How Does Nietzsche’s Background in Philology Impact His Approach of Beauty?

How Does Nietzsche's Background in Philology Impact His Approach of Beauty

Many readers who read Nietzsche’s The Complete Philosophy would be surprised to learn that the famous French philosopher, who is also known as Nietzsche, was not a member of the College of Saint Benilde in Paris when he wrote the masterwork. In fact, Nietzsche’s doctoral dissertation was in ancient history and the University of Saxony. His background in philology is also reflected in the writing of his books on religion, politics, and aesthetics. So, how does Nietzsche’s background in philology impact his approach? Let’s figure this question out with below article.


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The question as to how does Nietzsche’s background in philology impact his philosophy has been asked many times. One of the most common answers to this question is that his background was in mathematics when he first began to write great philosophical works. This is evident in such classic works as the Mirror of accumulated negligence and the Elective metaphysics. We do not have evidence to support this claim, but it is tempting to view Nietzsche’s preoccupation with the flaws of mathematics in the context of his rejection of traditional, authority-based philosophy. As already mentioned, Nietzsche’s most famous novel is Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke. In this book, we can glimpse some of the ideas that were to form the foundations of his later work.

First, in contrast to many of the philosophers of the Middle Ages, Nietzsche did not accept the authority of sacred or divine texts. While he took great delight in quoting the biblical stories, he drew little attention to the meanings of these stories. In particular, the story of creation is taken as a critique of modern science by Nietzsche. It is interesting to note that while Nietzsche repeatedly dismissed the religious importance of the creation story in the Bible, he simultaneously emphasized the importance of religion in terms of its ability to produce “aesthetic sensations” in the human soul. In other words, for Nietzsche the religious element in religion is important only to the extent that it can effect the aesthetic senses. This goes far beyond a rejection of religion in general; in fact, the opening sentences of the introduction to his magnum opus, On Certain Matters, explicitly link religious faith with the desire for aesthetic experience.

Next, we will consider Nietzsche’s engagement with the long history of philosophy. How does Nietzsche’s background in philology impact his approach to history? The influence of Nietzsche on the history of Philosophy is seen most dramatically in his own utilization of pre-Socratic and post-Socratic modes of thought. Specifically, Nietzsche presents the history of philosophy as a history of individual pursuit of freedom. For Nietzsche the individual is the basic unit of the modern society, his history is one of endless questing. Although Nietzsche portrays the quest for freedom as a purely personal one, however, his views about the importance of aesthetic sense and the value of aesthetic experience are similar to those of earlier philosophers.

In The Portable Nietzsche, Michael Frick relates Nietzsche’s preoccupation with the philosophy of nature to his appreciation of Rabelais. The theme of nature is intimately linked to Nietzsche’s ideas about artistic beauty and the need for philosophy. As Frick points out, “Nietzsche saw his early work as an effort to illuminate the hidden motives behind the workings of reality, to explain how the aesthetic sensations we derive from nature, art, and story were produced… rather than as the product of arbitrary chance.” Though his interest in Rabelais is one of interpretation, how does Nietzsche’s background in philology impact his approach to philosophy?

We see Nietzsche utilize pre-Socratic aesthetics as a means of escape from the pressing political issues of his day. In Twilight, Nietzsche provides an interpretation of ancient Greek philosophy that links these early debates about the value of beauty with the larger history of mankind. In both the History of the Philosophy of Art and On Beauty, Nietzsche claims that the way we look at things determines our ability to perceive truth and therefore influence the course of human history. As he puts it in the first person, “The history of philosophy, like the history of beauty itself, is ‘a history of the self,’ in which each generation luxuriates in the achievements of its predecessors, while each feels its obligation to follow the precedents of its forebearers.”

How does Nietzsche’s background in philology impact his appreciation of Rabelais? According to Nietzsche, the late French philosopher is correct in saying that beauty is the only motive that distinguishes men from animals. In addition, according to Nietzsche, all persons are produced by the combination of their animal and vegetable instincts. Thus, humans are nothing but animal and vegetable beings motivated by their instinctive responses to the environment in which they live. In other words, all persons are motivated by something deeper than beauty – desire.

In summary, we find Nietzsche claiming that philosophy can be nothing other than a history of the self. He is not a philosophic – someone who studies how people actually think and why they do what they do, not how they appear to be thinking and acting. According to Nietzsche, philosophy is nothing other than an effort to get to the bottom of human nature by liberating it from its slavery to the body and the mind. He thus concludes that a superior, though not equal, art exists in the human being because it is part of the progression of the history of the soul. Finally, we must ask ourselves how does Nietzsche’s background in philology impact his appreciation of beauty – for it does seem that the philosophy of aesthetics is the key to the understanding of human nature and their connection to beauty.

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