Dionysian Logos By Rainer J. Hanshe

[5] Even if there is a contradiction, Nietzsche radically challenges the notion of contradiction and problematizes it in his philosophy, but this still has not been sufficiently considered. One key passage regarding this can give a brief sense of how contradiction must be vigorously rethought when considering his philosophy: “Immense is the ladder on which he [Zarathustra] climbs up and down; he has seen further, willed further, achieved further than any man. He contradicts with every word, this most affirmative of all spirits; in him all opposites are fused together into a new unity” (EH: “Zarathustra” §6, emphasis added). See also, to give just a few pointed examples, D §1, GS §297, and most famously, Z: III.2 §2, where the eternities of the future and the past, two stringently opposed or contradictory things, fuse together, just as Nietzsche fuses together the opposing ‘forces’ of dark and light in the concluding poem of BGE, “Aftersong: On High Mountains.” In addition, since Nietzsche frequently reconceived and changed his views, theoretically, it is misguided to demand or expect that there be an overarching consistency to his oeuvre. But this forces us to ask, what specifically does contradiction signify in Nietzsche’s work? How do we interpret it? For two explorations of contradiction in Nietzsche’s thought, see Wolfgang Müller-Lauter, Nietzsche: His Philosophy of Contradictions and the Contradictions of His Philosophy (Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1999), and Walter H. Sokel, “On the Dionysian in Nietzsche: Monism and its Consequences,” New Literary History, Vol. 36, No. 4 (Autumn 2005): 501–520. For a slightly different and expanded version of the latter essay, see the archive essay section of the Nietzsche Circle website. For Sokel, to note one basic aspect of his essay, the seemingly contradictory positions espoused in Nietzsche’s work are actually an enactment of justice, of Nietzsche’s thinking out positions from various perspectives and giving weight to alternative views, which is emblematic of his very conception of philosophy. The following passage from Schlegel is relevant, too: “Humanity has correctly sensed that it is its eternal, necessary character to unify in itself the indissoluble contradictions, the incomprehensible enigma that emerges out of the joining together of what is eternally opposed.” See Friedrich Schlegel, On the Study of Greek Poetry (New York: SUNY Press, 2001), 25.

[6] Mexican poet Octavio Paz made a similar observation when stating that “Language, by its own inclination, tends to be rhythm. As if they were obeying a mysterious law of gravity, words return to poetry spontaneously. At the heart of all prose, more or less attenuated by the demands of discourse, circulates the invisible rhythmic current.” See Octavio Paz, The Bow and the Lyre (New York: McGraw Hill, 1973), 56–57. This passage is in the chapter “Verse and Prose.”

[7] In BT, Nietzsche speaks of the epic and the lyric poet and Socrates as emblematic of the anti-poetic (strictly logical) stance Nietzsche opposes in philosophy and life, but those types are particular to ancient Greek poetry and different from the ones here in question.

[8] This calls to mind Nietzsche’s critique of the Stoics and their desire to live according to nature: “And supposing your imperative ‘live according to nature’ meant at bottom as much as ‘live according to life’ — how could you not do that? Why make a principle of what you yourselves are and must be?” (BGE §9)

[9] And is that not the ultimate height that Nietzsche wants to reach? Consider the epigraph to the third book of Z: “Who among you can laugh and be uplifted at the same time? Whoever climbs the highest mountains laughs about all tragic plays and tragic wakes.” Perhaps this is too terrifying for most humans. Is not the comedian of the ascetic ideal, is not Hanswurst, the figura par excellence? Is not he the comic poet, or, Zarathustra?

[10] See BGE §12 for Nietzsche’s view on how a way remains open for “new versions and refinements of the soul-hypothesis; and such conceptions as ‘mortal soul,’ and ‘soul’ as subjective multiplicity, and ‘soul as social structure of the drives and affects,’ want henceforth to have citizens’ rights in science.”

[11] Envy not in its Christian, but in its ancient Greek sense, which for Nietzsche is eminently positive: “Envy spurs men to activity: not to the activity of fights of annihilation but to the activity of fights which are contests. […] Every great Hellene hands on the torch of the contest; every great virtue kindles a new greatness. […] Every talent must unfold itself in fighting: that is the command of Hellenic popular pedagogy” (HC).

[12] See Jean Claude Ameisen’s eminently fascinating book, La Sculpture du vivant. Le suicide cellulaire ou la mort créatrice (Paris: Seuil, 2003).

[13] Although Nietzsche believes that life has no inherent meaning, and there are passages in the Nachlab that concern the ability to live without meaning, he nonetheless recognizes the necessity of its role in our existence. However, as opposed to fixed or permanent meanings, such as those established metaphysically, Nietzsche implores us to recognize that all meanings are anthropomorphic, myths that we ourselves forge. And Zarathustra implies that there is a necessity for endowing one’s life with Sinne (meaning, or sense) when he says, “And verily, if there were no sense [Sinne] to life, and I had to choose nonsense, this would be for me too the most choiceworthy nonsense” (Z: I.2).

[14] In a letter to Overbeck, Nietzsche notes that it is belief in the eternal return that gives the concept its real force, not whether it is factually accurate: “If it is true, or rather: if it is believed to be true — then everything changes and spins around, and all previous values are devalued” (10.3.1884). See Karl Löwith, Nietzsche’s Philosophy of Eternal Return (California: University of California Press, 1997), 87. Having to prove the truth of the eternal return would be entirely at odds with Nietzsche’s fundamental philosophical positions, for it would be to demand ontological proof where none can be had, and where such proofs are refuted. As Nietzsche says of Christianity, and following the aphorism that announced the death of God this has a different impact, an impact Danto’s way of reading Nietzsche — haphazardly, in any order — would not, what is now decisive against Christianity “is our taste, no longer our reasons” (GS §132).

[15] For an elaboration of Nietzsche’s notion of release, which he pits over and against redemption, see Rainer J. Hanshe, “Invisibly Revolving——Inaudibly Revolving: The Riddle of the Double Gedankenstrich,” The Agonist, Vol. III, Issue 1 (spring 2010). In particular, see 21–24.

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