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Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900), Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), Aesthetics


Nietzsche describes Birth of Tragedy as a contribution to “the science of aesthetics”. In this paper, I will argue that a crucial influence on his emerging views was Kant’s Critique of Judgment. Nietzsche’s early aesthetic views are often attributed to some combination of Schopenhauer’s analyses of the plastic arts (inspiring Nietzsche’s conception of the Apollinian) and his analysis of music (inspiring Nietzsche’s conception of the Dionysian) along with Nietzsche’s own original insights into how these combine to form the tragic. As we shall see, the resources of Schopenhauer’s aesthetics were unavailable to Nietzsche due to epistemological commitments he had consistently made throughout the period from 1868 to 1874. By contrast, the Critique of Judgment, which Nietzsche first encountered in 1868, provided him with all the resources he needed to construct his conceptions of the Apollinian, the Dionysian and the tragic, without running afoul of Kantian epistemological constraints that he had adhered to throughout his early phase, constraints that Schopenhauer had violated.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in International Studies in Philosophy. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in International Studies in Philosophy Vol. 39 Issue 3, 2007.

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