In conclusion I shall emphasize three points.
1. If one grants the Nietzschean position that a decadent artist is always the servant of a philosophy, a morality, or a religion, does this mean that such an art is always condemned to be subordinated to ends other than itself? Would "art for art's sake" in contrast be the distinctive feature of a flourishing art?
There is nothing to that. In an aphorism entitled "L'art pour l'art" in Twilight (TI IX:24), Nietzsche shows how the phrase "art for art's sake"—which fights against moralizing tendencies in art by declaring deep enmity to morality—is simply a reversal of the opposite phrase, and in fact signifies the power of moral judgment. Pure passion would remove all goals from art, rather than assign to it a moral goal. For even if the goal of moralizing and ameliorating men is excluded from art, it still does not follow that art should be absolutely without an end or goal, and so deprived of meaning. This would be tantamount to forgetting that art depends upon the artist, that it fortifies or weakens certain valuations, and that the faculty of power in the artist is art's first condition.
This is why the artist's most profound instincts lead not to art, but to the meaning of art—that is to say, to life and to the desire for life: "Art is the great stimulus to life: how could one understand it as purposeless, as aimless, as l'art pour l'art? " Against the pessimistic outlook of Schopenhauer and his evil eye, one must call upon artists themselves in order to understand that art's true meaning lies in the glorification and affirmation of life. This is why the ascetic ideal is so fundamentally antiartistic. When an art says "yes" to life, it is because it has nothing to do with such an ideal: "If Raphael said 'yes' to life, it is because he was not a Christian."
Also, when at the end of the Third Essay Nietzsche questions whether any ideal can counterbalance the dominant ideal's power, he shows that it is art, far more than science, that could play this role:
Art, in which the lie is sanctified and the will to deception has a good conscience, is much more fundamentally opposed to the ascetic ideal than is science: this was instinctively sensed by Plato, the greatest enemy of art Europe has yet produced. Plato versus Homer: that is the complete, the genuine antagonism—there the sincerest advocate of the "beyond," the great slanderer of life; here the instinctive deifier, the golden nature. To place himself in the service of the ascetic ideal is therefore the most distinctive corruption of an artist that is at all possible; unhappily, also one of the most common forms of corruption, for nothing is more easily corrupted than an artist. (GM III:25)
2. The Nietzschean position, which makes the artist above all a "creator of affirmation of life" rather than just a creator, prevents the return of the religious to art in the guise of a sacralization of the artist, rival of God—nay, God himself—or in the guise of the sacralization of art, erected as a new absolute (in the manner of Malraux, whose atheism in fact is only a disguised and displaced theism).
On this point Nietzsche and Freud concur. Freud in his own way also opposes a theological conception of art, by showing that what we call artistic "creation," "gift," or "genius" ultimately derives from a play of forces and a certain destiny of drives. Art's enigma is the same as that of life which, from its beginning unto death, is abandoned to the random play of forces and their encounter. Each individual's life is only one of the multiple experiments that life—the only true artist—realizes in its game. In place of the idolatry of the artist (his veneration as a great man), Freud substitutes only respect for Nature, which eternally creates and destroys without reason. The Freudian conception allows for a break with the religious illusion that through art as antidestiny, man can succeed in triumphing over death. Nietzsche's view is similar, since to define the artist as a creator of affirmation of life is to say that he wills life, with its joys, but also with all that is terrible and unbearable in it. None of this contradicts the cult of appearance and surface to which the artist is devoted and which alone allows for amor fati . For it is only through the lens of the ascetic ideal that "appearance" and "surface" are opposed to "reality" and "depth."
3. A final question: Does not the vague impulse of the decadent artist to identify with his characters, in order to feel "real," equally apply to Nietzsche? And in speaking of Wagner, was Nietzsche ever speaking of anyone other than himself? Did he not spend his life identifying with Wagner, Schopenhauer, Socrates, Heraclitus, Empedocles, with all the historical figures who are all fictions, characters of his own creation?
In the preface to Human, All Too Human , Nietzsche admits to having wittingly closed his eyes to Schopenhauer, and to having deceived himself over the incurable romanticism of Richard Wagner, feigning that it was a beginning and not an end. Likewise over the Greeks; likewise over the Germans and their future—one might continue with a long list of such "likewises." It is a degree of superior vigilance (his instinct for preserva-
tion) which needed such falsity "in order to permit the luxury of his truthfulness":
Thus when I needed to I once also invented for myself the "free spirits". . . : "free spirits" of this kind do not exist, did not exist—but, as I have said, I had need of them at that time if I was to keep in good spirits . . . : as brave phantom companions with whom one can laugh and chatter . . ., spectres and phantasms to a hermit's liking, who will perhaps exist one day. (HH I:P:2)
Wouldn't the typical general impulse of Nietzsche—a decadent artist in this way—have been to be able to feel real, at last, by identifying with these multiple characters of his own creation? But didn't the multiplicity of identifications lead rather to a radical dispossession—to what one calls Nietzsche's madness?
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