Apollinian and Dionysian

Much will have been gained for aesthetics once we have succeeded in apprehending directly-rather than merely ascertaining-that art owes its continuous evolution to the Apollinian- Dionysian duality, even as the propagation of the species depends on the duality of the sexes, their constant conflicts and periodic acts of reconciliation. I have borrowed my adjectives from the Greeks, who developed their mystical doctrines of art through plausible embodiments, not through purely conceptual means. It is by those two art sponsoring deities, Apollo and Dionysus, that we are made to recognize the tremendous split, as regards both origins and objectives, between the plastic, Apollinian arts and the nonvisual art of music inspired by Dionysus. The two creative tendencies developed alongside one another, usually in fierce opposition, each by its taunts forcing the other to more energetic production, both perpetuating in a discordant concord that agon which the term art but feebly denominates: until at last, by the thaumaturgy of an Hellenic act of will, the pair accepted the yoke of marriage and, in this condition, begot Attic tragedy, which exhibits the salient features of both parents.

from Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, p.1, Francis Golfing transl.


To reach a closer understanding of both these tendencies, let us begin by viewing them as the separate art realms of dream and intoxication, two physiological phenomena standing toward one another in much the same relationship as the Apollinian and Dionysian.

from Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, p.1, Francis Golfing transl.


In an eccentric way one might say of Apollo what Schopenhauer says, in the first part of The World as Will and Representation [I:1, 3], of man caught in the veil of Maya: “Even as on an immense, raging sea, assailed by huge wave crests, a man sits in a little rowboat trusting his frail craft, so, amidst the furious torments of this world, the individual sits tranquilly, supported by the principium individuationis [principle of individuation] and relying on it.” [The World as Will and Representation, I:4, 63] One might say that the unshakable confidence in that principium has received its most magnificent expression in Apollo, and that Apollo himself may be regarded as the marvelous divine image of the principium individuationis, whose looks and gestures radiate the full delight, wisdom, and beauty of “illusion.”

from Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, p.1, Francis Golfing transl.


from Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy, p.23, Francis Golfing transl.


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