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In the sense of this last ominous question we must how discuss how the influence of Socrates has spread out over later worlds, right up to the present and even into all future ages, like a constantly growing shadow in the evening sun, and how that influence always makes necessary the re-creation of art (I mean art in its most profound and widest metaphysical sense) and through its own immortality guarantees the immortality of art. For this fact to be acknowledged, before it was established that all art inherently depended on the Greeks, from Homer right up to Socrates, we had to deal with these Greeks as the Athenians dealt with Socrates. Almost every age and cultural stage has at some time or another sought in an ill-tempered frame of mind to free itself of the Greeks, because in comparison with the Greeks, all their achievements, apparently fully original and admired in all sincerity, suddenly appeared to lose their colour and life and were reduced to unsuccessful copies, even caricatures.
And so a heartfelt inner anger constantly kept breaking out against that arrogant little nation which dared throughout time to define everything that was not produced in its own country as »barbaric« Who were these Greeks, people asked themselves, who had achieved only an ephemeral historical glitter, only ridiculously restricted institutions, only an ambiguous competence in morality, who could even be identified with hateful vices, yet who had nevertheless taken a pre-eminent place among nations for their value and special importance, something fitted for a genius among the masses? Unfortunately people were not lucky enough to find the cup of hemlock which can do away with such a being, for all the poisons they created—envy, slander, and inner anger—were insufficient to destroy that self-satisfied magnificence.
Hence, confronted by the Greeks, people have been ashamed and afraid. It seems that an individual who values the truth above everything else might dare to propose as true the notion that the Greeks drive the chariot of our culture and every other one, but that almost always the wagon and the horses are inferior material and cannot match the glory of their drivers, who then consider it funny to whip such a team into the abyss, over which they themselves jump with a leap worthy of Achilles.
To demonstrate that Socrates also merits such a place among the drivers of the chariot, it is sufficient to recognize him as typifying a form of existence inconceivable before him, the type known as Theoretical Man. Our next task is to reach some insight about the meaning and purpose of such a man. The theoretical man, like the artist, takes an infinite satisfaction in the present and is, like the artist, protected by that satisfaction from the practical effects of pessimism with its lynx eyes which glow only in the darkness. But while the artist, in his revelation of the truth, always keeps his enchanted gaze hanging on what still remains hidden after his revelation, theoretical man enjoys and remains satisfied with the covers which have been thrown off and takes his greatest delight in the process of continually successful unveiling, a success which his own power has brought about.
There would be no scientific knowledge if it concerned itself only with that one naked goddess and had nothing else to do. For then its disciples would have to feel like those people who want to dig a hole straight through the earth, and one among them sees that, even with the greatest lifelong effort, he is in a position to dig through only a really small piece of the immense depths, and that piece will be covered over in front of his very eyes by the work of the person next to him, so that a third person would apparently do well to select a new place for the tunneling efforts he undertakes on his own initiative.
Now, if one person convincingly demonstrates that it is impossible to reach the antipodes by this direct route, who will want to continue to work on in the old depths, unless there was a possibility in the meantime that he would be happy finding some valuable rock or discovering some natural law? For that reason, Lessing, the most noble theoretical man, dared to state that for him the search for the truth counted for more than truth itself. That statement unmasks the fundamental secret of scientific knowledge, to the astonishment, even the anger, of scientists. Now, of course, alongside this single recognition, excessively truthful and brave, stands a profound but delusive image, which first came into the world in the person of Socrates, that unshakeable faith that thinking, guided by the idea of causality, might reach into the deepest abyss of being, and that thinking is capable of, not just understanding being, but even correcting it. This lofty metaphysical delusion is inherent in scientific research and leads it over and over again to its limits, at which point it must turn itself into art, something which is really predictable in this mechanical process.
With the torch of this idea, let's look at Socrates. To us he appears as the first person who was capable not only of living under the guidance of this scientific instinct, but also of dying under it (something much more difficult). Therefore the picture of the dying Socrates as a man raised above fear of death by knowledge and reason is the emblazoned shield hanging over the entranceway to scientific research, reminding every individual of his purpose, namely, to make existence intelligible and thus apparently justified. Of course, when reasoning cannot succeed in this endeavour, myth must finally serve, something which I have just noted as the necessary consequence, indeed, even the purpose of, science.
Anyone who clearly sees how, after Socrates, that mystagogue of knowledge, one philosophical school after another, like wave after wave, arose in turn, and how an unimaginable universal greed for knowledge through the full extent of the educated world steered knowledge around on the high seas as the essential task for every person of greater capabilities, a greed which it has been impossible since then completely to expel from scientific knowledge, and how through this universal greed a common net of thinking was cast over the entire earth for the first time (with even glimpses of the rule-bound workings of an entire solar system)—whoever reminds himself of all this, together with that astonishingly high pyramid of contemporary knowledge, cannnot deny that in Socrates we see a turning point and vortex of so-called world history.
Imagine for a moment the following scenario: if the incalculable sum of all the energy which has been used in pursuit of this world project is spent not in the service of knowledge but on the practical (i.e., egotistical) aims of individuals and peoples, then in all probability the instinctive delight in living would be so weakened in universal wars of destruction and continuing migrations of people that, with suicide being a common occurrence, the individual, perhaps out of a sense of duty, would have to see death as a final rest and, like the inhabitants of the Fiji Islands, the son would strangle his parents, the friend would strangle his friend. A practical pessimism, which could give rise to a dreadful ethic of mass murder out of sympathy, such a belief is present and was present all over the world, wherever art did not appear in some form or other, especially in religion and science, as a remedy and a defense against that pestilence.
With respect to this practical pessimism, Socrates is the original picture of the theoretical optimist, who in the belief (which I have described) that we could discover the nature of things conferred upon knowing and discovering the power of a universal medicine and understood evil-in-itself as error. To push forward with that reasoning and to separate true knowledge from appearance and error seem to the Socratic man to be the noblest, even the single truly human vocation, just as that mechanism of ideas, judgments, and conclusions has been valued, from Socrates on, as the highest activity and the most most admirable gift of nature, above all other faculties. Even the noblest moral deeds, the sympathetic emotions, self-sacrifice, heroism and that calmness in the soul (so difficult to attain), which the Apollonian Greeks called sophrosyne—all these were derived by Socrates and his like-minded descendants right up to the present from the dialectic of knowledge and therefore described as teachable.
Whoever has experienced the delight of a Socratic discovery and feels how this, in ever-widening rings, seeks to enclose the entire world of phenomena, will experience no spur capable of pushing him into existence more intense than the desire to complete that conquest and to weave a solid impenetrable net. To a man so minded, the Platonic Socrates appears as the teacher of an entirely new form of »Greek serenity« and of a blissful existence which seeks to discharge itself in actions. And these actions will consist, for the most part, like those of a mid-wife, of things concerned with the education of noble disciples, in order to produce an endless supply of geniuses.
But now science, incited by its powerful delusion, speeds on inexorably right to its limits, at which point the optimism hidden in the essence of logic fails. For the circumference of the circle of science has an infinity of points, and while it is still impossible to see how that circumference could ever be completely measured, nevertheless the noble, talented man, before the middle of his life, inevitably comes up against some border point on that circumference, where he stares at something which cannot be illuminated. When, at this point, he sees to his horror how logic turns around on itself and finally bites its own tail, then a new form of knowledge breaks through, the acknowledgement of the tragic, which in order merely to be endured, requires art as a protector and healer.
If we look at the loftiest realms of the world streaming around us, our eyes strengthened and refreshed by the Greeks, we become aware of that greed of insatiably optimistic knowledge (which Socrates previews for us) turning into tragic resignation and a need for art, even if it's true that this same greed, in its lower levels, must express itself as hostile to art and must especially loathe Dionysian tragic art, as I have already explained in the example of the conflict between Aeschylean tragedy and Socratic doctrine.
Here we are now knocking, with turbulent feelings, on the door of the present and future: Will that transformation lead to continuously new configurations of genius and straight to the music-playing Socrates? Will that wide net of art, whether in the name of religion or of science, fly over existence always more tightly and delicately, or is it determined that it will be ripped to shreds by the restless barbaric impulses and hurly-burly which we now call »the present.« We are standing here on the sidelines as lookers on, worried but not without hope, for we are being permitted to witness that immense struggle and transition. Ah, but there is a magic spell in these battles: whoever looks at them must also fight them!
By setting out this historical example, we have attempted to clarify how tragedy surely dies away with the disappearance of the spirit of music, since tragedy can arise only out of this spirit. To mitigate the strangeness of this claim and, on the other hand, to indicate the origin of this idea of ours, we must now openly face up to analogous phenomena of the present time. We must stride right into the midst of those battles which, as I have just said, are being waged in the loftiest spheres of our present world between the insatiably optimistic desire to know and the artistic need for tragedy.
In this discussion, I shall omit all the other opposing drives which have in every age worked against art (especially against tragedy) and which at present have taken hold to such an extent that, for example, in the art of the theatre, only farces and ballets achieve a fairly rich profit with their fragrant blooms, which are perhaps not for everyone. I shall speak only of the most illustrious opposition to the tragic world view: by that I mean research scholarship, optimistic to the core of its being, with its father Socrates perched on the pinnacle. Shortly I shall also indicate by name the forces which seem to me to guarantee a new birth of tragedy and who knows what other blessed hopes for the German character!
Before we leap into the middle of this battle, let us wrap ourselves in the armour of the knowledge we seized upon earlier. In opposition to all those eager to derive art from a single principle as the necessary living origin of every work of art, I keep my eyes fixed on both those artistic divinities of the Greeks, Apollo and Dionysus, and recognize in them the living and clear representatives of two art worlds, very different in their deepest being and their highest goals. Apollo stands before me as the transfigured genius of the principium individuationis [the individualizing principle], through which release is only to be truly attained in illusion. However, under the mystical joyous cries of Dionysus, the spell of individuation shatters and the way lies open to the maternal source of being, to the innermost core of things.
This tremendous difference, which opens up a yawning gap between plastic art as Apollonian and music as Dionysian art became more or less obvious to only one great thinker, when he, without any prompting from the symbolism of the Greek gods, recognized the different character of music and the origin of all other arts from it, because music is not, like all the others art forms, images of appearances, but an immediate reflection of the will itself, and also because it presents itself as the metaphysical counterpart to all physical things in the world, the thing-in-itself as counterpart to all appearances (Schopenhauer, World as Will and Idea, I, p. 310).
On the basis of this most significant way of understanding all aesthetics, which, taken seriously, marks the first beginning of aesthetics, Richard Wagner, to confirm its lasting truth, set his stamp, when he established in his Beethoven that music must be assessed on aesthetic principles entirely different from those for all fine arts and not at all according to the category of beauty, although an erroneous aesthetics, in the service of a misleading and degenerate art, has become accustomed to the idea of beauty asserting itself in the world of images and to demand from music an effect similar to the effect of plastic arts, namely, the arousal of satisfaction in beautiful forms.
After my recognition of that tremendous opposition, I sensed in myself a strong urge to approach the essence of Greek tragedy and, in so doing, the deepest insight into the Hellenic genius. Now for the first time I believed I was capable of the magical task of posing the basic problem of tragedy in my own mind, over and above the jargon of our customary aesthetics. Through that, such an strange idiosyncratic glimpse into the Hellenic was granted to me that it had to appear to me as if our classical-Hellenistic scholarship (which is so proud of itself) had up to this point known, for the most part, only how to gloat over games with shadows and trivialities.
We may be able perhaps to touch on this original problem with the following question: What aesthetic effect arises when those separate powers of art, the Apollonian and the Dionysian, come to operate alongside each other? Or, put more briefly, what is the relationship between music and images and ideas? Richard Wagner applauded Schopenhauer on this very point for the restrained clarity and perceptiveness of his explanation. Schopenhauer spoke his views on this matter in the greatest detail in the following place (which I will quote again here in full, from World as Will and Idea, I, p. 309):
As a result of all this, we can look upon the world of appearance, or nature, and music as two different expressions of the same thing, which itself is thus the only analogy mediating between the two of them. Thus, an understanding of this thing is required in order to have insight into that analogy. Consequently, music, when considered as an expression of the world, is universal to the highest degree, something which even has a relationship with the universality of ideas, rather like the way these are related to particular things. Its universality is, however, in no way the empty universality of abstractions, but something of an entirely different kind, bound up with a thoroughly clear certainty. In this, music is like geometric figures and numbers, which are the universal forms of all possible objects of experience and applicable to them all a priori [before experience], although they are not abstract but vivid and always fixed.
All possible efforts, excitements, and expressions of the will, all those processes inside human beings, which reason subsumes under the broad negative concept of feelings, are there to express through the infinite number of possible melodies, but always in the universality of mere form, without matter, always only according to the thing-in-itself, not according to its appearance, like its innermost soul, without the body.
From these inner relationships which music has with the true essence of all things, we can also account for the fact that when an appropriate music is heard in any scene, business, action, or environment, this music appears to open up to us the most secret sense of these things, and seems to come forward as the most correct and clearest commentary on them. In the same way, for the man who surrenders himself entirely to the experience of a symphony it appears as if he saw all the possible events of life and the world drawn over into himself. Nevertheless, he cannot, if he thinks about it, perceive any similarity between that game of sounds and the things which come into his mind.
For music is, as mentioned, different from all other arts, in that it is not a portrayal of appearances, or more correctly, the adequate objectification of the will, but the unmediated portrayal of the will itself, as well as the metaphysical complement of all physical things in the world, presenting the thing-in-itself as complement to all appearances. We could, therefore, call the world the embodiment of music just as much as the embodiment of the will. And that's why it is understandable that music is capable of bringing out every painting, even every scene of real life and the world, with an immediate and higher significance and, of course, to do that all the more, the closer the analogy of its melody to the inner spirit of the given phenomenon. On this point we base the fact that we can set a poem to music as a song or as a vivid presentation in pantomime or as both in an opera. Such individual pictures of men's lives, given a foundation in the universal speech of music, are not bound to music and do not correspond with music by a compelling necessity, but they stand in relation to music as a random example to a universal idea. They present in the clarity of the real the very thing which music expresses in the universality of mere form.
For melodies are, to a certain extent, like general ideas, an abstraction from the real. For reality, the world of separate things, supplies clear phenomena, remarkable and individual things, the single case, to both the universality of ideas and the universality of melodies. Both of these universals, however, are, from a certain point of view, contrary, since ideas consist only of forms abstracted first from perception, rather like the stripped away outer skin of things, and are thus really and entirely abstractions.; whereas, music, by contrast, gives the heart of the thing, the innermost core, which comes before all particular shapes. This relationship is easily expressed properly in the language of the scholastics: ideas are the universalia post rem (universals after the fact); music, however, gives the universalia ante rem (universals before the fact), and reality the universalia in re (universals in the fact).
The fact that in general there can be a connection between a musical composition and a perceptible presentation rests on the point that, as stated, both are only very different expressions of same inner essence of the world. Now, when in a particular case such a connection is truly present and the composer has known how to express in the universal language of music the dynamics of the will, which constitutes the core of the event, then the melody of the song, the music of the opera, is full of expression. The composer's discovery of the analogy between both must, however, issue from the immediate realization of the world essence, unknown to his reason, and must not be an imitation, conveyed in ideas with conscious intentionality. Otherwise the music does not express the inner essence, that is, the will itself, but only imitates inadequately its appearance."
Following what Schopenhauer has taught, we also understand music as the language of the unmediated will and feel our imaginations stirred to shape that spirit world which speaks to us invisibly and nonetheless in such a vital manner and to embody it in ourselves through a metaphorical illustration. By contrast, image and idea, under the influence of a truly appropriate music, reach an elevated significance. Thus, Dionysian art customarily works in two ways on Apollonian artistic potential: music arouses us to consider an image, in some way similar to the Dionysian universality, and music then permits that image to come forward with the highest significance.
From this intelligible observation and without any deeper considerations of unapproachable things, I conclude that music is capable of generating myth (that is the most meaningful example) and, indeed, of giving birth to the tragic myth, that myth which speaks of the recognition of the Dionysian among the Greeks. I have explained the phenomenon of the lyric poet, and after that how music in the lyric poet strives to make known its essence in Apollonian pictures. Let us now imagine that music at its highest intensity also must seek to reach its highest representation. Thus, we must consider it possible that music also knows how to find the symbolic expression for its essentially Dionysian wisdom. And where else will we have to look for this expression, if not in tragedy and in the idea of tragedy generally?
From the essence of art as it is commonly understood according to the single categories of illusion and beauty it is genuinely impossible to derive the tragic. Only with reference to the spirit of music do we understand a joy in the destruction of the individual. Now, individual examples of such a destruction makes clear the eternal phenomenon of Dionysian art, which brings into expression the will in its omnipotence out from behind, so to speak, the principium individuationis, the life beyond all appearances and eternal life, in spite of all destruction.
The metaphysical joy in the tragic is a translation of the instinctive unconscious Dionysian wisdom into the language of the image. The hero, the highest manifestation of the will, is destroyed, and we are happy at that, because, after all, he is only an illusion, and the eternal life of the will is not disturbed by his destruction. »We believe in eternal life,« so tragedy calls out, while the music is the unmediated idea of this life. The work of the plastic artist has an entirely purpose: Here Apollo overcomes the suffering of the individual through the bright exaltation in the eternity of the illusion. Here beauty is victorious over the suffering inherent in life. The pain is, in a certain sense, brushed away from the face of nature. In Dionysian art and in its tragic symbolism this same nature speaks to us with its true, undisguised voice: »Be as I am! Under the incessantly changing phenomena the eternal primordial mother, always forcing things into existence, always satisfied with the changing nature of appearances!«
Dionysian art also wants to convince us of the eternal delight in existence. But we must seek this delight, not in appearances, but behind them. We must recognize how everything which comes into being must be ready for a painful destruction. We are forced to gaze directly into the terror of individual existence but, in the process, must not become paralyzed. A metaphysical consolation tears us momentarily out of the hustle and bustle of changing forms. For a short time we really are the primordial essence itself and feel its unbridled lust for and joy in existence. The struggle, torment, and destruction of appearances we now consider necessary, on account of the excess of countless forms of existence forcefully thrusting themselves into life, and of the exuberant fecundity of the world's will. We are transfixed by the raging barbs of this torment in the very moment when we become, as it were, one with the immeasurable primordial delight in existence and when we sense the indestructible and eternal nature of this Dionysian joy. In spite of fear and compassion, we are fortunate vital beings, not as individuals, but as the one force of Life, with whose procreative joy we have been fused.
The story of how Greek tragedy arose tells us now with clear certainty how the Greeks' tragic work of art really was born out of the spirit of music. With this idea we think we have, for the first time, reached a true understanding of the original and astonishing meaning of the chorus. At the same time, however, we must concede that the significance of the tragic myth explained previously, to say nothing of Greek philosophy, was never entirely clear to the Greek poets. Their heroes speak to a certain extent more superficially than they act, and the myth does not really find its adequate objectification in the spoken word.
The structure of the scenes and the vivid images reveal a deeper wisdom than the poet himself can grasp in words and ideas. We can make the same observation about Shakespeare, whose Hamlet, for example, similarly speaks in a more superficial manner than he acts, so that we derive the above mentioned study of Hamlet, not from the words, but from the deepest view and review of the totality of the work. With respect to Greek tragedy, which, of course, comes to us only as a drama of words, I have even suggested that that incongruity between myth and word can easily seduce us into considering it shallower and more empty of meaning than it is, and thus to assume a more superficial action than it must have had according to the testimony of the ancients. For we easily forget that what the poet as a wordsmith could not achieve, the attainment of the highest intellectualization and idealization of myth, he could achieve successfully at any time as a creating musician.
Admittedly through scholarship we must recreate the extraordinary power of the musical effects in order to receive something of that incomparable consolation necessarily characteristic of true tragedy. But we would experience this extraordinary musical power for what it is only if we were Greeks, because considering the entire development of Greek music, which is well known, quite familiar to us, and infinitely richer by comparison, we believe we are hearing only youthful songs, sung with only a timid sense of their power. The Greeks are, as the Egyptian priests say, eternal children, and where tragic art is concerned, only children who do not know what an exalted toy has arisen under their hands, something which will be destroyed.
Every struggle of the spirit of music for pictorial and mythic revelation, which becomes increasingly intense from the beginning of the lyric right up to Attic tragedy, suddenly breaks apart, right after developing in full luxuriant bloom, and, so to speak, disappears from the surface of Hellenic art, although the Dionysian world view born out of this struggle lives on in the mysteries and in its most amazing transformations and degeneration never stops attracting serious natures to it. Isn't it possible that it will rise from its mystical depths as art once more?
At this point we are concerned with the question whether the power whose hostile effects broke tragedy has sufficient power for all time to hinder the artistic re-growth of tragedy and the tragic world view. If the old tragedy was derailed by the dialectical drive for knowledge and by the optimism of scholarly research, we might have to infer from this fact an eternal struggle between the theoretical and the tragic world views. And only after the spirit of knowledge is taken right to its limits and its claim to universal validity destroyed by the establishment of that limit would it be possible to hope for a re-birth of tragedy. For a symbol of such a cultural form, we would have to set up Socrates the player of music, in the sense talked about earlier. By this opposition I understand with respect to the spirit of scholarly research the belief (which first came to light in the person of Socrates) that our understanding of nature can be grounded and that knowledge has a universal healing power.
Whoever remembers the most immediate consequences of this restless forward driving spirit of scientific knowledge will immediately recall how it destroyed myth and how through this destruction poetry was driven out of its naturally ideal soil as something from now on without a home. If we have correctly ascribed to music the power to bring about out of itself a re-birth of myth, then we will have to seek out the spirit of science on that very path where it has its hostile encounter with the myth-creating power of music. This occurred in the development of the new Attic dithyramb, whose music no longer expressed the inner essence, the will itself, but only gave back an inadequate appearance in an imitation delivered through ideas. From such innerly degenerate music those with a true musical nature turned away with the same aversion which they had displayed before the art-killing tendency of Socrates.
The instinct of Aristophanes (which grasped issues so surely) was certainly right when he linked together Socrates himself, the tragedies of Euripides, and the music of the new writers of dithyrambs, hating each of them and smelling in all three of them the characteristics of a degenerate culture. Through that new dithyramb, music is criminally turned into a mimetic demonstration of appearances, for example, a battle or storm at sea, and in the process is totally robbed of all its power to create myths. For when music seeks only to arouse our indulgence by compelling us to find external analogies between an event in life or nature and certain rhythmic figures and characteristic musical sounds, when our understanding is supposed to be satisfied with the recognition of these analogies, then we are dragged down into a mood in which a conception of the mythic is impossible. For myth must be vividly felt as a single instance of universality and truth staring into the infinite.
Truly Dionysian music works on us as a universal mirror reflecting the will of the world. Each vivid event reflected in this mirror widens out at once for our feelings into the image of an eternal truth. By contrast, the sound painting of the new dithyramb immediately strips such a vivid event of its mythic character. Now the music has become a feeble copy of a phenomenon and, in the process, infinitely poorer than the phenomenon itself. Through this impoverishment the phenomenon itself is even lowered in our feelings, so that now, for example, a battle imitated in this kind of music plays itself feebly out in marches, trumpet calls, and so forth, and our imagination is held back precisely by these superficialities.
Painting with music is thus in every respect the opposite to the myth creating power of true music. Through the former a phenomenon becomes more impoverished than it is, whereas through Dionysian music the individual phenomenon becomes richer and widens into an image of the world. It was a powerful victory of the non-Dionysian spirit when, in the development of the new dithyramb, it alienated music from itself and pushed it down to be the slave of appearances. Euripides, who, in a higher sense, must have had a thoroughly unmusical nature, is for this very reason an ardent supporter of the new dithyrambic music and uses all its stock effects and styles with the open-handedness of a thief.
From another perspective we see the force of this un-Dionysian spirit in action directing its effects against myth, when we turn our gaze toward the way in which the way in which the presentation of character and the psychological complexities get way out of hand in the tragedies of Sophocles. The character cannot be allowed to broaden out any more into an eternal type, but, by contrast, must appear an individual through the artistic qualifications and shading, through the most delicate clarity of every line, so that the spectator generally no longer experiences the myth but the commanding naturalism of the artist, his power of imitation.
Here also we become aware of the victory of appearances over the universal and of the delight in the particular, rather like an anatomical specimen. Already we breathe the air of a theoretical world, which values the scientific insight higher than the artistic mirror image of a universal principle. The movement along the line of increasing characterization quickly goes further. While Sophocles still paints whole characters and yokes their sophisticated development to myth, Euripides already paints only large individual character traits, which are capable of expressing themselves in violent passions. In the new Attic comedy there are masks with only one expression, reckless old men, deceived pimps, mischievous slaves in an inexhaustible repetition.
Where now has the myth-building spirit of music gone? What is left now for music is music of stimulation or memory, that is, either music as a means of stimulating jaded and worn out nerves or sound painting. As far as the first is concerned, the text is largely irrelevant. Already in Euripides, when his heroes or chorus first start to sing, things get really out of hand. What must it have been like with his unapologetic successors?
However, the new un-Dionysian spirit manifests itself with the utmost clarity in the conclusions of the new plays. In the old tragedy, the metaphysical consolation was there to feel at the conclusion. Without that, the delight in tragedy simply cannot be explained. The sound of reconciliation from another world echoes most purely perhaps in Oedipus at Colonus. But as soon as the genius of music flew away from tragedy, tragedy is, in the strong sense of the term, dead. For out of what are people now able to create that metaphysical consolation?
Consequently, people looked for an earthly solution to tragic dissonance. After the hero was sufficiently tortured by fate, he was paid a well earned reward in an impressive marriage, in divine testament to his honour. The hero became a gladiator, to whom people gave his freedom, after he had been well beaten and was covered with wounds. The deus ex machina moved in to take the place of metaphysical consolation. I will not say that the tragic world view was destroyed entirely and completely by the surging spirit of the un-Dionysian. We only know that it must have fled out of art as if into the underworld, degenerating into a secret cult.
But over the widest surface area of Hellenistic existence raged the consuming wind of that spirit which announces itself in the form of »Greek serenity,« to which I referred earlier as an impotent and unproductive delight in life. This serenity is a counterpart to the marvelous »na´vetÚ« of the old Greeks, which we must see—in accordance with its given characteristics—as the flowering of Apollonian culture, blossoming out of a dark abyss, as the victory over suffering, the wisdom of suffering, which the Hellenic will gains through its ability to mirror beauty.
The noblest form of that other form of »Greek serenity,« the Alexandrian, is the cheerfulness of the theoretical man. It manifests the same characteristic features I already derived out of the idea of the un-Dionysian: it fights against Dionysian wisdom and art; it strives to dissolve myth; it places an earthy consonance in place of a metaphysical consolation, indeed a particular deus ex machina, namely, the god of machines and crucibles, that is, the force of nature, recognized and used in the service of a higher egoism; it believes in correcting the world through knowledge, a life led by scientific knowledge, and thus is really in a position to confine the individual man in the narrowest circle of problems which can be solved, inside which he can cheerfully say to life: »I want you. You are worth being acknowledged.«