Ethical Aesthetics in Nietzsche and Schiller: Connected Duplicities


Revisiting the ethical aesthetic seems like a time-worn lecture- even the jokes have to be cited! The historical relevancy, increasingly less intriguing as society parts from old doctrines, falls on the ears of students as if they are suffering a nun through Confirmation. What then, is a teacher to do?

Friedrich Schiller and Friedrich Nietzsche employ the method of idolizing their subjects in Greek history, making them relevant again as the ideal destination of society. Just as they, compiling subjects of Grecian antiquity, provide you with a picture of them, I will compile Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795) and The Birth of Tragedy (1872) as subjects of early modern ethical aesthetic philosophy, in order to paint a picture of it as common sets of duplicities concerned with freedom. It is ironic that both these authors were idolized by the fascist regime, which, in my opinion, is due to a misreading. I posit that their historicization of Grecian culture, their similar understanding of the ‘idyll’ and their ideas about harmony and unity are intended to restore their milieus’ understanding of specific topics: for Schiller, education; for Nietzsche, decadence. Both authors search for the free will in human nature at the crescendo of beauty, an inherently ethical treatment of aesthetics. As do their intended topics, Nietzsche and Schiller’s ethical meditations diverge concerning the ‘idyll’.

Literature Review

Rather surprisingly, considering the innumerable amount of secondary literature concerning Schiller and Nietzsche individually, studies highlighting their connections and divergences are sparse. Research published in the early 20th century tends to deny Nietzsche’s claims at originality by comparing his philosophical reasoning with Schiller’s[1], a trait characteristic to the emergence of critical writing, with a polemic treatment of Nietzsche in line with the “canonization of Schiller as a national saint”[2]. Contemporary publications on Nietzsche’s “productive engagement”[3] with Schiller provide a more holistic approach, by investigating the entire Nietzsche criterion in order to summate a Nietzschean depiction of Schiller (Schillerbild). Nicholas Martin’s two-fold account, Nietzsche’s Schillerbild: A Re-evalutation (1995) and Untimely Aesthetics (1996) takes issue with the tendency to indebt Nietzschean philosophies to Schiller, claiming:

“To talk of influences on Nietzsche is profoundly to misunderstand his eclectic and experimental method of thinking and writing… Accordingly, Nietzsche uses Schiller, as he does so many other historical figures, as both a sounding-board and a whipping-boy.” (Schillerbild, 23)


Martin’s contribution is clearly indebted to scholars Charles Andler and Herbert Cysarz, to whom he attributes his argument that Nietzsche’s aesthetic treatment in The Birth of Tragedy articulates Schiller’s Letters through the “reinvention of the Greeks”[4], the “creative” appropriations of history[5] and the aesthetic process. Martin, a Nietzschean[6], uses mostly Nietzsche’s direct evaluation of Schiller to connect the two as “inadequate for the needs of their times,”[7] but provides important insights to Tragedy, which I will address in this paper.

Author Martin Prange also investigates common philosophical underpinnings in his work Valuation and Revaluation of the Idyll: Schillerian Traces in Nietzsche’s Early Musical Aesthetics (2006). Prange’s essay addresses the influence of Schiller’s Naïve and Sentimental Poetry, while Martin’s focus remains on Nietzsche’s idea of Schiller. As I will also insist, Prange labels Schiller’s essay “On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry” as having a decisive influence on his Letters and Nietzsche’s Tragedy, as mediated by Immanuel Kant’s moral philosophy. Both Prange and Martin’s books forego a conversation on the ethical aesthetic, which seems to me Nietzsche and Schiller’s common point of departure and the pinnacle of divergence after significant parallel in terms and processes. To this end, I endeavour to follow the Apollonian-Dionysian depiction in Tragedy, while highlighting the ethical aesthetic of the Graecization of German culture, the creation of aesthetic duplicities using Schiller’s Poetry and finally, Nietzsche’s shift from Schiller’s concept of harmony and unity.


Kant’s assertion that experiencing beauty necessitates disinterested contemplation and, therefore, the separation of aesthetics from ethics[8], laid the theoretical framework for the replacement of aristocratic morality during the shift from oligarchic rule in early-modern Europe. Though, the red thread of the aesthetic problematic can be traced all the way back to Plato’s consideration about poetic art as essentially imitative in the Republic, when Plato suggests that, “all imitative poetry would seem to maim the reasoning of those hearers who do not possess an antidote in the knowledge of its real nature,” (Aesthetics, 24). This projection of reasoning is banished by the divinity of beauty in Plato’s Symposium: “Beauty, however, is in harmony with the divine.” (Aesthetics, 37d) Aristotle continues the project of researching the intuitive absolute totality in the face of beauty by allowing artful imitation a more privileged meaning. Poetry, he argues, allows a window to the “probable impossibilities,” tragedies that are not directly experienced, but still allow you to ratchet up pity and fear: “If you see a lion, you run; poetry lets you think.”[9] Kant returns to the emotional transport[10] of art, removing it from the logical, deductive, political processes, allowing beauty to fall under the category of ethical freedom: “To deem something good, I must always know what sort of a thing the object is intended to be, i.e. I must have a concept of it. That is not necessary to enable me to see beauty in a thing.” (Aesthetics, 45) Throughout the analysis of Tragedy in Schillerian terms, these ideas of poetry and tragedy as the vehicles for transport to other times, beauty as harmony of human with the divine, and the element of ethical freedom achieved in this state are the main tenants of my attention.

Schiller’s Letters respond to Kant’s antinomies of beauty as a matter of “arbitrary taste”[11] by looking at the purpose of beauty to the nature of man. Schiller suggests that in art and in play, we live in the imagination, a world of our own composition that is not bound to the limited possibilities of reality. Here, we maintain the “active” psyche, not passively reacting to stimuli, not “determined” by social externalities. We do not use our energy as utility requires, nor do we lack opportunities to use it as we desire.

“By means of aesthetic culture, therefore, the personal worth of a man, or his dignity, inasmuch as this can depend solely on himself remains completely indeterminate; and nothing is achieved by it than that he is henceforth enabled by the grace of Nature to make himself what he will.” (Letters, §21)

Disturbed by the lack of freedom in human condition, Schiller wrote his Letters On the Aesthetic Education of Man (1795) in response to his surprise at the self-serving ideals of civilized circles during the Enlightenment and after observing the regression to violence among lower classes[12]. Schiller suggested that “aesthetic education” would better mature the consciousness of mankind. Grounded in three drives, play, form and sense, Schiller suggested systems of experience that, when poorly balanced, caused a regression in humanity. His Letters are useful as a distinguishing framework for Friedrich Nietzsche’s aesthetic considerations in The Birth of Tragedy (1897) thanks to the common perceptual lens of the ‘idyll’ of aesthetic balance; Schiller and Nietzsche require the arts at their climax, before the realization of the moment of beauty, to reveal the most primal delight – not as individuals in a world of judgement and pity, but as pure beings. This would be authenticated by a singular, homogenizing past. Both authors employ Greek classicism to disembark from the lopsided coordination of 18th and 19th century public values, realizing that only through the cultivation, dynamic contradiction and synthesis of two opposing aesthetic drives, for Schiller form and sense, and for Nietzsche Apollonian and Dionysian, can we achieve a dialectic between the modes of feeling and thinking, which Kant treats as an unresolvable paradox: “the essential point, to which the question of beauty finally leads.” (Letters, §2) Schiller seeks to expose the benefits of aesthetic education in the face of rationalism and Nietzsche seeks to reveal rationalism’s product – the aesthetic “plague” of decadence[13].

Author Charles Bernheimer reacts to Nietzsche’s relationship to decadence as an “agent provocateur”, that is, he localizes Nietzsche as a decadent himself; Bernheimer highlights Nietzsche’s use of the French word decadence[14], which “would then imply a connection between his philosophy, which he calls “filigree art” full of “nuances”, (EH 223)…, an avant-garde French aestheticism.” I interpret this chosen French aesthetic theory to be indicative of his attention to primarily his milieu, the fin-de-siecle[15], but also to a societal ‘idyll’ for the world’s advancement beyond the Enlightenment, much like Schiller. Though Nietzsche is not responding to the upheaval and “barbarism” that Schiller depicted in Letters, he is still taking issue with a society in ruins.

Because Nietzsche published an excess of literature focusing on the ethical dimensions of Wagner[16] in a time of decadence, he has been promoted as a “heretic” of the ethical aesthetic. Decadence proves to be a-temporal and fragmented by meaning and by its dialectic as a ‘necessary sickness’[17] to society. To the western ear, decadence serves a hyperbolic purpose, often heard in relation to dessert; with a ‘sinful’ amount of hot fudge, you may experience ‘death by chocolate’. But outside the sphere of contemporary advertisements, the indulgent perception of decadence remains closer with its Latin roots, “to decay” and “to fall”, allowing the concept to maintain a privileged appropriation as an essential discontinuity with the past. Decadence then becomes a direct product of development, and holds meaning as a pejorative qualifier for individual actions and lifestyles within a socialized civilization. Reflecting on “decay” of individual actions, decadence as a social critique emerges throughout history, but distinctively at the Fin-de-siecle; a literary trope of decadence manifests as an ostentatious, self-serving male aesthete – the “Dandy” – an avatar of post-Enlightenment class-consciousness, whose delight in elegance is meant as a symbol of the “aristocratic superiority of mind.”[18] The feigned refinement of decadence is the point of departure for Nietzsche’s considerations of aesthetic judgement. His purpose was not to advance a new definition of decadence, more general or more precise, but to review the positive and negative cultivations of aestheticism. Like I am not discussing Dandyism, Nietzsche did not dwell on decadence in The Birth of Tragedy, but illuminated it as an outcropping of madness and a “symptom of the failing power” of morality in the “developing hegemony of reasonableness, practical and theoretical utilitarianism, as well as democracy itself.” (§4) Nietzsche’s response to the Zeitgeist of decadence is cast as a bodily illness in The Case of Wagner (1888), but is grounded in the universal subjectivity expressed by the aesthetic notion of human nature in Tragedy.    

According to Nietzsche and Schiller, the aesthetic fulfilment of human nature transcends the Zeitgeist[19]. Though the authors focus attention on criticisms of their respective milieus, Schiller gives up the “alluring temptation” to comprise his freedom from, “the political theatre of action,” and he aims to, “place himself in the center of the whole, and to raise his individuality to that of the species.” (Letters, §2) According to Denker und Dichter scholar Nicholas Boyle, Schiller’s state of dignity is separate from the (non-polar) binary of regulative normalcy and “wild ochlocracy”[20], and frees human nature from the “depravity of character” tolerated by barbaric bourgeois and aristocracy, and the “brutal, lawless drives” (Letters, §4) of those proletariat[21], who fought savagely during the French Revolution. In his book Goethe: Revolution and Renunciation[22], Boyle suggests a Schillerian “duality in which sense rules reason,” which, “may harmonize in the production of behaviour which is both morally free and physically attractive- beautiful movement” (Goethe, 63).  Though I agree that Schiller was indeed searching for the outward manifestation of humanity’s “beautiful soul”, I think the use of the word “duplicity” (Duplicität) would better serve the relationship of form and sensuous drives in society. Unlike a duality, they are never completely separate from each other. I believe that Boyle is not to blame for this mistake, because he continues on to understand form and sense in correlation with the “duality of the sexes” (Zweiheit der Geschlechter) (Tragedy, §1), which is wrongly translated by Walter Kaufmann, the translator of Boyle’s edition of Tragedy. Here, the word Zweiheit actually means a “two-ness”. If Nietzsche had intended a duality, he would have written Dualität. Boyle compares these duplicities because of their relationship together; they are woven in to each other[23]. Though the two drives are never completely separate, Nietzsche denotes that they are still in constant tension with one another except in moments of unity, with periodic reconciliation (Versöhnung). As Schiller brings forward Plato’s Philebus, “things are a mixture of one and many” (Letters, §6), form and sense have an inexorable nature, giving them a character not unlike Nietzsche’s discussion of Apollonian and Dionysian drives as irreconcilably connected windows to human nature[24]. In the following, I will consider Schiller’s conception of drives of aesthetic freedom as duplicities, then organize them in conversation in Tragedy under the Apollonian and Dionysian drives, tracing the duplicity of these drives and posing questions that can be answered by Schiller’s discussion of form and sensuous drives.

Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man/ Greacization

In finding a solution to the Kantian paradox of the subjective universal, Schiller categorizes aesthetic production as, “[to] appear determined through the nature of the thing, which one could call the voluntary assent of the thing to its technique” (Letters, §1).  Boyle suggests that although Schiller does not accept Kant’s negative view of man’s natural being[25], he does not return to an “illusory primitive state” (68), that is, Schiller doesn’t seek to overcome the duplicity of form and sense, nor establish a unity from them. According to Schiller, man cannot be reduced to a unity, but are always existing in duplicities: “Person and Condition… are in the finite being eternally two” (Letters, §4) Disagreeing with Kant’s assumption that the subject (man) is noumenon, Schiller’s Letters show man as an understanding of phenomenon:

“To say that man has first to become, is no objection; for man is not just Person pure and simple, but Person situated in a particular Condition. Every Condition, however, every determinate existence, has its origin in time; and so man, as a phenomenal being, must also have a beginning, although the pure intelligence within him is eternal. Without time, that is to say, without becoming, he would never be a determinate being; his Personality would indeed exist potentially, but not in fact.” (Letters, §11)
Schiller’s change of perspective from Kant’s categorical imperative allows the consideration of alternative routes to the nature of man, of which he is primarily concerned with the moral destination as an answer for happiness- namely the socio-political problems exaggerated by Robespierre’s Reign of Terror (the French Revolution) (Letters, §3) and the consequences of sciences and industry in the modern era (Letters, §1). His conception of what man is supposed to become show that beauty is necessary in the destination of man, that is, “beauty is a necessary condition of Human Being,” (Letters, §10) which is situated between formal and sensuous drives, that is, the barbaric and the savage.

Schiller claims that these two fundamental drives in man are reductionist, and they, “exhaust our concept of humanity, [we must] make a third fundamental drive which might possibly reconcile the two, a completely unthinkable concept.” (Letters, §13) In disavowing the “radical opposition” of the two drives, Schiller develops a drive out of them – the play drive – which does not unify the other two, because then it would negate its necessity to exist[26]. Nurtured by an aesthetic education, the play drive allows man to overcome the duplicity between personal (savage, sensuous) and social (barbaric, form) freedom through the framework of the mind, instigating a long revolution of political change instead of a creative destruction[27] of societal order. Author Emiliano Acosta suggests that Schiller’s “parallel reality [the play drive]… does not lead to an effective real overcoming of the real situation, but to the idea of an emancipating praxis of man in the element of the art and the semblance.” (“Schiller’s Concept of Recognition”, 127) This brings Schiller’s aesthetic idea to the realm of the ‘idyll’, which he recognizes as the institution of moral law on earth (§25)

By establishing Schiller’s concept of recognition in society as one of utopian aspirations, Acosta anticipated Martin’s conversation on the “untimeliness” of Schiller and Nietzsche’s work. Martin says,

“Any attempt to construct a state according to moral principles will be untimely (unzeitig), and any hopes for it chimerical “until the separation of the inner man is again abolished, and his nature is fully developed enough to be the artist herself, and to assert her reality to the political creation of reason. (AE VII)…

It is not least this need to break the vicious cycle which leads him [Schiller] to the Greeks. The Greek example is removed in time and space.” (Untimely Aesthetics, 69)
What Martin is exposing is Schiller’s use of the Attic world, in its “unconscious harmony” (ibid., 70) as a contrast to the disjointed junctures of the Enlightenment. Schiller draws a positive historical lineage from the Greeks, whose poetics should be studied by the individual in hopes of restoring mankind.

Tragedy benefits from Schiller’s appropriation of the Greek model as the base example for the ‘idyll’, even the divine (Letters, §6), as a quintessential looking glass to view the shortcomings of Germany’s decadence. Unlike Martin, I am not suggesting this Graecization of aesthetic theory as an intertextual relationship belonging to Schiller and Nietzsche alone. According to Boyle, creating a bond between Greek and German cultures can be seen as a wider trend of poets and thinkers in Germany’s Culture Struggle (Kulturkampf[28]) to employ a singular, homogenizing past (Goethe, 19). On the other hand, Martin considers the “re-evaluation of the Greeks” to be a central aim in the project of “rebirthing” aesthetic culture: “This very tactic, though, of employing models and exemplars from the past, because he feels his own are is too corrupt to regenerate itself from within, is one Nietzsche shares with Schiller.” (Untimely Aesthetics, 28) I tend to agree more with Byron’s holistic conception of the Greacization of Germany because of the authoritarian personality of the era[29]. Though Martin points out that Nietzsche adapted the ‘tragic’ Greece, whereas Schiller used the Golden Age, I would like to emphasize this as a divergence in their treatment of the ethical aesthetic.

Both Schiller and Nietzsche take issue with the Greek divergence towards political societies – for Nietzsche much earlier, with Socrates, and for Schiller the ironic “Building of Political Freedom” (Letters, §2). For Schiller, the problem of political freedom is that it is experienced under the charge of truth. The French Revolution marks a failure of the political, while the ending of the Golden Age marks a stagnation the project of politics. He projects this turn Nietzsche understands the Socratic era as ushering in a mission to consider existence apprehensible, as “the turning point and vortex of the so-called world history” (Tragedy, §14) which transcended the tragic era.

I believe that an ethical aesthetic difference highlights the gap between Nietzsche and Schiller’s appropriation of the Greeks, that is, Schiller is concerned with the loss of political truth while Nietzsche focuses on a loss of “tragic insight”. These aims diverge at the subject; Schiller is concerned with the project of development, while Nietzsche is concerned about decay. Their appropriations of Greek culture both insist that a once-‘idyll’ society, gifted with arts that bettered mankind, had turned toward a deluded denial of progress. Though Martin chooses not to historicize these ethical parameters of Hellenization, he hints beyond his Schillerbild, and momentarily considers The Birth of Tragedy’s celebration in Hellenic culture under a Schillerian categorical authority, “for his [Nietzsche’s] radical reformations of the creative process, the function of the tragic chorus, and the traditional aesthetic antithesis” (30). That is, Nietzsche held a ternary purpose of Grecian culture, not unlike Schiller’s consideration of play, form and sense.

Mapping Duplicities

Nietzsche describes the Apollonian: “In the dream, the great sculptor saw the delightful structure of a superhuman” (Tragedy, §1) He uses the noun “superhuman” (Übermensch) in association with the structure of Apollo[30], but does not discuss “superhuman” – the best possible person – as the balance between both Dionysian and Apollonian. This constant division echoes Schiller’s realization that unity cannot be attained from form and sense, made only more clear through the application of aesthetics later on. Apollo is the god of light, and Nietzsche explains that the god’s connection to appearance also links him to the concept of the prophecy of a higher truth. It is through this higher truth, moreover, that “life is made possible and worth living” (Tragedy, §1). It is paradoxical, then, that Nietzsche refers continuously to the Dionysian as “life affirming” when here he is ascribing this same thing to the Apollonian. However, the Apollonian is an appearance, and thus we are examining the beautiful appearance, or semblance, of the dream worlds. By recalling Schiller’s appropriation of ‘form’ to the world of thought and dreams, we can begin already in the first section to draw a parallel between Schiller’s ‘beautiful semblance’ (der schöne Schein) of the play drive and Nietzsche’s higher truth from the Apollonian Schein. This also brings to mind Schiller’s idea that the form drive leads to the “greatest enlargement of being” (§13), meaning that form drive moves us out of the individual realm to that of something greater- like the Apollonian higher truth.

When one finally doubts the dreamy illusion of Apollo, the Dionysian is quick to emerge:

“If we add to this awe the ecstatic rapture, which rises up out of the same collapse of the principium individuationis from the innermost depths of a human being, indeed, from the innermost depths of nature, then we have a glimpse into the essence of the Dionysian, which is presented to us most closely through the analogy to intoxication” (Tragedy, §1).
By designating the Apollonian to the principium individuationis, Nietzsche further parallels Apollonian drive to Schiller’s ‘form’; sculpture, he declares, is the most Apollonian of arts, which relies entirely on its form. For Schiller, when sense drive rules over form, it reduces man’s ability to unify his nature: “As long as he merely feels, merely desires and acts upon desire, he is as yet nothing but the world, if by this term we understand nothing but the formless content of time.” (§6) Could not “intoxication” correlate to the “formless content of time?” Nietzsche declares that when the Apollonian Veil of Maja is ripped asunder “man feels like God” (Tragedy, §1). One sees here a problem with the Dionysian, because a man is engaged in a wrongful representation of God. Man finds himself in the Dionysian state, no longer as an “artist” but, “has become a work of art: the artistic power of all nature, to the highest rhapsodic satisfaction of primordial unity, which reveals itself for Nietzsche in the transports of “intoxication” (Tragedy, §1). This necessarily reflects on Schiller’s assertion that sense drive seeks “absolute reality” (Letters, §1) attempting to “destroy” anything that is “mere world” (ibid., §5) For Nietzsche, Nature rejoices in its celebration (ihr Versöhnungsfest) with mankind, her lost sons. This occurs in the magic (Unter dem Zauber) of the Dionysian, as it determines actions in the physical realm and points to a broader understanding of life. A problematic begins to emerge for Nietzsche and Schiller, when one recognizes that intoxication can be dreamlike, and that a dream is in fact a sort of intoxicating phenomenon. This notion embodies the idea that the two drives exist in one another, but for Nietzsche the problem is that the Dionysian emerges as favourable over the Apollonian. Where is Apollo in this exalted satisfaction of primal unity?[31]

Nietzsche then describes Dionysus as a mystical feeling of collective unity[32] (Tragedy, §2). Greek tragedy, however, is an especially beautiful art form because it is made up simultaneously of intoxication and dreams[33]. Nietzsche separates the Dionysian Greeks from the Dionysian barbarians, who drink more than their fill of the witch’s brew (Hexentrank). In the Greek festivals, such excess will not be found. Nietzsche writes of Dionysian music,

“In the Dionysian dithyramb man is aroused to the highest intensity of all his symbolic capabilities: something never felt forces itself into expression, the destruction of the veil of Maja, the sense of oneness as the presiding genius of form, in fact, of nature itself.” (Tragedy, §2)


How is it here, that the veil of Apollo is destroyed? Is Apollo not always at play with the Dionysian?

Nietzsche writes that the dithyrambic servant of Dionysus will only be understood by someone like Dionysus himself. The Apollonian Greek senses with terror that his consciousness was, “like a veil, merely covering the Dionysian world in front of him” (Tragedy, §2). It is not the other way around – the Dionysian Greek has no room for “realization” that his consciousness is withholding the Apollonian existence from him. He likens this naivety to a “complete victory of the Apolline illusion” (Tragedy, §3), but suggests that Apollonian and Dionysian share in the common presence of naivety as the hidden ground of suffering (Tragedy, §3). Nietzsche points directly to Schiller’s understanding of naivety, “that unity of man with Nature, for which Schiller coined the term.” (Tragedy, §3)

Mapping Duplicities: The Tragic Chorus

The Apollonian and Dionysian binary owes greatly to Schiller’s On Naïve and Sentimental Poetry. Published two months earlier than Letters in 1795, Schiller set the stage for his dissection of form and sensuous drives. By departing from Kant’s “intractable oppositions” through a symbolic resolution of poetic form as a duplicity, Schiller organizes poetry by subject-relationship[34]; in naïve poetry, the poet will describe directly what is going on, while in sentimental poetry, the author reflects on himself. Though transporting us back to the Grecian poetics as those of direct description (in the naïve mode), we see a parallel with Niethzsche’s “Mythos”, which Martin describes as a “naïve harmony of the ancients” (Schillerbild, 36). Schiller shapes the aesthetic theory used by Nietzsche to explain his term ‘Apollonian’[35]. Martin claims that this connection is “identical”, and quotes Nietzsche’s acknowledgement of Schiller as the “originator of the term”:

“Wherever we encounter “naïve” in art, we have to recognize the highest effect of Apollonian culture, something which must always come into existence to overthrow the kingdom of the Titans, to kill monsters, and through powerfully deluding images and joyful illusions so emerge victorious over the horrific depths of what we observe in the world and the most sensitive capacity for suffering… Homeric “naiveté” is only to be understood as the complete victory of the Apollonian illusion. It is the sort of illusion which nature uses so frequently in order to attain her objectives.” (Tragedy, §3)


Though Nietzsche idealizes naivety within the Homeric, pre-Socratic era, he defines like Schiller defines the difference between “naïve” and “sentimental” forms of poetry. Instead of poetry, Nietzsche is discussing tragedy in these terms and focusing on the “naïve”, which for Nietzsche existed in the Homeric Era. He elicits Richard Wagner’s “The Ring of the Niebelung” in describing the achievement of the naïve, which helps us realise the departure from Schiller’s ‘idyll’ of aesthetic education. Though Nietzsche considers naivety “purely Apollonian” (Wagner, §3) and interprets the sentimental as emerging alongside it, both born in tragedy, Nietzsche does not consider Dionysian as “sentimental”. Though Apollo was created with regard to Schiller’s naivety, I think that Nietzsche’s use of Schiller’s form-sense duplicity in Letters is more relevant to the function of Apollonian and Dionysian together, and better depicts the red thread of the ethical aesthetic.

Era notwithstanding[36], consideration of form and sense as a balanced depiction of Apollonian and Dionysian drives sheds light on the common idea that through beauty, the ethical will emerge. Nietzsche quotes Schiller: “With me, feeling first lacks a defined and clear object; the latter develops for the first time later on. A certain musical emotional state comes first, and from this, with me, the poetic idea then follows.” (Tragedy, §5) Nietzsche’s attention to Schiller’s de-temporalizing of the technique of poetry leads him to discuss that the basis for tragedy, poetry, is a combination of “the lyricist and the musician, in fact, their common identity” (§5). Likening the lyrical poet to a Dionysian artist, Nietzsche constructs a duplicity with Apollonian as the goal of primordial oneness[37]. But, Nietzsche exclaims, he could not live without Dionysus[38]. Contradictorily, Nietzsche writes that they mutually intensify each other (sich gegenseitig steigernd) (Tragedy, §4). This duplicity can be cleared up by reflecting on Schiller’s conception of form and sense drives as “a reciprocal action of such a kind that the activity of one both gives rise to and sets limits to the activity of the other, and in which each itself achieves its highest manifestation precisely by reason of the other being active.” (Letters, §14)   and how they react when in perfect balance to create the play drive.

In the Attic Tragedy and the dramatic dithyramb, the two are in a more or less equal unity because they combine the Apollonian elements of dialogue, character and action with the darker, Dionysian essence of being (Urgrund), projected by the chorus and fall of the tragic hero. Nietzsche writes on how our view here is directed to these two drives who share a common goal, a secretive marital connection, and a child that is both at once: “whose secret marriage partnership, after a long antecedent struggle, glorified itself with such a child—at once Antigone and Cassandra.” (Tragedy, §4) Though untouched by Martin, this mention of Antigone’s Cassandra resonates with claim of being able to see the future, but killing herself when she is unheard. It emphasises the “untimeliness” of Nietzsche’s idyll, much like Schiller’s, but also marks the decay of society in a post-Socratic world. The truth was available, but it did not progress.

For Nietzsche as well, this Apollonian-Dionysian unity is that of mystery (Einheitsmysterium), however, the lyric poet is Dionysian who is “completed” by the primordial unity, “To understand the tragic myth we must see it as Dionysian wisdom made concrete through Apollonian artifice” (Tragedy, §6). The sublime Dionysian is a merging of the self and the other as a universal and passionate art, and it must react with the sober Apollonian, which represents the imperatives of “knowing thyself” and “nothing to excess!” (Tragedy, §6) Together they create an ethical evolution of the self, which is Nietzsche’s point of departure for the ethical aesthetic. Most importantly here is the difference in understanding of the ethical aesthetic between Nietzsche and Schiller. Both propose movement by an aesthetic piece of Grecian history in order to reach the “primordial oneness”, but Nietzsche’s path to this aesthetic takes a modern turn.

Though Schiller reflects on poetics as the bridge to play, Nietzsche regards Dionysian tragedy as the vehicle. His concern with tragedy holds an ethical aesthetic concern for Nietzsche’s own time, that is, his concern with the Wagnerian opera. The folk song can also be woven between the two as the “perpetuum vestigum [the eternal mark] of a union between the Apollonian and Dionysian… a magical mirror of the world, as the primordial melody… [which] gives birth to poetry from itself.” (Tragedy, §6) Nietzsche concludes that lyrical poetry can’t have the same impact as music because it consists of language, which is an illusion. This primordial melody, the child, the Mythos that Nietzsche intends to restore, is at once apparent as the play drive, where form and sense are intertwined but the imposed truth drops away, giving way to man’s freest will. Schiller says that words are acceptable for common speech, but man is “only fully a human being when he plays,” (Letters, §8) because this has lifted him out of the necessity to communicate, quite like Nietzsche’s conception of lyrics as limiting for the tragic chorus[39].

In Schiller’s twenty-fourth letter, he outlines the three-stage cycle to achieve a full potential both individually and societally. He bolsters his argument by suggesting that truth may be achieved through attaching value to semblance (Schein), in this case, allowing aesthetic value to supersede logical value. Here we approach Nietzsche’s idea that through tragedy, value is illuminated, but it must proceed also through three stages, which end in the acceptance of an aesthetic education (Bildung) (Tragedy, §15-22) .These stages are different, because Nietzsche focuses on a whole-cultural reversal or upheaval, where a new wisdom (Weisheit) would readily replace the Darwinean and Comtean trajectory of scientific determinism (Tragedy, §25) and Schiller considers the stages to represent a passage from individual understanding towards the whole-cultural. (Letters, §25). The ethical aesthetic in both works focuses on aesthetic education as an antithesis to the perceived barbaric and savage culture of the times.

Aesthetic Antitheses to Rationalism

Though the resolution of the play drive seems the Schillerean answer to Nietzsche’s “primordial oneness”, and they use a similar appropriation of Grecian history, the point of Nietzsche’s Tragedy is to inform us about tragedy, while Schiller wants to inform us about education. Schiller seeks to expose the benefits of aesthetic education in the face of rationalism and Nietzsche seeks to reveal rationalism’s product – the aesthetic “plague” of decadence. They are both aesthetic responses to free will, but diverge at the site of the ‘idyll’; Schiller prescribes that man develop as if he were not burdened by modern “truth”, while Nietzsche intends for man to be enlightened by aesthetics forms of the past. This is reflected by their differing intentions about what the reader should learn. Both teachers, Schiller and Nietzsche substantiate their conversations about education and tragedy by suggesting society use them to move toward an aesthetical antithesis to rationalism. They use the ethical aesthetic as a means to achieve the primacy of their arguments.



Works Cited

Bernheimer, Charles, T. Jefferson Kline, and Naomi Schor. Decadent Subjects: The Idea of Decadence in Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Culture of the Fin De Siecle in Europe. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins UP, 2002. Print.

Boyle, Nicholas. Revolution and Renunciation: (1790-1803). Oxford: Clarendon, 2000. Print.

Burnham, Douglas, and Martin Jesinghausen. “Nietzsche’s “The Birth of Tragedy”: A Reader’s Guide” Hunter College, CUNY. WorldCat. 1995. Web.

Cahn, Steven M., and Aaron Meskin. Aesthetics: A Comprehensive Anthology. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2008. Print.

La-Rouche, Helga. “A Reader’s Guide to “Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man”” Schiller Institute. Fidelio, Volume 14., June 2005. Web.

Martin, Nicholas. “Nietzsche’s Schillerbild: A Re-Evaluation.” German Life and Letters 48.4 (1995): 516-39. Web.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Birth of Tragedy, Ecce Homo, The Case of Wagner and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. New York: Vintage, 1967. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. The Case of Wagner. Place of Publication Not Identified: Allen & Unwin, 1924. Print.

Nordau, Max Simon. Degeneration. New York: H. Fertig, 1968. Print.

Prange, Martine. “Valuation and Revaluation of the Idyll.” Nietzscheforschung 13.JG (2006): Web.

[1] Martin, Nicholas. Nietzsche and Schiller: Untimely Aesthetics. 1996. (17)

[2] ibid. (19)

[3] Martin, Nicholas. “Nietzsche’s Schillerbild: A Re-evaluation”. German Life and Letters. 48:4. October, 1995.

[4] Ibid. (2)

[5] Martin, Nicholas. Nietzsche and Schiller: Untimely Aesthetics. 1996. (97)

[6] Over half of Nicholas Martin’s publications have Nietzsche in the title.

[7] Ibid. (202)

[8] Kant, Immanuel. “The Critique of Judgement”. (1790)

[9] Watkins, Evan. CRI 200C. UC Davis, Fall 2016.

[10] Referring here to Longinus, On Sublimity: “The effect of elevated language upon an audience is not persuasion but transport.” (§1)

[11] Wertz, William F. Jr. “A Reader’s Guide to Letters on the Aesthetic” Fidelio. Volume 14, Number 1-2. Spring-Summer, 2005.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Nietzsche, Friedrich. “The Case of Wagner”. 1888. (2)

[14] Rather than the German Dekadenz. Bernheimer also finds Walter Kaufmann’s translation to disrespect this usage of the French word.

[15] The fin-de-siecle is framed by Max Nordau in his book Degeneration (1892) as a time when society was in danger of reverting back to a pre-Enlightenment civilization.

[16] Nietzsche’s works both slant and promote Wagnerian opera.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid. (15)

[19] The spirit of the times.

[20] Schiller intends to express a state of violence in which the leadership is overthrown.

[21] Using proletariat in the same sense as Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto.

[22]Schiller on freedom in appearance’ is in the chapter ‘Post-Kantian Germany to 1793’ (61)

[23] Rather than Kaufmann’s translation that they are woven together, or zusammen, they are woven ineinander (Tragedy, §12), which also eclipses his translation’s use of “duality”.

[24] Nietzsche acknowledges the irreconcilable connectivity of the two drives at the beginning of The Birth of Tragedy. Throughout the text, Nietzsche seems to either forget or ignore this assertion.

[25] In The Critique of Judgement, Kant asserts a negative view of experiencing beauty by suggesting that we feel the sublime purposefully, but without any ulterior purposes. This is ‘purposeless purposiveness’.

[26] The tradition of substantiating philosophy in its inexplicability is exactly the thread that Nietzsche follows by leaving phenomenon up to art and philosophy, but is most frankly described by Heidegger in Being and Time (1927): “Making itself intelligible is suicide for philosophy.”

[27] Using ‘creative destruction’ in the sense of Joseph Schumpeter

[28] Though the Kulturkampf would typically represent Otto von Bismark’s attempt to gain Catholic authority in a Protestant Germany, I think Boyle is alluding to Nietzsche and Schiller’s injections of myth into the otherwise scientific ethos at the turn-of-the-century.

[29] Here I am referring to Erich Fromm’s “The Authoritarian Personality” (1957) which depicts a German society that birthed fascism due to strict normatization of institutions such as education, literary circles and the church.

[30] In his later texts including Ecce Homo, he describes those who are “superhuman”, including Zarathustra, as purely Dionysian.

[31] I am staging these questions to answer later.

[32] This spurs the same question: how is Dionysus a feeling of unity without an equal presence of the Apollonian?

[33] The art is beautiful precisely because it is a harmonious combination of Apollo and Dionysus.

[34] It seems important to note here that Friedrich Schlegel, the ‘father’ of the German Romantic movement, wrote one of his earliest pieces Vom äesthetischen Werte der griechischen Komödie (1794) in response to Schiller’s assumption that poetry can be categorized by subject. Schlegel promoted a more materialistic, secular understanding of poetry as defined by era.

[35] Martin, Nicholas. Untimely Aesthetics. (150)

[36] The implication of this distinction from Schiller is discussed in the previous section, Graecization.

[37] In section 38 of The Anti-Christ Nietzsche writes about what “miscarriages of duplicity” modern people are.

[38] In Ecce Homo, page 78, Nietzsche writes that he has never taken sides against himself, but has he not taken sides against the Apollonian half of the unity?

Form follows Function


This is my English Abstract to aid in the organization of my thoughts and citations for the art theory paper I am writing for professor Martin Klebes. There is very little secondary source information for ANY of these three texts: “Das Ding” [The Thing] Martin Heidegger, “Zür Ästhetik: Der Henkle” [About Aesthetics: The Handle] Georg Simmel, and “Ein Alter Krug” [An old Jug] Ernst Bloch, let alone much interpretation of them in English. I hope that this gives further academic accessibility to the philosophical angle of the art theory of these texts.

Outpouring of purposeful action from the mind of the mortal to the earth, like watering seeds in the interest of growing food, is a continuous process of survival. Mortals have a definite will to live, which is exemplified through creating physical objects, using the materials of the given earth to mold useful tools for the service of themselves. Post-modern philosophy sought ontological explanations through examining the examinable; physical objects, which are purposed by man, give insight to man’s nature and therefore, purpose. Conceptualizing the use of a jug, through bringing forth an awareness of it’s very essential meaning as a tool of man, Martin Heidegger, Georg Simmel, and Ernst Bloch present the aesthetic and functional concepts of the jug, such as it’s origination, use and understanding, to rationally articulate the theoretical force, which objects in general have on the metaphysical analysis of mortals.

Along the same investigative ideology as Martin Heidegger, as a principally structural ontologist, the division of the theoretical force of the jug in to the framework of origination, use and understanding is necessary to rationally articulate the phenomenon between man and his tools, and thereby, man and his worldly development. Worldly development, in which man establishes a physical infrastructure, is presupposed by man’s will to live, and is supplemented by the Nietschien “Will to Power,” encouraging man towards development due to innate interests, as well as psychologically orienting desires to improve their status socially. The desire towards social development is fundamental to the posited ideologies, based in form and function. The will to live and the Will to Power are a priori to the origination of objects in general, and represent a metaphysical analysis of man, which is supplemented by a deeper interrogation of the objects, with which man lives.

Interrogation of objects is an ontological endeavor, seeding from the metaphysical analysis of human life overall. Citing mortals themselves as the greatest link between man and the understanding of himself in relation to the greater, metaphysical world, Heidegger posits that the path to discovering the self is structurally integrated, through the analysis of what the self is, and which elements are entangled with it. His most famous work, “Being and Time” (1927) substantiates his position, through delineating that man lives in the world with both other mortals, and creates and uses objects in the world. Because of being created by man, rather than from a metaphysical phenomenon, objects are interrogated objectively, to achieve a greater understanding of the origin of man’s knowledge.

Heidegger’s essay, “Das Ding” (1950) oriented the awareness of an object, the jug, towards its usefulness by the mortal. Heidegger problematizes the nearness (Nähe) of objects, as being undescriptive of what the object is. In a Heideggarian structuralist way, the ontic perspective of what an object is, is exemplified by the analysis of the jug, having sides, and functioning as a container. Immediately following the jug’s conceptualization as a container, Heidegger states, “Der Krug ist nicht Gefaß, weil er hergestellt wurde, sondern der Krug mußte hergestellt werden, weil er dieses Gefaß ist.” (160) This initiates the structural analysis of an object, the jug, through it’s origination. Heidegger splits origination in to a twofold standing (ein zweifaches Her-Standes); Firstly, the object has been made, and secondly, “das Her-Stehen im Sinne des Hereinstehens des Hervorgebrachten in die Unverborgenheit des schon Anwesenden.” (160) This is to be interpreted as, the standing-forth of an object in light of what already existed. Through ein zweifaches Her-Standes, the jug is conceptualized as a vessel which is originated from an already existing necessity for a vessel, and the physical making of the jug in to a vessel. Heidegger states that the potter, who makes the jug, is actually making a vessel, confirming the presumption that, for Heidegger, an object’s understanding is found initially in it’s origination.

Heidegger then approaches the use of the jug, calling this the thingliness of an object (Dinghafte des Dings). “Die Leere faßt in zweifacher Weise: nehmend und behaltend.” (164) The taking and keeping of the jug is another zweifaches Her-Standes, which relates to the use of the jug as both something to collect water (or wine, or any other liquid) and something to pour water for mortals. This outpouring is known by Heidegger as a gift (das Geschenk), which he explains as a simple connection between the Gods, mortals, earth and sky, “Im Geschenk des Gusses weilt die Einfalt der Vier.” (166) It is through the jugs use, its outpouring, its gift to the mortals, from the earth and from the gods, that the fourfold (das Geviert) is simultaneously involved. Answering the question of how the theoretical force of an object is rationally articulated, Heidegger ends his essay with the statement, “Nur was aus Welt gering, wird einmal Ding.” (175) In this, Heidegger posits that the Dinghafte des Dings exists only because of the simultaneous involvement of das Geviert.

Diverging from Heidegger’s ontological inquiry of a thing’s structural understanding, Georg Simmel’s essay, “Der Henkel” (1919), posits that understanding can be found through the aesthetic value of the jug, focusing on the understanding of the jug’s handle (der Henkel), in relation to the jug, through discussion about origination and use, and the theoretical force of the jug is rationally articulated through this transitive understanding. Simmel states, “Diese Doppelstellung der Vase nun ist es, die sich in ihrem Henkel am entschiedensten ausspricht.” (127) The dual nature (die Doppelstellung) of the handle is what gives the vase its realistic purpose, separating it from being merely aesthetically purposed (like a painting) and having both form and function. Positing that, “…wie für die Seele die Hand ein Werkzeug ist, so ist ihr auch das Werkzeug eine Hand,” (128) Simmel integrates the origination of the jug, to the work of the hand, as expressing the will of the mortal’s soul. It is from the hands, that aesthetic objects are created, with a presupposed unity of purpose and aesthetic value. This organic origination from the soul is expressed by Simmel, when he says, “…als benutzte der Mensch hier die Kanäle des natürlichen Säfteflusses zwischen Stiel und Blatt, um seinen eigenen Impuls in das Außending einzuströmen und ed damit seiner eignen Lebensreihe einzugliedern.” (129) It is as natural, as a leaf growing from a tree, as it is for man to incorporate a handle to a bowl, to make it a useful jug.

Taking issue with the purpose of the handle’s use, Simmel articulates that when a handle is only aesthetic, and not useful, it is no longer part of the organic unity from purpose of the soul, to origination by the hand. Using the example of a Greek jug, with three handles, Simmel argues, “Er geht vielmehr, wie mir scheint, darauf zurück, daß die in diesem System angelegten Bewegungen nur nacheinander stattfinden können, während die Henkel sich gleichzeitig darbeiten,” (130) by this, he is stating that it is impossible for all three handles to be useful at the same time, as they are aesthetically unified at the same time. Simmel situates the use of the jug, like Heidegger, to be necessarily practical, despite it’s also aesthetic origination.

Simmel moves even deeper in to the organic understanding of the jug’s use, by discussing the spout of the jug, “Es ist wie das Verhältnis des Menschen als Seele zu dem ihm äußeren Sein… durch die willensmäßigen Innervationen reicht die Seele in die Körperwelt hinaus,” (132) Simmel’s presupposition of the unity of soul and object is comparable to the das Geviert of Heidegger’s “Das Ding,” in that the origination of the jug is from a metaphysical power (like the Gods, but in this case, the soul) and  the organic origination (like the connection to the earth) of the elements, which make the jug useful.

Usefulness, as preconditioned by the soul’s interaction with man’s actions, brings about an understanding by Simmel, that, “Dies fällt nicht etwa unter das wunderliche Dogma, daß die Nützlichkeit über die Schönheit entschiede.” (132) This bold statement about form following function represents the breadth of unity between mortals and organic phenomenon, such as, “…viele Kreise- politische, beruflische, soziale, familiäre- in denen wir stehen, werden von weiteren so umgeben, wie das praktische Milieu das Gefäß umgibt,” (133) Just as the handle must not destroy the unity of form and function, the mortal must exist in his organic body, and function in his organic life spheres. It is on this platform, that Simmel rationally articulates the understanding of the jug, as, “ein Element die Selbstgenugsamkeit eines organischen Zusammenhanges mitlebt… über die ein ganz anderes Leben in jenes erste einfließt.” (134). Through Simmel’s understanding of the unity of objects with the soul, and the totality of their comportment to mortals, Simmel posits that the theoretical force of an object yields to it’s entanglement with the world (die Harmonie). Like Heidegger, Simmel rationally articulates the theoretical force of an object as being accessible through it’s involvement in the physical and metaphysical worlds.

Following Simmel’s metaphorical use of the life-spheres, which represent organic unity of all things in the world (Heideggerian in-der-Welt-sein), Ernst Bloch focuses his analysis of the jug, to the particular Bartmannkrug of sixteenth century origination. “Ein Alter Krug” is an essay from Bloch’s book, “Geist der Utopie” (1918), which uses historically based ontologial analysis of a jug, to rationally articulate the origination, use and understanding of the jug. Articulating the ability for the jug to have originated anywhere, but remain aesthetically unique to each area, Bloch says, “Auch klingt eine italienische Form in ihnen an, wenn auch noch so kräftig, zuerst soldatenhaft und dann nordisch, vergröbert.” (18) Positioning the origination of the jug as a universal phenomenon, Bloch relates the love for the jug to all types of people, both wealthy and poor, but positions usefulness to hold priority over the aesthetic value of the jug, “Doch wer ihn liebt, der erkennt, wie oberflächlich die kostbaren Krüge sehen worden sein sollen und haben das Alte bäuerisch, burchstäblich bewahrt.” (17/18) Bloch epitomizes this useful, yet culturally integrated jug, in the Bartmannkrug of the lower German areas, because of it’s aesthetic representation of the mortals it serves, “Was an ihnen am meisten auffällt, ist der Mann, der wilde Bartmann auf dem Bauch des soliden nordischen Gebildes. Damit spinnt sich ein seltsames Garn zu uns herüber.” (18)

Diverging from both Simmel and Heidegger, Bloch temporalizes the jug, by noting that it’s origination has changed over time. The thread (das Garn), is the historical knowledge of the jug, which aids in modern origination. Through stating, “Aber drüben verwahren wilde Männer neue Krüge… noch heute heißen, verrufenerweise… Norbiskrug,” (18) Bloch implies that the same type of people still make jugs, which are of a new type, NobiskrugNobiskrug is an important element in this essay from Bloch, as it signifies a temporal element, based in German mythology, implying the passing from one world to the next. For Bloch, use of the jug in the given time remains both unchanged and universal, which is represented by the aesthetic quality of the Bartmannkrug’s depiction of the originator. The farmers who both use and originate the jug are preserved, “buchstäblich bewahrt.” (19)

Temporal deduction of the jug’s use is depicted, by the “…feinen Duft von längst vergessenen Getränken,” (19) which exemplifies the use of the jug as a container, which can hold multiple things over time. The jug’s purpose is transcendent, throughout the physical and ideological history of the jug. The ability for the jug’s use to change, is exemplified by, “Ich werde nicht mit jeder Pfütze grau und nicht von jeder Scheine mitgebogen, um die Ecke gebogen.” (19)

Bloch’s relation of himself, as unchanged by the jug’s many ways to be filled, then resinates in his relation of mortals to the jug, “gegenwärtiger werde weiter zu mir erzogen an diesem mir teilhaftigen Gebilde.” (19) Through this, Bloch emphasizes the integration of the temporal jug with the development of mortals, such as Simmel’s ideology of das Harmonie between objects and life spheres. Differently than Simmel, Bloch disconnects the jug, as a useful object, with the changing humanity, but focuses on the origination of the jug as important to the theoretical understanding of the jug. By stating, “Auch hier, fühlt man, sich in einen langen sonnenbeschienenen Gang mit einer Tür am Ende hineinzusehen, wie bei einem Kunstwerk,” (19) Bloch rationally articulates the temporal, transitive origination of the jug, as leading to a door, which leads to another understanding of the jug. Bloch’s understanding of the jug is not aesthetic, but reflective and always temporally progressing, with the use always the same, just as the Bartmannkrug maintains the same depiction of its originator.

Bloch’s reflection about the Bartmannkrug is especially significant, in light of Heidegger’s and Simmel’s essays about a jug, because of it’s focus in a historical ontological inquiry. Bloch’s analysis of the jug diverges structurally, through a development-oriented dialectic framework. Instead of reaching in to deeper elements of the jug, like it’s connection with das Geviert or the meaning of it’s handle, temporal development presupposes understanding through analysis of origin, rather than analysis through interaction with it in the world. The Bartmannkrug emphasizes, ontically, the involvement of a mortal with the object, but exemplifies the development of society since the origination of the jug. The theoretical force of an object, to both Simmel and Heidegger, yields to the purpose of the jug in the present, but for Bloch, the theoretical force of the jug yields to the continuously developing jug itself.