Nietzsche and Schiller: Untimely Aesthetics

By Nicholas Martin | Go to book overview

3
THE USE AND ABUSE OF HISTORY

Lebe mit deinem Jahrhundert, aber sei nicht sein Geschöpf1 Erhebet euch mit kühnem Flügel hoch über euren Zeitenlauf! Fern dämm're schon in eurem Spiegel das kommende Jahrhundert auf!2

The success of the untimely aesthetic reform programmes outlined in the Ästhetische Briefe and Die Geburt der Tragödie depends on three interconnected factors: the historical conceptions which underlie the texts, the nature of the aesthetic models they invoke, and the validity of the metaphysical and psychological claims which underpin their aesthetic theories. In this chapter we shall tackle the first of these, namely, the conceptions of historical development on which the arguments of the two texts are founded.

To Schiller and Nietzsche, the study of history does not mean primarily the study of empirical facts. The historical models and trends they work with, or posit, have more in common with the philosophy of history than with historical scholarship. After a brief attempt to characterize the 'philosophy of history', we shall then examine and compare the examples of it to be found in the Ästhetische Briefe and Die Geburt der Tragödie. This strategy requires some justification. Merely demonstrating that the two texts are examples of a philosophical use of history would be a futile exercise, unless it can also be shown that there is a closer connection. There is one, of both content and intent, which makes for worthwhile comparison. This is not the tenuous link of reception and possible influence raised in the previous chapter. There are

____________________
1
Schiller, AE IX.7.
2
Schiller, "'Die Künstler'", 466-9 ( NA i214); quoted enthusiastically by Nietzsche (the exclamation marks are his) in the peroration of s. 10 of Richard Wagner in Bayreuth ( IVi 7730 f.).

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