chapter  13
Nietzsche’s artistic revaluation
ByChristopher Janaway
Pages 17

If one were setting out to pose fundamental evaluative questions about the system of moral attitudes prevalent in contemporary culture, would it help to adopt an artistic approach? Probably there could never be a general answer to this question, even if it were perfectly clear what is meant by ‘artistic’. It would be a bold theorist who ventured that such a revaluative project, a project falling within ethics in the broadest sense, necessitated writing in the form of poem, drama or opera, or at least borrowing elements of style or rhetoric from some such art. It would be almost as bold – though, one suspects, more common among philosophers – to hold that in such a critique of moral values any artistic endeavour must always be an inessential embellishment, an attractive but discardable clothing, a mere means of presentation for what could be stated without artistic devices. Must philosophy be such that fictional representation, dramatic dialogue, unexplicated metaphor, and sheer delight in word-play are eliminable from it without loss of anything essential? Much of Plato’s work would not stand this test. Yet his writing is paradigmatically philosophical and offers a critique of the values of many of his contemporaries.