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Rees, P.D. van

History of Philosophy

Art and truth. Nietzsche’s struggle with romanticism

As the title indicates, this thesis focusses on Nietzsche’s relation to romanticism. More specifically, it deals with Nietzsche’s own romanticism, both in the sense of his particular understanding of romanticism and his struggle with and proclaimed victory over this type of romanticism. Nietzsche identifies romanticism primarily with the philosophy of Schopenhauer and the music of Wagner, the two persons who shaped to a large extent Nietzsche’s early philosophy. This means that Nietzsche’s struggle with romanticism forms a big part of his intellectual development and together with his ‘Dionysian’ alternative, so I argue, forms the heart of his philosophy as a whole.

I approach the subject in three steps. In the first chapter (Nietzsche on art), I present the interpretations of Julian Young and Aaron Ridley, who both conclude that Nietzsche’s later philosophy is romantic (in his own sense of the term) because, they claim, Nietzsche abandons the problematic demand of truthfulness and focuses instead on the affirmative link between art and life. My main objection to their interpretation is that it reduces large parts of Nietzsche’s later writings to self-deceiving non-sense.

Since the most important step in Nietzsche’s intellectual development according to Young and Ridley is his critique of the value of truth, I devote the second chapter (Nietzsche on truth) to explore this theme further by interpreting the works of Paul van Tongeren, according to whom the later Nietzsche identifies with ‘the problem of the will to truth’. While his interpretation is much more nuanced and integrates larger parts of Nietzsche’s philosophy than the interpretations of Young and Ridley, I claim that Van Tongeren too misses some important aspects, primarily because he pays too little attention to Nietzsche’s positive ideas on truth and art and fails to appreciate Nietzsche’s ‘Fröhlichkeit’.

In the third chapter (Nietzsche on life), I develop my own interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy by focussing on his ideas on the body and health and investigate the central distinction between what he calls the romantic and the Dionysian. I overcome the difficulties encountered in the first two chapters by integrating his views on art, truth and life into a ‘Gesundheitslehre’. By means of this focus on health I am not only able to clarify the mistakes of other Nietzsche-scholars, but also provide an original account of many of Nietzsche’s puzzling aphorisms and his philosophy as a whole.

Last modified:19 September 2014 4.26 p.m.