The Music of Philosophy: Nietzsche’s Birth of Tragedy


This course will be devoted to a careful reading of The Birth of Tragedy Out of the Spirit of Music. Nietzsche claims that tragedy, formed as a unique combination of Apollinian and Dionysian drives, and in its connection to music represents a more fundamental mode of being in the world than the tradition of rationalism that originates with Socrates, grows into the tradition of Western philosophy, and culminates in the optimism of modern science so powerful in his (and our) century. Nietzsche means to offer an alternative to reason understood in this way—a Dionysian philosophy, the image of which is a “music-making Socrates.” We will read this text sometimes painfully slowly and carefully, with a view to understanding what it means for Nietzsche to seek the truth of tragedy in a book that, on the surface at least, seems to be an attack on truth seeking—what it means that he can speak the words, “This book should have sung and not spoken.”