►Greek Mythology and Philosophy:
“The Dichotomy Apollonian -Dionysian”, according to Friedrich Nietzsche:
Apollonian and Dionysian are terms used by Nietzsche in his book “The Birth of Tragedy” to designate the two central principles in Greek culture.
Apollo was the son of zeus and Leto. Artemis was his twin sister. He was the greek god of prophecy, music, intellectual pursuits, healing, plague, and sometimes, the sun.
Writers often contrast the cerebral, beardless young Apollo with his half-brother, the hedonistic Dionysus.
As to Dionysus, he was the son of Zeus and Semele. Dionysus was the greek god of wine, agriculture, and fertility of nature. He was also related to mystery religions, such as those practised at Eleusis, being linked to ecstasy and initiation into secret rites.
Apollo, as the sun-god, represents light, clarity, and form, whereas Dionysus, as the wine-god, represents drunkenness and ecstasy.
The Apollonian, which corresponds to Schopenhauer’s principium individuationis (“principle of individuation”), is the basis of all analytic distinctions.
Everything that is part of the unique individuality of man or thing is Apollonian in character; all types of form or structure are Apollonian, since form serves to define or individualize that which is formed; thus, sculpture is the most Apollonian of the arts, since it relies entirely on form for its effect. Rational thought is also Apollonian since it is structured and makes distinctions.
The Dionysian, which corresponds to Schopenhauer’s conception of “Will”, is directly opposed to the Apollonian.
Drunkenness and madness are Dionysian because they break down a man’s individual character; all forms of enthusiasm and ecstasy are Dionysian, for in such states man gives up his individuality and submerges himself in a greater whole: music is the most Dionysian of the arts, since it appeals directly to man’s instinctive, chaotic emotions and not to his formally reasoning mind.
“Dionysian spirit” is defined in the philosophy of Nietzsche, as displaying creative-intuitive power as opposed to critical-rational power.
But, both of them, the Apollonian and the Dionysian are necessary in the creation of art. Without the Apollonian, the Dionysian lacks the form and structure to make a coherent piece of art, and without the Dionysian, the Apollonian lacks the necessary vitality and passion. Although they are diametrically opposed, they are also intimately intertwined.
The Greek tragedies of Aeschylus and Sophocles, which Nietzsche considers to be among humankind’s greatest accomplishments, achieve their sublime effects by taming Dionysian passions by means of the Apollonian. Greek tragedy evolved out of religious rituals featuring a chorus of singers and dancers, and it achieved its distinctive shape when two or more actors stood apart from the chorus as tragic actors. The chorus of a Greek tragedy is not the “ideal spectator,” as some scholars believe, but rather the representation of the primal unity achieved through the Dionysian. By witnessing the fall of a tragic hero, we witness the death of the individual, who is absorbed back into the Dionysian primal unity. Because the Apollonian impulses of the Greek tragedians give form to the Dionysian rituals of music and dance, the death of the hero is not a negative, destructive act but rather a positive, creative affirmation of life through art.
Unfortunately, the golden age of Greek tragedy lasted less than a century and was brought to an end by the combined influence of Euripides and Socrates. Euripides shuns both the primal unity induced by the Dionysian and the dreamlike state induced by the Apollonian, and instead he turns the Greek stage into a platform for morality and rationality.
One of Nietzsche’s concerns in “The Birth of Tragedy” is to address the question of the best stance to take toward existence and the world. He criticizes his own age for being overly rationalistic, for assuming that it is best to treat existence and the world primarily as objects of knowledge, which is for him meaningless.
Greek tragedy as Nietzsche understands it cannot coexist in a world of Socratic rationality.
Tragedy gains its strength from exposing the depths that lie beneath our rational surface, whereas Socrates insists that we become fully human only by becoming fully rational.
Check out: “The Birth of Tragedy (1872), by Friedrich Nietzsche”: