Sunday, September 4, 2011

In Which Nietzsche Makes Me Lol

Nietzsche always seemed like one of those big intimidating writers. The impressions I gained growing up and in school was that he was horrible and godless, not to mention that his ideas about the "will to power" had been wedded with Nazi's and genocide.

This preconception lasted longer than others I've had simply because I really didn't have much occasion or care to investigate any of his stuff first hand. Really, I didn't read much non-fiction or theory or philosophy texts until grad school when it was required reading--and when I DID finally read primary source stuff, I found them shockingly delightful and exciting and challenging. But still, I hadn't read Nietzsche until my Form &Theory class last semester. We read a snippet of Nietzsche about art and aesthetics.

I did a double take. Nietzsche and art? Even more startling to my ignorant self--what he wrote was absolutely fucking beautiful. Finally, after friends talked about him, and in reading Camus recently, he's often mentioned. So I finally went by the big indie bookstore here and picked up a Nietzsche reader.

And then the first page I read from it made me literally laugh out loud in delight. And made me feel that sense of a resounding yes, I can tell I'm gonna have kinship with this dude's writing. He writes:

[The artist] appears to be fighting on behalf of the greater dignity and significance of man; in reality he refuses to give up the presuppositions which are most efficacious for his art, that is to say, the fantastic, mythical, uncertain, extreme, the sense for the symbolical, the overestimation of the person, the belief in something miraculous in genius.

Made me Laugh. Out. Loud. I was like, way to call it like it is, dude! He's probably right, or at least it's an interesting way of looking at it - writers and artists, while we are supposedly dealing with giant questions of truth, of discovering and understanding reality, of investigating questions about the meaning of life... um, in the end we go with what works, what's "efficacious for [our] art." We aren't scientists trying to discover and communicate fact. We aren't even philosophers in our fiction, trying to discover truth no matter what. We may think we are. Maybe something inside us is the lofty FIGHTING FOR TRUTH motivation. But really, let's be honest: what we're doing is trying to make art! That's our inconvertable drive--to make art! And we'll utilize tools that are useful and effective in making art. We want to make art that allows us to continue making art because we love it.

Now why that is, that's a much larger and more mind-bending question. As well as: what the hell is art?

After a lot of thought about these things, I think I have an inkling of why, or at least why art works the way it does for me. But that'll be for another day, another blog ;)


  1. I think a lot of people don't realize just because the Nazis used his philosophy to further their atrocious acts, doesn't mean he was one himself. The Swastika is also something that was originally good since it's a sacred symbol for good luck in Indian religions that they turned into something evil.

    To the question: What is art? My easy answer would be: You know the saying, beauty is in eye of the beholder? I think the same goes for art. What's art for someone, may not be for me and vice versa.

  2. Came across this and thought of your post :-)

  3. LOVE that image. Yep, it pretty perfectly captures it! Art - you feel it when you see it, and the world would be so sad and bland without it!