I’ve been returning to Richard Marshall’s cool essay on Nietzsche and Beckett over the past week, trying to absorb all the good bits. Here’s some of them:
Leiter’s Nietzsche writes only to the poet artist. Leiter considers Nietzsche rare in being someone not looking for a universal readership. His philosophy of art is like Stendhal’s in that it states that art promotes arousal. When discussing the figures who exemplify best what he is discussing it is Goethe, Beethoven and himself who Nietzsche cites. Nietzsche was addressing the artistic genius. His concern was not directly political or social or moral – although he did think that without the spectacle of the artistic genius civilizations would decline – his concern was to save the artist from our ascetic planet where morality and bourgeois conventions threatened to crush artistic wonders. Nietzsche is arguing for an exceptionalism for the likes of Beethoven and Goethe (and Nietzsche) in order that art and the artist could thrive. It is a philosophy of artistic bohemian hedonism. I argue that Beckett is a supreme exemplar.
…Remember that Nietzsche’s spectacularly illiberal elitism and anti-morality was about preserving the artistic genius from restrictions that would obliterate their ability to fulfil their role. The elitism is not about aristocratic breeding, wealth, intelligence or any of the usual suspects. He is wholly concerned with art genius. Nietzsche examples of the overman are Goethe and Beethoven (and Nietzsche too). He thought that without the artist, we would be deprived of the spectacle of artistic genius and deprived of such as these, we would deprive ourselves of the source in life of aesthetic pleasure.
…For Nietzsche the terrible truth is existential, moral and finally epistemic. We know little. What we do know science delivers and it fails to sustain our illusions about our selves, such as freewill. Most of our cherished beliefs are illusory. To know what others really think of oneself would make you clinically depressed. That much of what we cherish, including our moral beliefs, are lies and falsehoods, coupled with the idea that the truth is unbearable, is a core of the Niezschean philosophy.
…Nietzsche writes: ‘The truly serious task of art …[is] to save the eye from gazing into the horrors of night and to deliver the subject by the healing balm of illusion from the spasms of the agitations of the will’. Art is a protection and remedy to the tragic insight of our existential situation.