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Nietzsche Knows no Noumenon

Author(s): David B. Allison


Source: boundary 2, Vol. 9/10, Vol. 9, no. 3 - Vol. 10, no. 1, Why Nietzsche Now? A Boundary
2 Symposium (Spring - Autumn, 1981), pp. 295-310
Published by: Duke University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/303124
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Knowsno Noumenon
Nietzsche

David B. Allison

It hasbecomea virtualpostulatein recentcriticismthatanycom-


petentreadingof Nietzschemustattendto a perceivedlossof sense,of
semanticevacuation, and inconsistency
incompleteness, intheNietzschean
text.Some criticseveninsiston an axiomaticvoidat theveryheartof his
texts.In the mostgeneralterms,it wouldappearthattwoconsiderations
compel this caution: a renewedawarenessof Nietzsche'srhetorical re-
sources-certainly,his almostprofligateuse of irony,metaphor, metono-
my,and repetition-and a perplexity
concerning hisvariousepistemologi-
cal formulations. To compound matters,Nietzsche'sepistemological
accountsoftenseemto confusetwotraditionally distinct
spheres,thatof a
properknowledge claimandthelanguage through which theclaim maybe
articulated.Acutelyawareof theconstraints governing the possibility
of
comprehension, Paulde Man,forexample,concludeshisanalysison a note
of obduratepessimism; namely,thatthe readeriscondemned bya warof
rhetoricto "an apparently endlessprocessof deconstruction,"a veritable
cancellationor destruction of theNietzschean
textitself.1Lesseristically,
perhaps,Carol Jacobsclaimsthatthe Nietzschean textis nonethelessde-
featedand rendereddumbby the defectof a congenitalstammering, a
rhetoricalagencywhich"menacesthedefinitive distinction
betweeniden-

295
tity and discrepancy,between repetitionand contradiction,distinctions
without which the concepts of history,signifier,and significationare
meaningless."2 Likewise, Paul Bovy finds Nietzsche's texts to be fully
equivocal and paradoxical. Not only are theirassertionscontinuallysub-
verted by a duplicitous rhetoric,but the conceptual formationswhich
mightsomehow escape this subversionare "already coopted" and "epis-
temologicallyentrapped" by an additional agency, "the revisionistpower
structure" of the Hegelian dialectic.3 The same holds true, in turn, he
argues, for any critical operation which seeks to enjoin the Nietzschean
of the text and itscriticalarticu-
text. The threatto both the intelligibility
lation is, in every case, dramaticallystated. For de Man, the threatis to
reason itself. For Jacobs, it arrives unannounced as the "incompre-
hensible." For Bove, it operates as "the limitsof epistemologicalunder-
standing."By each account, the judgmentrenderedwould be silence,and
its effectwould be to transformNietzsche's text into a book of the dead.
While these critics understandably representa variety of ap-
proaches, there is a strikingsimilaritybetweentheiranalysesand the most
traditionalreadingsof Nietzsche,which reflectthe by now practicallyun-
questioned thesisthat Nietzsche-particularly,in The Birthof Tragedyand
the collateral writingsof his early period-was fully committed to the
idealistdoctrinesof Schopenhauerand Kant, and that the "deeper" reality
about which he wrote so inadequatelywas the "world will" of the former
or the "in-itself"of the latter.De Man, for example, restatesthisentirely
conventional view and uses it as the initialpremisefor his own analysis:
"He [Nietzsche] uses and remainsfaithfulto the Kantianelementin Scho-
penhauer's terminology and this allegiance is itself epistemologically
founded." "Such an element," he continues,"is not just what we usually
call reality,but Ding an sich, the entityas substance in its identitywith
itself."4
Given these profoundlybinding metaphysicaltenets("the onto-
logical cards have been stacked fromthe beginning,"de Man remarks),it
was only plausible that Nietzsche's use of language,especially rhetoric,
would be found to have been severelycompromised.In the end, as de Man
succinctlyexpressesthis position,

There is littledifficultyin matchingthe two mytholog-


ical poles, Dionysus and Apollo, with the categoriesof
appearance [i.e., "phenomena"] and its antithesis[the
"noumenal" realm], or with the relationshipbetween
metaphoricaland proper language. From itsfirstcharac-
terization as dream, Apollo exists entirelywithin the
world of appearances. The dream . . . is mere surface ....
This state of illusion happens to coincide with what is
usually called 'reality' in everydayspeech, the empirical
reality in which we live .... All appearance, as the con-

296
cept implies,is appearance of somethingthat,in the last
analysis, no longer seems to be but actually is. This
"something" can only be Dionysus . . the origin of
things. As such, the Dionysian condition is an insight
into thingsas theyare. . . The Apollonian appearance is
the metaphoricalstatementof thistruth.5

Brieflystated, we seem confronted by the closure of an absolute and


double bind: language is restrictedab initio to metaphoricalexpression,
and that in turn is said to "represent"what is itselfonly an illusoryorder,
a fictive"reality," so called. Such a formulation-atonce entirelyconven-
tional and distinctivelypostmodern-does more than to condemn Nietz-
sche's texts to the far side of reason's sleep; at the same time it ironically
acknowledges its own fragilityin the face of such a closure. Text and
critique are quite simplysunderedand cast adrift,no longereven homo-
logous; a prospect de Man and othersfind regrettableindeed, but appar-
entlyunavoidable.
The driftor freeplaybetween two kindsof texts,between Nietz-
sche's text and itscritique (or, a common variantof this: the discontinuity
between his publishedworks and the unpublishednotes, drafts,outlines,
jottings,and letters)thus servesto displace a prioropposition,one which
occurs withina singletext: the ecstatic rhetoricof Dionysusand itsarticu-
late counterpart,the voice of Apollo. Finally,this rhetoricalset conven-
tionallyexpressestwo ordersof being,the Dionysian"reality" (specifical-
ly equated with the Schopenhauerianworld will or the Kantian noumenal
reality)and the phenomenalorder,the world as "representation,""idea,"
or "appearance." Innumerablestrategiesdisportthemselvesalong thisaxis
of filiation(most notably,those of representation, truth,signification,and
power), each of which has at one time or anotherguided the analysisof
The Birthof Tragedy.
It is no accident, furthermore,that such recent criticismhas
tended to view this most importantearly text of Nietzschefromthe van-
tage point of "On Truth and Lie in an Extra-MoralSense," forthese two
early works share common concerns and appear to express a common
structureof genesis,that of the doubly productivemetaphor.Nietzsche's
well-knownformulationfrom "Truth and Lie," i.e., that languageis the
metaphorof metaphor,could be said to prescribethe very itineraryof
rhetoricalgenesisand drift.The parallel between these two texts,each of
which employs a genealogical structureof production or displacement,
could be drawneven more strongly:each narrativeadvance in eitherof the
two accounts seems to be one of reflectionor reproduction,and each en-
tails a subsequent deformation,which in turnleads one furtheraway from
the respectiveoriginsof the genealogicaltrain.Witheach transformation
or deformation,the originsthemselvesbecome progressively irrecuperable.
In the absence of a governeddiscourse,one whicheffectivelyre-

297
peats or invokes a verifiableorigin,one mightwell follow de Man's per-
plexityand insiston the epistemologicalnecessityof what would ground
such a discourse, namely, a conventional metaphysicsof representation.
Such a non-figurative ground would serve-however inadequately-to es-
tablish a primetermor primaryanalogate forthe (dis-) figurativerhetoric
of metaphor. Yet even if this insistenceyielded an adequate account of
rhetoricaltropes (and this would only repeat the Aristotelianmodel), it
would not be sufficientto deal with the discourse of Dionysus and the
purportedlynoumenal reality(the "really real") to which it testifies,as set
forthin The Birthof Tragedy.
I wish to show: (1) that this recourseto the noumenal realmis in-
admissible,even within the terms of objective idealism; (2) that, in fact,
Nietzsche maintained no such necessityfor a noumenal realm; (3) that
"the Dionysian" correspondsto a fullyempiricalorder; (4) that Nietzsche
at least attempted to establish a discourse adequate to the Dionysian
during the period of The Birth of Tragedy; (5) that his account of the
Dionysian provokes a re-examinationof the status of subjectivityitself.
Certain implicationswhich stem from this position may be anticipated
briefly,althoughspace prohibitsme fromdevelopingthem in the present
paper: (1) the conventionalbelief in an "epistemologicalbreak" between
"the early Nietzsche" and "the late Nietzsche" must be abandoned.
(2) The distinction between a figurativeand disfigurativerhetoricoper-
ating concomitantlywithin the text of Nietzsche must be seriously re-
examined. (3) The supposition that Nietzsche maintaineda strictcorres-
pondence theoryof truth,at the time of his early writingsmust likewise
and correlativelybe re-examined,if not replaced, by a mixed theory,one
incorporatingelementsfromcoherenceand contextualistaccounts. Such a
view is stated clearly by the period of The Genealogy of Morals, even
though it is most apparentlyoperativein the earlyessay, "Truth and Lie."
Such an analysis in turn must question the usually univocal status of the
term "representation."(4) The semantic weightof such performativeas-
pects as are embraced by his account of music and sentimentor mood
must be seriously investigatedand rethoughtin view of (a) grammatical
closure and (b) the social and political dimensionsof intersubjectivelife.
Dionysian discourse and the immense domain it bespeaks,
remainsnecessarilyopaque, indeed immune,to the kind of analysistradi-
tionallydirected toward it by a representationalist theoryof ideas. Whatis
demanded by such an analysis is both the fact and the adequacy of repre-
sentationalthoughtitself,of categorial reason to masterits object and to
representit as conceptuallyarticulable.The adequacy of the criticaljudg-
ment, fully rationalistic,however,is in all cases unquestioned. But if the
"Dionysian element" escapes the representationaldiscourseof a totalizing
rationality,in no way can it be said to follow a fortiorithatthiselement
remainsbeyond a coherent empirical order, or that it should be under-
stood as a noumenal ground or metaphysicalworld will, termswhich by

298
definition would preclude its very experience. Indeed, within such a
noumenal order-the unconditioned itself-neithersubjectivitynor objec-
tivitycould even arise, nor the verypossibilityof theiragency,truth,or
consequence. The initial distinctionof such an unconditioned order is,
moreover,an hieraticone: by a presumedordo essendi, it claims an abso-
lute metaphysicalpriorityover any empiricalor conditioned world what-
soever. This is a sorely disquietingclaim, since to be made, it requires
articulationand confirmationthroughan ordo cognoscendi; its claim to be
mustsomehow be attestedby a capacity of human knowledge.
Doubtless, it was for just these reasonsthat Kant could onlypos-
tulate a noumenal order. He did so to satisfythe regulativedemand of un-
derstandingthat whateverappeared must be the appearance of something
else, a demand which recoiled at the irrationalprospect of a causally in-
finiteregress:"Everythingthat exists, exists as substance,or as a deter-
mination inherentin it; or, everythingcontingentexists as an effectof
some other thing,namely,of its cause."6 This necessity,for Kant, paral-
leled the critical imperativeitself:"Understandingand sensibility,withus,
can determine objects only when they are employed in conjunction."7
Any object of possible experience, excluded from subsumptionby the
categoriesof the understandingwas thus held to be inadmissible,since this
exclusion would amount to a transcendental,and thus, illegitimateem-
ploymentof reason. Ultimately,Kant argued,sensibilityis fullygoverned
by the "proper" employmentof the categories,whichemploymentserves
to define objective representation;namely, discursivelyarticulateforma-
tions (strictlyspeaking,experienceswhichcould be representedin turnby
assertoricjudgments): "For we cannot in the least representto ourselves
the possibilityof an understandingwhich should not know its object dis-
cursivelythroughcategories."8
For Kant, it was quite enough to assume that sensible intuition
occurs only by means of categorialrepresentation.This is why the concept
of the noumenon is merelya "limitingconcept," one which "must be un-
derstood as being such only in a negativesense." In fact, the noumenon
servesas a doubly negativelimit:
(1) It is postulatedto subtend the orderof sensibilityand serveas
a metaphysical "substrate." Thus, the noumenal order could, without
logical contradiction,effectivelygroundthe phenomenalorder.As such it
would serve as an antidote both to dogmatic idealism (the Berkelianvari-
ety) and to reason's horrorat the prospectof an infinitecausal regress.
(2) The noumenon also stands as an antithesisto the sensible
order, namely,as a possibilitywhich lies beyond it. In this case, it could,
without logical contradiction,constitutethe intelligibleorder.Yet in both
cases, the noumenonwould typicallyexceed the categoriallyorderedman-
ifold: in the former,because sensibilityis governedby the categoriesof
the understanding;in the latter,because no sensibleintuitioncorresponds
to the bare logical possibilityof such an intelligibleorder.The noumenon

299
would thus be either unintelligibleor suprasensible.It would be as Kant
described it, a wholly "problematic" concept, one which is positivelyex-
cluded fromhumanexperiencein any case.
Like Kant, Schopenhauer also maintained that the empirical
order is strictlydeterminedby the formsof intuition(space and time) and
by the categoriesof the understanding, termshe designatedcollectivelyas
"the principleof sufficientreason." Objective experience, for Schopen-
hauer, was thereby assimilated-and fully equivalent-to the rational,
causal modes of subjective "representation" or "idea." But while he
adopted the concept of noumenonfromKant ("Thing-in-itself signifiesthe
existent independentlyof our perception,in short,that which properly
is. ... For Kant it was = X; for me it is Will"), Schopenhauernonetheless
affirmedit as a positiveorder,one framedpreciselyto counter the nega-
tive character of Kant's limit case.9 If the empirical world is thus the
representationof a totally unconditioned ground, then such a (meta-
physicallyprior) ground must itselfstand as the point by point antithesis
to the causally conditioned, rational order of nature. The concept of a
noumenal realm, therefore,was dictated by the principleof sufficient
reason and stood as its exact opposite: the rechristened"world will" was,
by Schopenhauer's definition,beyond space, time, form, matter,objec-
tivity,motion, causality,and hence, beyond all individuation,differentia-
tion, or multiplicity;it was necessarilyother than reason, and therefore,
positivelyirrational.Indeed, he argued, it was withoutorigin,purpose,or
surcease.
Despite all appearances, Schopenhauer nonetheless claimed-at
least, initially-thatone could have an immediateknowledgeof the will.
This would be a "most direct knowledge," one of a "special" or "excep-
tional" kind: an "inner" consciousnessor awareness. Directed back upon
the datum of its own animate body, this intuitionwould immediately
show the subject's real being as will,his "subjectiveessence" or noumenal
reality.By this privilegedinnerintuitionSchopenhauerhoped to avoid the
mediatingand distortingcharacterof spatial representation,the Kantian
form of external, objective intuition. The full presence of the in-itself
would thereby be given to the for-itselfin the immediacy of self-
consciousness. With this assurance (what Descartes called "the Archi-
medean point" and what Hegel located in "the self-knowingsubject"),
Schopenhauer would extend the intuitionto its broadest conceivable ap-
plication;fromthe selfas will to the world as will:

We are not merelythe knowingsubject, but in another


aspect, we ourselvesalso belong to the innernaturethat
is to be known, we ourselvesare the thingin itself;that
thereforea way fromwithinstands open for us to that
innernaturebelongingto thingsthemselves,to whichwe
cannot penetrate from without .... The thing in itself

300
can, as such, only come into consciousnessquite direct-
ly, in this way, that it is itselfconscious of itself.... In
fact,our willingis the one opportunitywhichwe have of
understandingfrom withinany event which exhibits it-
self without,consequentlythe one thingwhich is known
to us immediately,and not, like all the rest,merelygiven
in the idea. Here then,lies the datum whichalone is able
to become the key to everythingelse, or, as I have said,
the single narrow door to the truth. Accordinglywe
mustlearnto understandnaturefromourselves,not con-
verselyourselves fromnature.What is known to us im-
mediatelymust give us the explanationof what we only
know indirectly,not conversely.10

So far, at least, went the positive claim. Upon reflection,Schopenhauer


realized that his case for the via affirmativawas far less sanguine,if not
finallyunattainable. Havingdeterminedthe characterof the noumenonby
its postulated exclusion fromthe principleof sufficientreason, Schopen-
hauer found his assertionsdramaticallycurtailed by the epistemological
paradox of representation;i.e., by his makinga claim about the natureof
transcendentbeing fromthe standpointof what is at best a transcendental
possibilityof knowing-preciselythe illicittransferhe found so risiblein
Kant's notion of noumenal freedom. More importantly,his claim that in-
ner intuitionwas in fact capable of graspingthis noumenal realitysup-
posed that intuitionitselfoperated outside the second a priori formof
sensibility, namely, temporality. When put to the test, however (in
Ch. XVII, Supplement to Book II, "On the Possibilityof Knowing the
Thing in Itself"), this suppositionwas surprisingly,
if not prudently,with-
drawn:

Accordingly, we have to refer the whole world of


phenomena to that one in which the thingin itselfap-
pears in the verythinnestof veils,and onlystillremains
phenomenon insofaras my intellect... does not even in
inner perception put off the form of ... time.(WW/,
Vol. II, p. 408)

Withthe failureto transcendempiricalintuition,whateveris givento inner


reflectionremains an object to the intuitingsubject; hence, it remains
mere"idea" or "representation."
In the end, therecan be no effectiverecuperationof the noume-
non. There must in all cases of knowing,be a "residuum"-"an unfathom-
able something"of qualitates occultae-which cannot be explained:

In all that we know there remains hidden from us a

301
certain something,as quite inscrutable,and we are ob-
liged to confess that we cannot thoroughlyunderstand
even the commonest and simplest phenomena. (WWI,
Vol. II, p. 303)

More strongly still, "the more necessity any knowledge carries with
it, .. . the less reality, properly so called, is given in it" (WWI, Vol. I,
pp. 158-59). Quite simply,Schopenhauer was forced to acknowledgethat
the will can be given neitherto the senses nor to the intellect:"It is there-
fore related to them," he lamented, "as our sensibilityis related to the
possible propertiesof bodies for which we have no senses" (WW/,Vol. I,
p. 468).
Since the individual(or, individuated)will can only be givenem-
pirically,Schopenhauer conceded that his speculative discourse was per-
force analogical. Yet like the scholastic formulationsof St. Thomas and
Cajetan, the real analogy in question is that which is framedto securethe
noumenalground of the empiricalorder: the human body standsto the in-
dividual will (i.e., as its objective manifestation)as the phenomenalworld
stands to its noumenalground(of "world will"). This four-termed analogy
(of proper proportionality)is insoluble, however, unless the component
termsare themselvesclarified.The primaryanalogate-world will-is itself
in question, and thus, cannot help resolvethe analogy (between the two
sets of relations) which it in part constitutes.Likewise, the primaryana-
logue-the individualwill-remains especially problematic,since individua-
tion does not pertainto the noumenalorder.The relationwhicheach part
of the analogy advanced (i.e., the relationof manifestation),as well as the
relationbetween these two relations(the extensional relation) is in every
case impossibleto discernor to confirm.Schopenhauer'sfinalrecourse,in
defense of the via analogia, is to abstractthe individual'sphenomenalwill
fromits severalacts (i.e., from its specific motivesand occasions in space
and time), and with "this conviction," designatewhat is therebyremoved
fromthe phenomenal subject his "real innernature." He then "transfersit
to all these phenomenawhichare not [immediately]givento
him."'11
This last defense of analogical discourse is itselfexposed as a dis-
cursivestrategyof power. Abstractionand generalization,termswhichare
synonymouswith the Westerntraditionof metaphysicalmastery,are the
properinstruments of thisdefense:

We must borrow for it [the subject's noumenalwill] the


name and concept of an object, or somethingin some
way objectivelygiven,consequentlyone of its own man-
ifestations.But in order to serve as a clue forthe under-
standing,thiscan be no otherthan the most complete of
all its manifestations .... Now, this is the human will
[the phenomenally objective order of volitions, urges,

302
stimuli,etc.] . It is, however,well to observethat here,at
any rate,we only make use of a denominatioa potiori,
throughwhich,therefore,the concept of will receivesa
greater extension than it has hitherto had .... I there-
fore name the genus after its most important
species.. . and then transfer it to all the weaker, less dis-
tinct manifestationsof the same nature, and thus we
shall accomplish the desired extensionof the concept of
the will. (WWI,Vol. I, pp. 143-44)

The attemptto definea metaphysical"world will" by the rhetori-


cal expedient of synechdoche or metonymy,according to the terms of
what is "assumed" to subtend the discretesubjectiveact, and yet be the
"groundless" antithesisof the latter-admittedly"incomprehensible"and
"nonsensible," quite beyond all space, time, and individuation-was,for
Nietzsche, no less than arrant hyperbole. If Worldas Will and Idea was
Schopenhauer's responseto the question "Whatis thisworld of perception
besides being my own idea?", Nietzsche's later epithet concerningthis
labored project seems almost generous in retrospect:"Never have so few
dug so deep and come up withso little."
According to the termsof objective idealism,the noumenon re-
mains at best a speculativepostulate: since it cannot be intuited,it cannot
be discursivelyarticulated. Likewise, and conversely,since it cannot be
categorially represented,it exceeds all sensible experience. Oddly, how-
ever, it is just this initial postulate that seems to pass withoutquestion
among Nietzsche's critics,namely, that he maintainedthe metaphysical
realityof such a noumenal order,and that he termedit "the Dionysian."
Of course, there is ample evidence in The Birth of Tragedyto attest to
this. Indeed. Every reader knows that Nietzsche wrote tirelesslyand at
lengthof "the will," the "world will," endless,boundless,etc. Whatcould
be more obvious than this patentlyidealist vocabularyof the noumenon?
Yet it was preciselythe appearance of indebtednessto Schopenhauerand
Kant on this question that Nietzsche himselfwishedto correctin his later
prefaceto The Birthof Tragedy,the "Attemptat a Self-Criticism."

How I regretnow that in those days I still lacked the


courage (or immodesty?)to permitmyselfin everyway
an individual language of my own for such individual
viewsand hazards-and that instead I triedlaboriouslyto
expressby means of Schopenhauerianand Kantianform-
ulas strangeand new valuationswhich were basically at
odds with Kant's and Schopenhauer's spirit and
taste! ... I observed and spoiled Dionysian premonitions
withSchopenhauerianformulations.12

303
What was at issue, then, in the later prefacewas to show that his
earlieranalysis was only nominallydefective;despitethe borrowedvocab-
ulary,Nietzsche argued that his account in The Birthof Tragedyremained
consistentand valid, that it in no way committedhimto the metaphysical
tenets of Schopenhauer and Kant, and thus it entailed neitherthe hope-
lesslyoptimisticmoralworld orderof Kant nor the resignationand despair
of Schopenhauerianpessimism.On the contrary,and preciselybecause the
Dionysian was not to be understoodas a noumenalreality,he could pres-
ent an analysiswhich laid claim to some degree of historicaland psycho-
logical objectivity,the veryqualities he found so lackingin the romantic-
idealisttraditionof 18th-and 19th-century scholarship.
"The Dionysian" was indeed all-too-humanlyempirical. It was
the affectiveregisterof ecstasy, of intense delight and suffering,every-
where experiencedthroughoutthe ancient world. From the initialdiscus-
sion of this term in The Birthof Tragedy,Nietzscheconsistentlyreferred
to it (and to the Apollonian as well) as an instinct,drive,pulsion,power,
or force, i.e., principallyas a Trieb,oftenas an Instinktor Macht. In fact,
he was careful to distinguishtwo general expressionsof this instinctual
element at the outset, the specifically"Greek" formation(which would
correspondto the ritualizedactivityof the Dionysiancults), and the "bar-
barian" or "bestial" variety,a distinctionwhich broadly anticipatesthe
laterFreudianmodels of secondaryand primaryprocessactivity.13
Even by the time Nietzschecomposed The Birthof Tragedy,his
use of conventionallymetaphysicallanguagewas strainedto the point of
breaking,in order to accommodate this experientialorder of affectivity
and passion. Not only would the borrowedvocabularyof "will" soon pass
over into the antimetaphysicalvocabulary of "will to power," with its
"multiplicitiesof forces," its "perspectival" coherences,and the prospect
of its "eternal recurrence,"but the collective formationsof what he still
termed"will" were alreadydefinedempiricallyas "phenomena" and "sen-
sations" (which, he noted, are not possible withoutobjects), i.e., as sub-
stantial,bodily, and materialunities.14 The transitionto his own vocabu-
lary was perhaps assisted by his substitutionof such terms as "the pri-
mordial one" or "the original process" for the Schopenhauerian"world
will." Moreover,it is repeatedlyestablished in his notes of the period that
these substitutionswere held to be synonymsfor"the world" and "exist-
ence," generally:specifically,for a world of becoming-of generationand
strife,attraction,discord, and plurality.If anything,his languagebecame
ever more influencedby his readingof the presocraticsduringthis period
(especially, Heraclitus),and already by the end of 1870, he characterized
his own emergentphilosophyas an "invertedPlatonism."
Since the Dionysian was thus an instinctualcomponent of em-
pirical reality,Nietzsche'smost difficulttask was to characterizeit in posi-
tive terms.On the one hand, it had to be articulatedin a vocabularywhich
would correspondto a dynamicallyconceived empiricalorder,therebyac-

304
knowledgingits ontological paritywith the latter.To this end, of course,
Nietzsche most often discussed both orders (i.e., instinctsand theirob-
jects, or, the affectiveindividualand his world) in termsof theircommon
dynamicor energeticproperties.Unlikethe recourseof Schopenhauer,this
move was neithermeant to be metonymicnor synechdotal,nor, in any
way a denominatioa potiori. Alternatively, and because the Dionysianhad
to do with affectivebehaviorgenerally(most specifically,pathos), Nietz-
sche was loath to consider it in simplyobjective, or discretelyrepresenta-
tional terms. What was at issue was one of the most strikingelementsof
subjective life, yet, at the same time, a dimensionof subjectivitywhich
seemed to enjoy a public, intersubjectiveexistence as well. Indeed, it was
the culturaldepth and historicaluniversalityof the Dionysianwhichcom-
manded his attentionin the firstplace. If the categoriallanguageof partic-
ular entities-the tradition of Aristotelianmetaphysics,which extends
through Kant and Schopenhauer-seemed inadequate to this task, so did
the restrictionto entirelysubjectivementalstates.
Perhaps Nietzsche's most successfulearlyattemptto forma posi-
tive discourse for the Dionysian resultedfromhis reflectionson Schiller's
theoriesof poetryand drama.15 It was Schillerwho firstemphasizedthe
intentionaland relationalpropertiesof sentiment,and understoodthe af-
fectiveregisterof feelingsor moods (Stimmungen)accordingto the no-
tion, borrowed from music, of tone, tonality,or better,of attunement
(Stimmung): i.e., accordingto an externaland pervasivefield,one acces-
sible to a pluralityof subjects and which embraced a collateralspace. Af-
fectivity,in this sense, was not to be thoughtof as a strictlyimmanent
datum of subjectivity,entirelyself-enclosedand discrete.Such a view,for
Schiller,testifiedmoreto a consideredsolipsismthan to one's ordinaryex-
perience. The reflectionon Schiller's understandingof sentimentenabled
Nietzsche to resolvetwo closely related problemswhich seemed to stand
in the way of a positivediscourseabout the Dionysian: the firstconcerned
the curious status of Archilochus in relation to the evolution of poetry
and, ultimately,to tragicdrama. The second was to account forthe strik-
ing fact of ecstasy,which in partdefinesthe veryoccurrenceof Dionysian
states.
According to what was said of him in ancient times,and by the
few remainingfragmentsof his work, we know that Archilochus,the tra-
ditional originatorof lyricpoetry,was of a singularlyDionysiantempera-
ment. He both composed and led Dionysian choruses,and his work was
unique in its passionate intensity,especially in its extremelycoarse erot-.
icism. Doubtless these uniquely un-Homericqualities explained why his
contemporariesdenounced him. Heraclitus,Critias,and Pindar in particu-
lar excoriated him for his rejection of the aristocratic-Homericideals,
ideals Archilochushimselfremarkedwere of little interest,save perhaps,
for those who preferredto die pointlesslyin battle. Nevertheless,Nietz-
sche observed,this bastard son of a Parian slave woman-ever intoxicated

305
and often savage-was given a status equal to that of the Apollonian
Homer:

The ancients.. . place the faces of Homer and Archilo-


chus, as the forefathersand torchbearersof Greek
poetry,side by side on gems,sculptures,etc., witha sure
feelingthat considerationshould be given only to these
two, equally completely original,from whom a stream
of fireflowsover the whole of laterGreekhistory.16

Why thisshould have been the case is problematic.If traditionallyArchilo-


chus was seen as merelya "subjective" poet, why should thisone individ-
ual's rathersordid testimonybe of any consequence at all? Nietzsche's
responsewas that in lyricpoetry(especiallyin view of its associationwith
music), the importantconsiderationwas not so much the communication
of a personal or subjectiveexperienceas such-for howeverintriguing that
mighthave been, no one is entirelyincapable of it-but, rather,the crea-
tion of a "musical mood."
When Nietzsche introducedthe termin Chapter5 of The Birthof
Tragedy,he recalled his indebtednessto Schiller'sanalysisof the complex
characterof mood, and went on to say that the Stimmungor the musik-
alische Stimmungis not simplythe objective re-presentation of an internal
mental state: "The sphere of poetry does not lie outside the world as a
fantasticimpossibilityspawned by a poet's brain."17 If it were only this,
the musical mood would be merelya particularimageproduced by the in-
dividualpoet. In that case, the mood characterof lyricpoetry-itselftonal,
musical-would be but anotherexample of Apollonian "objective" art,the
art of discrete representationalimages and concepts. But if the "musical
mood" of lyric poetry was neither Apollonian (as the objective image
series of epic poetry) nor simplya subjectivetestament,what thenwas it,
and why should it have been capable of ignitingthe world of tragicdrama?
But if mood is understood,followingNietzsche'sreadingof Schiller,as re-
lationalattunement,it followsthat the mood state isall pervasiveforone's
own experience: it is neithersimply"within" nor "without," neither"sub-
jective" nor "objective" in the strictsense. Rather, and because of its
uniquely experienced status, it appears suffusive,elemental, nonlocaliz-
able, or as Nietzsche remarked,"indecomposable"-as the fog inhabitsthe
night,as the presence of anxiety. Understoodfromthis perspective,mood
lends a tonalityto all thingsin its field,includingthe poet himself.Thus,
the lyricalexperience and the lyricalre-creationof the mood, were quite
literallyecstatic: as such the mood dispossessedthe poet of his "own" sub-
jectivity,his own "I" or ego. What was given to and by the lyricpoet,
then, was the uniquely Dionysian state of disindividuation.As Nietzsche
remarked, "The artist has already surrenderedhis subjectivityin the
Dionysian process," and he now feels an "identitywith the heart of the

306
world"-he experiencesthe world as his "primordialhome" (Urheimat).
By providingthe direct and indirectsources of affectiveexcita-
tion, by providingthe somatic and psychologicalgroundsof thiselevated
mood, by providingan object for it as well-the world underthe imageof
the god Dionysus-and by investingit with the aim of an ecstatic instinct-
ual satisfaction,Archilochuseffectivelyrecreatedthis heightenedmood in
his audience. And by this accomplishment,by becomingwhat Nietzsche
termed a "world poet," Archilochus inauguratedthe traditionof tragic
drama itself.
Nietzsche devoted a large part of his early writingsto analyzing
these constitutiveelements of mood (most notably, perhaps, the back-
ground phenomena of pain and what he termedmusical"dissonance"), of
the poetic and tragicre-creationof heightenedaffectivity; his analysiswas
nonethelessmeant to be historicallyaccurate, since the deploymentof af-
fective states formed the very "subsoil" of Greek cultural and political
life.18 The entirequestion of the Dionysian,then,was also a historicalis-
sue. And, again, it was the appearance of Archilochuswhichat once broad-
ened the issue and suggestedits resolution.For Nietzsche,the obvious fact
was that the ecstatic states initiallysupposed a repressiveorder-"a mili-
tary encampment of the Apollonian, . . . encompassed with bulwarks"-
which, in turn, was dynamically bound to the conditions of distress,
poverty,and warfarethat characterizedthe emergenceof Doric culture
fromthe late Archaicperiod. Foreshadowingthe demise of the kaloi kaga-
thoi, as Nietzsche would later describe it in The Genealogy of Morals,
Archilochus(himselfthe progenyof an lonian slave) demonstrateda vital
truthto the disaffectedhoipolloi: that the Apollonian individualwas only
a pretense,an aristocraticconstructof Homericculture. Moreover,when
enacted as a regulatedand regulativeform of life, this pretense led no-
where but to the grave,an unhappy one at that. Thus, the generationof
the heightened mood ultimately produced an entirely new subject.19
Again, this was effectivelyrealized in the Dionysian cult ritual by (1) in-
tensifyingthe source and varietyof instinctualexcitation; (2) transferring
the instinctualobject to the world of Dionysian intensitiesand images;
(3) fundamentallyalteringthe aim of these long-governedand strictly
codified instincts: the rather austere and fearful stability of a long-
forgottenIliumwas replaced by the prospectof a veritablyorgiasticfulfill-
ment.20 Through the expediency of intensificationand decodification,
one would be literally-if only briefly-reborn,as had the mythological
Dionysus. Nietzsche went on to argue (in Chapter23 of The Birthof Trag-
edy) that the seeminglymagical propertiesof thisecstasis or dispossession
would be retained in classical tragedyitself,and be governedin turn,by
the effectiveorchestrationof audience transferrence:i.e., the audience's
abilityto transferthe generalmythologicalcontentonto the specificfigure
of the masked actor. This process was aided and intensified,of course, by
the chantsof the dithyrambicchorusand by the accompanyinginstrumen-

307
tation.21 Likewise, this ecstatic state would be furtherenhanced by the
dramatist'suse of rhetoricalcondensation,his capacity to portrayconvinc-
inglythe actor's epic pronouncementsas "image sparks" of a realitymore
expansivethan that of his own subjectivity.
Dionysian discourse ultimatelyconcerns this state of disposses-
sion or what Nietzschegenerallytermed,the "collapse" or "destruction"
of individuation:disindividuation.If this discourse often appears inade-
quate to itssubject matter,as Nietzschefrequentlyacknowledged,thiswas
in part due to the generalityof his thematicconcernsin The Birthof Trag-
edy, and in part to the noveltyof his own analysis-in additionto the in-
fusion of a borrowed vocabulary.Since the Dionysian state of ecstasy is
the disruptionof ego identity,of individualexistenceper se, to speak of it
in positivetermsat all is exceedinglyproblematic.Yet when Nietzscheat-
tempted to articulateit, to address it descriptively,he oftenreferredto it
as primal, as priorto the state of individuation,or even, as more natural
than the Apollonian state. If such termsseem paradoxically romanticor
Schopenhauerian, we should recall that the issue for Nietzsche was the
very constitutionof the subject as an individual,as well as the intensely
experienced world given to the individual.In the Dionysian state, one is
dispossessedof all that rendersthe individuala singularand distinctivesub-
ject in the firstplace: the specificconcatenationof character,personality,
tastes, fears, expectations, reflection,and values. The Apollonian begins
here, with the ordering,selection, and elevation of certain dispositions,
with the idealization of particularvalues and judgments,and casts these
forthas unifiedand exemplaryimagesforthe purpose of definingand pre-
servingthe individualas a discreteindividual.In thissense,the Apollonian
analogy of the "dream state" correspondsto the idealized elements of a
prescriptivecode, one that constitutesthe individualand preserveshim as
such within a society. The Dionysian state, aptly described as "intoxica-
tion," would thus correspondto a suspension,a "decodification" of these
individuallyand socially sanctioned codes.
Dionysian priority,finally,is neither metaphysical(noumenal),
nor representational(eikastic), nor productive (poieic). Rather, it is an
analyticalpriority:it testifiesto the always presentinstinctualsources of
human behaviorwhich, in the absence of particular,individual,and cate-
gorial determination,can but weakly be termed polymorphous,undi-
rected, and nonspecific.This state carrieswith it, Nietzsche insisted,the
element of alogia, what is unmeasured or unproportioned,what escapes
form and determination.22By the same account, the Dionysian world is
said to be more natural, but only in the sense that nature as a whole is
more extensive than the individuatingand possessivedream image would
have us believe: it has to do with that undiminishedstate of existence
upon which formsare enacted, codes imposed,and specificgoals wrought.
As the intentionalcorrelateto the Dionysianstate of ecstasy,it is a world
of proximatesurfaces,of cathected intensitiesand forces-everywhereim-

308
mediate,experiencedwithoutrestraint,proportion,or prescription.This is
why the Dionysian voice, which spoke throughtragicdrama,was perhaps
more of a cry,a lament,a song of joy or praise,than a discourse-properly
speaking.Consequently,it was neversimply"true," nor simplyopposed to
a "false" discourseof Apollo.

SUNY-Stony Brook

NOTES
1 Paul de Man, "Genesis and Genealogyin Nietzsche's The Birthof Tragedy,"
Diacritics,Winter1972, p. 52. See also his "Nietzsche'sTheoryof Rhetoric,"
Symposium,Spring 1974, and "Action and Identity," Yale FrenchStudies,
No. 52, 1975.

2 Carol Jacobs, The DissimulatingHarmony (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins


Univ.Press,1978), pp. 21-22.

3 Paul Bov6, "Introduction:Nietzsche'sUse and Abuse of Historyand the Prob-


lemsof Revision,"boundary2, VII, No. 2 (Winter1979), pp. 1-15.

4 De Man, "Genesis and Genealogy,"pp. 47-48.

5 De Man, "Genesis and Genealogy,"p. 49.

6 Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, tr. NormanKemp Smith (New York: St.
MartinsPress, 1965), A 259/B 315. Note that, in the passage quoted above
from"Genesis and Genealogy,"de Man makesexactlythe same kindof repre-
sentationalistdemand: "All appearance,as the concept implies,is appearance
of somethingthat, in the last analysis,no longerseems to be but actually is.
This 'something'can only be Dionysus," i.e., the "antithesis"of all appear-
ance, the noumenalrealm.

7 Kant,Critiqueof Pure Reason, A 268/B 314.

8 Kant,Critiqueof Pure Reason, A 256/B 311.

9 "Some Reflectionson the Antithesisof Thing-in-Itself


and Phenomenon,"in
Philosophyof Schopenhauer,tr. B. Bax and B. Saunders,(New York: Tudor,
1936), p. 255.

10 A. Schopenhauer, The Worldas Willand Idea, III Vols., tr.R. B. Haldane and
J. Kemp (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1883), Vol. II, pp. 404-5 (here-
aftercited as WWI).

11 The Worldas Willand Idea, I, p. 142. See also, p. 136: "We shalljudge of all
objects which are not our bodies . . . accordingto the analogy of our own
bodies, and shall thereforeassume thatas in one aspect theyare idea ... so in
another aspect, what remainsof objects when we set aside theirexistenceas
idea of the subject,must in its innernaturebe thesame as that in us whichwe
call will. For what otherkindof existenceor realitywould we attributeto the
restof the materiaiworld?" (emphasisadded).

309
12 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy,tr. W. Kaufmann (New York: Vintage,
1967), p. 24. Werke: KritischeGesamtausgabe,ed. G. Colli and M. Montinari
(Berlin: De Gruyter,1967ff.),Abt. III, Bd. I, pp. 13-14 (hereaftercited as BT
and KGW respectively).

13 For a discussion of the "popular" and "epidemic" aspects of these expres-


sions,see his "Dionysian Worldview,"KGW, III / 2, 43-69, and the draftsfrom
Autumn1869-Spring 1870, esp. PI 15.

14 Shortlyafterthe publicationof BT, in 1872, Nietzschewould admonishhim-


self for still retainingthis technical vocabulary.See, e.g., "The Philosopher:
Reflectionson the StrugglebetweenArt and Knowledge," in Philosophyand
Truth,tr. D. Breazeale (New Jersey:HumanitiesPress,1979), pp. 1-58. H.J.
Mette,"Sachlicher Vorbericht"to Vol. I of KGW, pp. xxi-cxxvi,esp. # 163.
See also, KGW, III / 3, pp. 206-214. (7[135-173]).

15 KGW, III / 3, pp. 230-31 (8[7]).

16 BT, 5, p. 46; KGW, III / 1, p. 38.

17 BT, 8, p. 61; KGW, III / 1, p. 54.

18 See esp., "The Greek State," KGW, III / 2, pp. 258-71, and "Homer's Con-
test,"KGW, pp. 277-86.

19 KGW, III / 3, pp. 230-31 (8[7]).

20 On the Dionysianvenerationof Sexuality,see Twilightof the Idols, "What I


Owe to the Ancients,"section4.

21 The intoxicatingeffectsof these instrumentson the Greek populace is suf-


ficientlywitnessedby Aristotle'sstrenuousrejectionof them in the Politics.
For Aristotle,the flute especially (as well as the zither,sackbut,heptagon,
etc.), servesonly the "vulgarpleasure" of the audience. "It does not expressa
state of character,but rathera mood of religiousexcitement;and it should
thereforebe used on those occasions when the effectto be produced on the
audience is the releaseof emotion,and not instruction."Significantly, "flute
playing preventsthe player from using the voice." He continued,citing an
ancient myth: "Athena, it tells us, inventedthe flute-and then threw it
away." Aristotle'sexplanation?"She threwit away because the studyof flute
playing has nothingto do with the mind." The Politics of Aristotle,Book
VIII, Ch. 6, Eng. tr. by E. Barker (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1962),
pp. 348-49.

22 KGW, III / 3, p. 145 (7[21).

310