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What a Philosopher IsBecoming Nietzsche$
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Laurence Lampert

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226488110

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226488257.001.0001

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The Birth of Tragedy: Prometheus the Knowing Maker of Culture

The Birth of Tragedy: Prometheus the Knowing Maker of Culture

(p.19) Chapter 1 The Birth of Tragedy: Prometheus the Knowing Maker of Culture
What a Philosopher Is

Laurence Lampert

University of Chicago Press

Nietzsche’s 1886 Foreword to his first book aims to make up for what that book ruined: the stupendous Greek problem of truth and culture. His book focused on Attic tragedy because there the ideal of the knower-maker took on historic reality. On the annual four-day Dionysian Festival, the Athenian male population re-experienced its foundational cultural myths and rededicated itself to its norms of belief and action. The works of Aeschylus and Sophocles in particular provide Nietzsche with examples of the culture-making power of the thinker/maker, with Prometheus being the paradigm figure: his heroic knowing brought the gifts of knowing and making that transformed humanity. Most importantly, Attic tragedy, while dependent on myth, conveyed the truth, the tragic truth that would be soul-destroying and culture-destroying but for its artistic representation, the myth-making that made it livable. For Nietzsche, the shared experience of Attic tragedy that was foundational to the Greek achievement could serve moderns as an example of what it too could achieve: Wagner is our Aeschylus, his music-drama could transform the modern German population, gathering it into a cultural purpose that could overcome the modern dispersal into the trivial to which all modern peoples were subject.

Keywords:   Prometheus, artist, modernity, Attic tragedy, Aeschylus, Wagner, culture, philosopher

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