Ecce Homo Complete Works, Volume Seventeen

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 45

quite strange to its age: no one
would dream that it was begun in the thunder of the battle of Wörth.
I thought out these problems on cold September nights beneath the
walls of Metz, in the midst of my duties as nurse to the wounded; it
would be easier to think that it was written fifty years earlier. Its
attitude towards politics is one of indifference,--"un-German,"[1]
as people would say to-day,--it smells offensively of Hegel; only in
one or two formulæ is it infected with the bitter odour of corpses
which is peculiar to Schopenhauer. An idea--the antagonism of the two
concepts Dionysian and Apollonian--is translated into metaphysics;
history itself is depicted as the development of this idea; in tragedy
this antithesis has become unity; from this standpoint things which
theretofore had never been face to face are suddenly confronted, and
understood and illuminated by each other.... Opera and revolution,
for instance.... The two decisive innovations in the book are, first,
the comprehension of the Dionysian phenomenon among the Greeks--it
provides the first psychological analysis of this phenomenon, and
sees in it the single root of all Greek art; and, secondly, the
comprehension of Socraticism--Socrates being presented for the first
time as the instrument of Greek dissolution, as a typical decadent.
"Reason" _versus_ Instinct. "Reason" at any cost, as a dangerous,
life-undermining force. The whole book is profoundly and politely
silent concerning Christianity: the latter is neither Apollonian nor
Dionysian; it denies all æsthetic values, which are the only values
that _The Birth of Tragedy_ recognises. Christianity is most profoundly
nihilistic, whereas in the Dionysian symbol, the most extreme limits of
a yea-saying attitude to life are attained. In one part of the book the
Christian priesthood is referred to as a "perfidious order of goblins,"
as "subterraneans."

This start of mine was remarkable beyond measure. As a confirmation of
my inmost personal experience I had discovered the only example of this
fact that history possesses,--with this I was the first to understand
the amazing Dionysian phenomenon. At the same time, by recognising
Socrates as a decadent, I proved most conclusively that the certainty
of my psychological grasp of things ran very little risk at the hands
of any sort of moral idiosyncrasy: to regard morality itself as a
symptom of degeneration is an innovation, a unique event of the first
order in the history of knowledge. How high I had soared above the
pitifully foolish gabble about Optimism and Pessimism with my two new
doctrines! I was the first to see the actual contrast: the degenerate
instinct which turns upon life with a subterranean lust of vengeance
(Christianity, Schopenhauer's

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