Nietzsche and Schiller: Untimely Aesthetics

By Nicholas Martin | Go to book overview

4
REINVENTING THE GREEKS

vos exemplaria Graeca nocturna versate manu, versate diurna.1

The detail of Schiller's and Nietzsche's respective interrogations and interpretations of the Greek past and its legacy is very different. Their underlying, motives were, however, strikingly similar. The aim of the Äthetische Briefe was twofold. First, it was to demonstrate that aesthetic experience was the defining mode of human existence, the harmonizing, catalytic moment between the physical and the moral, where the individual begins the process of restoring his wholeness. Secondly, it was to put this theory to work as a means of tackling and conquering the human problems laid bare by the French Revolution. Grounded as it was in his careful observation of the course of the Revolution, Schiller's proposal for the aesthetic education of man was intended not only to guard against precipitate political action but also to act as the driving force behind a durable reform of human hearts, which would in turn render any violent political change superfluous. Educating men's characters towards wholeness by exposing them repeatedly to aesthetic experience would a fortiori promote the integrity of social and political life. Nietzsche's purpose in Die Geburt der Tragödie was no less ambitious. It was to turn the world upside down, to return mankind (or at least Ger-mankind) to the healthily pessimistic world-view he detected in early ancient Greek culture, which was diametrically opposed to what he saw as the arrogant and utterly misplaced nineteenth-century desire not merely to explain human existence but also to change it for the better.

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1
Horace, Ars Poetica, 268-9 ('Pore over the Greek models night and day'). There is a playful allusion to this advice, with a significant twist, in Goethe 'Römische Elegien', V, 3 f. ( Goethes Werke, i. 160). The balance suggested by Goethe between feeding the mind by day and the body by night is an extreme formulation of the antitheses proposed by Nietzsche and Schiller.

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Nietzsche and Schiller: Untimely Aesthetics
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Editorial Committee i
  • Title Page iii
  • ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS v
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • I- Introduction 1
  • 3- The Use and Abuse of History 53
  • 4- Reinventing the Greeks 100
  • 5- The Aesthetic Process 152
  • 6- CONCLUSION: THE POVERTY OF AESTHETICISM? 188
  • SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY 204
  • Index 217
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