chapter  8
12 Pages



Friedrich Nietzsche, who was born in 1844, went mad in 1889 and died in 1900, took art more seriously, perhaps, than any other philosopher of comparable stature. All of his published works contain extended discussions of art, and if none of them is quite so explicitly devoted to it as his first book, The Birth of Tragedy (Nietzsche 1967a [1872]), this is not, as is commonly held, a sign that art lost its hold on him as his career progressed. Rather, it is a sign of the increasing depth and complexity of his aesthetics. Art became for Nietzsche a principle informing the whole of his philosophy. Relatively inconspicuous because of its very ubiquity, the aesthetic in his later works functions as the site on which Nietzsche’s extra-aesthetic concerns are contested: a site that is continually transformed in the process, and so which can be understood only through those apparently extra-aesthetic concerns that animate the surface of his thought. Thus, while the younger Nietzsche effectively rams art down the reader’s throat, most unignorably in his claim that “it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified” (Nietzsche 1967a: 52), the later Nietzsche is more elusive. In what follows, therefore, we will first examine Nietzsche’s thoughts about art through his two principal extra-aesthetic concerns – metaphysics and ethics – before attempting to reconstruct the mature aesthetic as it underpins the writings of the late 1880s.