling; let it break if it is not strong enough."

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