Friday, 23 August 2019

On the Apollonian and the Dionysian

Nietzsche contrasts the two facets of the Greek world, the Apollonian and the Dionysian, in his 1872 work The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music. The Apollonian and the Dionysian are often regarded as opposites or rivals, but they are always entwined in nature. The purpose of Greek tragedy is to resolve the dichotomy or the conflict between the two by giving the Dionysian elements the opportunity to express their emotions, passions, fears, and madness within a story that is broadly Apollonian and is about reason, logic, bravery, self-control, and order.

According to Nietzsche, the Greek philosophers (especially Socrates) gave too much encouragement to the Apollonian elements while discouraging the Dionysian elements. Nietzsche understood that man—being what he is—can never be made free of his Dionysian side. By suppressing the Dionysian elements, the will to power cannot be tamed; a society must face the Dionysian feelings and provide avenues through which they can be expressed. It can prove lethal for a society to suppress Dionysian attributes—which cannot remain suppressed for too long and one day must burst out in the form of a rebellion against the norms or even violence.

I believe that the Dionysian elements have as great a role to play, in the progress that a society makes, as the Apollonian elements. The men of emotions, passions, and madness often venture into areas where the men of reason, logic, and self-control fear to go. Some of the greatest risk-takers and adventurers in history are the people who had all the Dionysian vices (if we call them vices). In a healthy society, there will not be any dichotomy or conflict between the Apollonian and the Dionysian—when these two elements march hand in hand, they bring great progress.

1 comment:

DocNix said...

Cf. Hermann Hesse's Narcizz und Goldmun.