Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Birth of Tragedy as a Criticism of Christianity

In his "Attempt at a Self-Criticism," Friedrich Nietzsche looks back and reflects on his work, The Birth of Tragedy. Nietzsche wrote, The Birth of Tragedy, almost fifteen years prior as an examination of the Apollinian and Dionysian arts of ancient Greece. In doing so, Nietzsche refers to the “careful and hostile silence with which Christianity is treated throughout the entire book – Christianity as the most prodigal elaboration of the moral theme to which humanity has ever been subjected.” While claiming that Christianity is a target of The Birth of Tragedy, he is correct in also saying that it is treated with silence (even a “hostile silence”) throughout the whole book. In fact, Christianity is only explicitly mentioned twice in The Birth of Tragedy and implicitly even less. While the Christian religion is practically non-existent in the content of Nietzsche’s book, The Birth of Tragedy still remains a harsh criticism of Christianity – a criticism that will become much more explicit in Nietzsche’s later writings. In this paper I will show that The Birth of Tragedy, with its discussions of the Dionysian and Apollinian elements of art, is in fact a criticism of religion in general, and specifically of Christianity. To do so, I will briefly outline the Dionysian and Apollinian world views as given by Nietzsche and show how these elements of art are related to and become a criticism of religion. Finally, I will show how an allusion to Christianity in The Birth of Tragedy directly ties the Apollinian and Dionysian arts to Nietzsche’s criticisms of Christianity in his “Attempt at a Self-Criticism.”

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