Nietzsche’s Five Statements on Art

Nietzsche’s five statements on art are outlined as follows,

The first statement: art is the configuration of will to power.

The second statement: art is grasped in terms of the artist.

The third statement: art is the basic occurrence of beings as a whole.

The forth statement: art is a countermovement to nihilism.

The fifth statement: art is worth more than truth.

 

Outlining Nietzsche’s views on art, Heidegger [1] asks to what extent can we ground the five statements. What is most interesting about these statements is how they interweave together and how, if their grounding can be accomplished, it is accomplished through a relation between statements.

Per the first statement, art as a configuration of the will to power, art is grasped aesthetically as a state: it appears as a state in which something comes into presence and from which things spring. Art therefore belongs to a space where we may find ourselves, or as Heidegger exclaims, where “we are that very realm.” That is to say, those regions in which we ourselves are not, art also does not belong. As a human production, art is maybe one of the most familiar. In Nietzsche the work of art is a givenness where the aesthetic point of view creates art that is actual: “It is the actual in the rapture of embodying life.” Therefore art has to do with the givenness of life, as Nietzsche says in Will to Power 491 in his statement on “belief of the body…” This entails that art is simultaneously an emanation of the bodily.

I think that the consequence is that we proceed from the body.  All painting, for example, is a meditation on the body of the painter – this, whether the individual painter recognizes it as such, suggests that painting grasps physiologically the aesthetic state. This state is the doing and perceiving that we artists undertake, and we do not sit aside the work of art like spectators: we ourselves are within this state of things. Thus to say that art is the basic configuration of will to power is to exclaim that the aesthetic state is that through which we envision, i.e. as that which makes art discernable to us.

Per the second statement, the conception of art is in terms of the creative behavior of the artist. The will to power is constantly creating. Art is identified as that which is creative, obviously, and this creation of art occurs within the activity of the artist, thus the question of the artist unfolds access to the fundamental will to power at the heart of creative activity. The assertion of the artist to create a work of art is grounded in their being, as that which brings things into the world through their productive activity as a being.

Per the third statement of art as a basic occurrence of beings as a whole, this statement unfolds two questions for Heidegger: first, does the beingness of beings consist? Second, to what extent does art, among beings, become more in being than others? The answer to these questions, which may ground the third statement, may be found in the preceding statements concerning art.

Per the fourth statement, for nihilism – read here, Platonism – there is a positing of the supersensuous as true being, “on the basis of which all remaining beings are demoted to the level of proper nonbeing, demoted, denigrated and declared nugatory.” Nietzsche self-described his work as an inversion of Platonism[2], and this gives us a sense of the fifth statement that declares that art is worth more than truth. What is truth for Nietzsche who, looking back to the dawn of metaphysics, sought to answer Plato from across the centuries? In this scheme, truth has become the means through which nihilism gets itself done. Since Plato, the being-in-itself has been considered supersensuous, i.e. removed from the transience of the sensuous. But in Nietzsche’s view, the value of a thing is found or measured in accordance with how it contributes to “the enchantment of the actuality of beings,” which is to say, the value is to be found in the sensuous realm – among the objects of this world. Thus art as a countering to nihilism focuses on the sensuous realm in the affirmation of its being. This leads to the fifth statement.

Per the fifth statement, that art is more valuable than truth means that art, as the sensuous, is more in being than the supersensuous. Put differently, it incarnates itself in the will to power among the transience of this world and as such is not chained to some otherworldly realm. In this way we can see the conviction that art is to be the being most in being, since it shall negate the supersensuous as a countermovement to nihilism, as art emphasizing the actuality.

What does this mean for us? It means that art shall arouse dread, since it relates intimately to being and becoming.

***

Questions:

First, why to Nietzsche is art crucial for grounding the new valuations? Because an artist is capable of bringing something forth — to establish in being something that did not yet exist. In Heideggerese, the artist therefore deals with the coming-to-being of beings, and art is a matter of illuminating will to power as its basic character.

Second, since meditation on art has a decisive priority to familiarize one with the mode of the will to power, Nietzsche speaks about the artist phenomenon, and not specifically about art, and so what does insinuate? I think it means that art ought to be grapsed in terms of the makers or creatives of art, and not in the recipients. Of course, beholders are crucial to the art experience and art, as a refined or optimized form of the coming-to-being of beings, would not exist without recipients. That being said, Nietzsche recognizes that aesthetics had been up until his time a matter of recipients of art formulating their experiences of what is beautiful – “In all philosophy to date the artist is missing,” he says in Will to Power 811. The question of the phenomenon of art therefore deals with the artist as creative being, and upon this ground it is the experience of the artist of what is beautiful, joyous or valuable that provides standard.

Panning out from this perspective it is necessary to extend the concept of artist, as the basic occurence of all beings – to the extent that beings are themselves self-creative. The specialization of the artist as applied to ‘fine art’ or refined or optimized object is too narrow a concept, as it extends to everything that is essentially brought forth.

The astonishing miracle is not how but that matter self-creates.

With the idea that the basic character of art is the occurrence of beings as art, what is suggested by Nietzsche is that art is will to power, as an energy of force which is essentially grasped as a site where creating and destroying occur. In the Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche claims “art as the proper task of life, art as its metaphysical activity…” as an art, in the broadest sense creative, constitutive of the basic character of existence.

So what grounds these statements on art is that art is not taken in a narrow sense – art as ‘fine art’ is only one particular kind of configuration of among others. This narrowness or refined quality of the object does seem to indicate importance: the practice of art only becomes a supreme configuration inasmuch as it is conscious of its grounding in will to power as the new valuation.

If will to power finds its supreme configuration in art, then positing of new relations of will to power must proceed through art. Since grounding art in will to power, may we begin to proceed towards an understanding of art’s countermovement to nihilism?

Whereas the sensuous world is for Nietzsche the realm of art, in Platonism it becomes a “realm of error.” Nietzsche has art therefore affirm supersensuousness. Nietzsche claims in Will to Power 853 section II the following, “Art as the single superior counterforce against all will to negation of life…”

Following this thread that is beginning against nihilism, there is no longer a positing of another world in opposition to this one, the latter presumably worthless, again Will to Power 795, “The artist-philosopher. Higher concept of art. Whether a man can remove himself far enough from other men, in order to give them form. 1. the one who gives himself form, the hermit; 2, the artist hitherto, as the insigificant perfecter of a piece of raw material.”

As a particular form of creative activity, making art is a yes-saying to the sensuous. ‘Hence the will to semblance, to illusion, to deception, to Becoming and change is deeper, more ‘metaphysical’, than the will to truth, to reality, to Being.’ [XIV, 369] That seems to be  Nietzsche’s basic assumption.

Countering what is meant in Platonism’s sense of truth, as Ideas, as supersensuous, the sensuous world is the aesthetic-metaphysical will actualized in art. It is from this vantage point that we may affirm life and therefore art as essential will to power, in order to indicate the last of the five statements concerning art: art is worth more than truth.

In Heideggerese, art offers disclosure – it reveals the fields of significance. Art reveals the possibility of meaning as an event of disclosure. And this disclosure is not only a revealing of the specific articulations of references or relations. Art can reveal disclosure as such. So it is that the artist, as a mad shaman at the gates of becoming, confronts the pale and cold death of nihilism and overcomes it by creating themselves. It is by way of this metamorphosis that the artist leads to disclosure in a manner that is accessible (Nietzsche: “perspicuous”), bringing forth and expressing the distinct processes of Becoming.

Thus as a countermovement to nihilism there is the potent stimulant of artistic sensibility. This is developed through a focus on the phenomenon of artistic “Rausch.” Hediegger’s Nietzschean definition of Rausch is rapture as a force that engenders form, as  a fundamental condition for the enchanment of life. In terms of Rausch or rapture, it is deemed as the essential component to the creative Becoming of the artist.

To conclude, consider the implication that follows:

The fundamental experience of the “death of God” implies the collapse of the ontotheological interpretation of Being – i.e. through which God is the cause of beings. This failure of the supersensuous Ideal implies the disappearance of that which was viewed in the nonsensuous, so in Nietzsche/Heidegger the effort becomes rescuing the sensuous world. Hence the amibition to interpret reality outside the Platonic context, where there is a celebration of art as the means of rescue.

“Art and nothing but art!” says Nietzsche.

***

 

 

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NOTES:
[1] I suppose I sould open this text with a disclaimer: I am not a Heideggerian or a scholar on Heidegger. My understanding is limiting and missing nuances, however, I am aware of the controversy that surrounds Heidegger.  While some of Heidegger’s musings are repulsive, I nevertheless think there are ways and means of appropriating.
[2] The reversal of Platonism, or “inverted Platonism,” is insinuated through the five statements on art. In the manner of overturning, however, it is not positivistic. The inversion is set in terms of an understanding of the basic insight into the Western metaphysics (i.e. nihilism) and by the recognition of art as an essential countering. Nietzsche may have “inverted Platonism” but that cannot be the end game, since it is not merely a matter of turning Plato upside down but of exceeding the structure of the sensible/intelligible itself. This is probably impossible, at least at my current level of (mis)understanding.

 

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