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The Untimely Dialectic

The Untimely Dialectic

(p.3) 1 The Untimely Dialectic
The Birth of Theory
Andrew Cole
University of Chicago Press

Nietzsche does not despise the dialectic, as so many of his readers assume. Rather, as this chapter shows, Nietzsche, in his Birth of Tragedy, goes to great lengths to avoid simplifying dialectical thinking by distinguishing between kinds of dialectic—Socratic and Hegelian. He shows that the former is non-dialectical and thus responsible for the death of tragedy and that the latter, in the guise of abstract identity/difference and abstract determination, generates the identity of the tragic artist. In this careful and energetic work, Nietzsche reveals a deep understanding of complex dialectical habits of thought. He also supplies an object lesson for us, and for the procedures in the subsequent chapters of The Birth of Theory: he shows us that even the mistiest of logical abstractions, such as identity/difference, can be historicized, assigned a time, a place, a point of origin (contra Foucault’s criticism of origins), and he demonstrates that not all dialectic is reducible to the expected ancient sources or to anti-dialectical, anti-Hegelian clichés, which readers like Deleuze project into Nietzsche’s work.

Keywords:   Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Hegel, Plotinus, Dialectic, Hegelian dialectic, Socratic dialectic, Identity and difference

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