Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Friedrich Nietzsche and Weimar Classicism

Friedrich Nietzsche and Weimar Classicism

Paul Bishop
R. H. Stephenson
Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 296
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Friedrich Nietzsche and Weimar Classicism
    Book Description:

    This book argues that Nietzsche's polemics against the 19th-century reception of Goethe and Schiller should not obscure his own more positive evaluation of Weimar classicism, as has generally been the case. The authors uncover the continuing influence of Weimar classicism at the very heart of Nietzsche's aesthetic theory, which in turn became the cornerstone of his epistemological and moral concerns. The book takes as its starting point the view that 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra' has a single, coherent message that it identifies with what Goethe called "the gospel of beauty." A hitherto unappreciated unity of plot, style, and argument is thus revealed in both 'Zarathustra' and Nietzsche's philosophical 'oeuvre' as a whole, showing how he participates in a "perennial aesthetic." In this connection Nietzsche's statement in 'The Gay Science' is revealing: "I want to learn more and more to see what is necessary in things as what is beautiful ? then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful." The book provides an overview of related scholarly literature; discusses Nietzsche's aesthetic theory in 'The Birth of Tragedy'; recounts the composition of 'Thus Spoke Zarathustra' and offers an interpretation of its "aesthetic gospel"; a concluding chapter explores historical continuities in aesthetic theory. By demonstrating the constitutive function of the aesthetics of Weimar classicism in his philosophy, this book opens up a fresh and original perspective on Nietzsche. Paul Bishop is Professor of German, and R. H. Stephenson is William Jacks Professor of German Language and Literature, both at the University of Glasgow.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-647-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
    P. B. and R. S.
  4. A Note on Editions, Abbreviations, and Translations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    According to Friedrich Nietzsche, the meaning of an object may be revealed by tracing its origin, which is uncovered by genealogy. Certainly, there has been no lack of studies placing him, genealogically, in relation to Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, Arthur Schopenhauer, Richard Wagner, and so forth, and this with good reason. In this book, we shall argue that the missing perspective, to use one of Nietzsche’s favorite terms, is that of Weimar Classicism. When this perspective, the Kulturkampf or “cultural struggle” waged by Goethe and Schiller, is overlooked, the framework, and hence the structure, of Nietzsche’s thinking is...

  6. 1: Die Geburt der Tragödie and Weimar Classicism
    (pp. 24-62)

    In his “Versuch einer Selbstkritik” (“Attempt at a Self-Criticism,” 1886), written fifteen years after Die Geburt der Tragödie(The Birth of Tragedy) was conceived with the thunder of the Battle of Wörth in the background (§1; KSA 1:11), Nietzsche highlighted — but recognized as problematic — the phrase which, in all, occurred three times in his book, namely, “dass nur als ästhetisches Phänomen das Dasein der Welt gerechtfertigt ist” (Versuch §5; KSA 1:17; “that the existence of the world is justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon”; compare GT §5 and §24; KSA 1:47 and 152).¹ Nietzsche explained the phrase as follows in a...

  7. 2: The Formative Influence of Weimar Classicism in the Genesis of Zarathustra
    (pp. 63-96)

    In April 1869 Nietzsche, just twenty-four years old, began his appointment as extraordinary professor of classical philology at Basel University. On 28 May he gave his inaugural lecture, a discussion of the identity of Homer, which made a favorable impression on his audience, or at least so he told his university friend, Erwin Rohde (1845–98), and his mother, Franziska Nietzsche (1826–97), in his letters to them of 29 May and mid-June: “Gestern hielt ich vor ganz gefüllter Aula meine Antrittsrede, und zwar ‘über die Persönlichkeit Homers,’ mit einer Menge von philosophisch-aesthetischen Gesichtspunkten, die einen lebhaften Eindruck hervorgebracht zu...

  8. 3: The Aesthetic Gospel of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra
    (pp. 97-150)

    Nietzsche frequently insisted on the centrality of Zarathustra amongst his philosophical works.¹ In Ecce Homo, for example, he wrote:

    Innerhalb meiner Schriften steht für sich mein Zarathustra. Ich habe mit ihm der Menschheit das grösste Geschenk gemacht, das ihr bisher gemacht worden ist. Dies Buch, mit einer Stimme über Jahrtausende hinweg, ist nicht nur das höchste Buch, das es giebt, das eigentliche Höhenluft-Buch — die ganze Thatsache Mensch liegt in ungeheurer Ferne unter ihm —, es ist auch das tiefste, das aus dem innersten Reichthum der Wahrheit heraus geborene, ein unerschöpflicher Brunnen, in den kein Eimer hinabsteigt, ohne mit Gold und...

  9. 4: From Leucippus to Cassirer: Toward a Genealogy of “Sincere Semblance”
    (pp. 151-196)

    There is much in the long history of reflection on beauty in art and nature to support the view that Weimar Classicism is advocating a perennial aesthetic. It is not just that it has recently been claimed “that the aesthetic is [. . .] the dynamic center of the whole speculative enterprise” of philosophy.¹ There are also innumerable indications across the whole cultural spectrum, from theology to drama, to suggest a succession of anticipations of Goethe’s and Schiller’s position. For instance, Leucippus, the atomist materialist philosopher of the fifth century B.C.E ., is reported to have taught that “true happiness...

  10. Appendix: The Composition of Zarathustra
    (pp. 197-242)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-264)
  12. Index
    (pp. 265-281)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 282-282)