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Nietzsche, Artistic Intoxication, and the Overcoming of Nihilism: The body As an Ontology of Practice
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By: Mo Mbaye Email Article
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What makes the dialectic tragic is not only the contest and its resolution but also the character of the whole process: its dominance by the Dionysian principle. The Dionysian principle expresses a "primordial unity" within which all categories dissolve in the fluxes of change, becoming, and suffering, for "in song and in dance man expresses himself as a member of a higher community; he has forgotten how to walk and speak and is on the way toward flying into the air, dancing" (Ibid). Allowed to run its course as a purely metaphysical and artistic principle, the Dionysian has a liberating, narcotic and joyful effect in the subject despite revealing the essence of life as change, instability, and pain because the subject loses its ability to judge when it finds itself in total communion, as if merging, with the primordial metaphysical unity that underlies existence. This may compel us to wonder about the true nature of the relationships between the tragic and the meaninglessness of existence: if the tragic merges the subject with the absurd realities of life, is it a worthy aim to embrace a tragic outlook on life if it condemns us to a meaningless form of existence? This question poses a serious challenge to Nietzsche if we can correctly assume that once it grasps life as absurdity and suffering, the Dionysian will subsists at this level of its terrible discovery as an end-in-itself. Nietzsche writes, "the highest art in saying Yes to life, tragedy, will be reborn when humanity has weathered the consciousness of the hardest but most necessary wars without suffering from it" (EH, "The Birth of Tragedy," 4). The aim of the Dionysian experience is not to stagnate in a meaningless existence but to go beyond and transforming the absurd suffering that plagues life; the tragic constitutes a truly affirmative perspective on life because suffering is the ground for asserting a joyful mode of existence.

IV. Nietzsche believes that "the intoxication of the will" has the power to turn the will from its inward direction, where nihilism has imprisoned it, and thrust it outward into becoming; "intoxication must first have heightened the excitability of the entire machine: no art results before that happens" (TI, "Expeditions of an Untimely Man," 8). The mechanism of intoxication consists in its ability to cause a condition of arousal in the will. If one believes that it is oneís duty to better human existence by creating progressive conditions, whereby the inspired individual authentically fashions a world meaningful to her because it reflects her creative possibilities (in the fifth section of the Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche tells us that "it is only as an aesthetic phenomenon that existence and the world are eternally justified."), and if one believes that human beings should be able to so relate to life as the meaning of their humanity, then one would welcome "a certain physiological precondition" that revives our sense of power and purpose. Nietzsche continues, "the essence of intoxication is the feeling of plenitude and increased energy" (Ibid). Intoxication can reverse the state of nothingness associated with nihilism because it has the power to cause the self to believe that it can master both itself and the world. Nietzsche writes, "it is impossible for the Dionysian man not to understand any suggestion of whatever kind, he ignores no signal from the emotions, he possesses to the highest degree the instinct for understanding and divining, just as he possesses the art of communication to the highest degree. He enters into every skin, into every emotion; he is continually transforming himself" (Ibid, 10). But it is not enough to arouse the self; the body must also affirm itself within becoming. Nietzsche writes, "let us get rid of a prejudice here: idealization does not consist, as is commonly believed, in subtracting or deducting of the petty and secondary. A tremendous expulsion of the principal features rather is the decisive thing, so that thereupon the others too disappear" (Ibid). The goal is not to change the structures of becoming, for as an underlying reality, it will always remain a "primal unity" of chaos. What the intoxicating self tries to achieve is a "tremendous expulsion" of the figures it finds most authentic about itself. Such a self takes its lead from the multiplicity in the body in a manner that allows us to argue that the latter actually functions as an ontology of practice. The body that transfigures becoming is the body that expresses not what it readily takes to be its own essential features, which often are artificial and oppressive cultural norms, but what Dionysus recognizes as the underlying nature of reality: life as frenzied becoming, a realm in which our socially assigned individuality, which ignores needs that are true to us, is dissolved. Here the multiplicity of the self truly becomes an immanent dimension of the practical possibilities of becoming, as Dionysus tries to secure his "symbolic jubilee" of nature. The Dionysian hero seeks to change our perspectives on the structures of becoming by giving them powerful symbolic expressions.# The main issue that still concerns us is, using the Dionysian model, how do we recognize a body or a self as a symbol of affirmation?

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Name: Mohamed Mbaye; Education: MA Philosophy; Occupation: College instructor; Interests: Philosophy, History, Arts

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