Nietzsche’s Dionysos

Dieter Mersch


Nietzsche’s Dionysus, admittedly, represents a direct provocation and an attack on the classical interpretation accepted since Winckelmann, an interpretation that elevates the Apollonian to its central point of focus; Nietzsche’s introduction of another principle to oppose it, rather than representing a genuine invention, in actuality bridges the small gap between Hegel and Hölderlin. If, namely, the Hegelian aesthetic from the very beginning points to Schein and Erscheinung – as necessary conditions of truth, for the truth would not exist if it were not to “superficially appear” (scheinen) and “make its appearance” (erscheinen), writes Hegel – Schein and Erscheinung would still nonetheless be bound up everywhere with the criterium of the absolute; after all, the untruth of the aesthetic rests squarely in the fact that it cannot do other than to draw upon the language of Erscheinung. For Hölderlin, on the other hand, the Dionysian advances to become a metapoetic symbol combining itself – the enigmatic and continually transforming – with the practice of art. Nietzsche follows those very same lines even while giving the metaphor a thoroughly different twist.


avant-garde; apollonian; Dionysos; Dionysian; aesthetic of difference; appearance; form; gestalt; sublime; rupture; fissure; constellation; paradox; contradiction; Nietzsche; Heidegger; Derrida; Lyotard; Adorno

Full Text:



Bohrer, Karl Heinz. 2013. “Dionysos. Eine Ästhetik des Erscheinens.” In Sichtbarkeiten 1: Erscheinen, edited by Mira Fliescher, Goppelsröder Fabian, Dieter Mersch, 13–38. Zürich: diaphanes.

Derrida, Jacques. 1978. “The Theater of Cruelty and the Closure of Representation.” In Writing and Difference, translated by Alan Bass, 292–317. London and New York: Routledge.

Heidegger, Martin. 1991. Nietzsche. Volume 1: The Will to Power as Art. Translated by David Farrell Krell. San Francisco: Harper.

Heidegger, Martin. 1994. Basic Questions of Philosophy. Selected “Problems” of “Logic”. Translated by Richard Rojcewicz and André Schuwer. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Lyotard, Jean-François. 1994. Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime. Kant’s ‘Critique of Judgment,’ §§23–29. Translated by Elizabeth Rottenberg. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Mersch, Dieter. 2002. Was sich zeigt. Materialität, Präsenz, Ereignis. München: Fink.

Lyotard, Jean-François. 2004. “Das Entgegenkommende und das Verspätete. Zwei Weisen, das Ereignis zu denken: Derrida und Lyotard.” In Im Widerstreit der Diskurse, edited by Dietmar Köveker, 69–108. Berlin: Wissenschaftsverlag.

Lyotard, Jean-François. 2006. “Besessenheit. Zur Struktur des Verlangens.” In Große Gefühle, edited by Ottmar Ette und Gertrud Lehnert, 101–114. Berlin: Kadmos.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1998. Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by Marion Faber. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1998. Twilight of the Idols. Translated by Duncan Large. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1999. The Birth of Tragedy. Translated by Ronald Speirs. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1999. Sämtliche Werke. Kritische Studienausgabe in 15 Einzelbänden. Edited by Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari. München/Berlin/New York: DTV Walter de Gruyter.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2003. Writings from the Late Notebooks. Translated by Rüdiger Bittner. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2005. “The Anti-Christ. A Curse on Christianity.” In The Anti-Christ, Ecce Homo, Twilight of the Idols, and Other Writings, translated by Judith Norman, 1–68. Cambridge/New York et al.: Cambridge University Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2007. Ecce Homo. Translated by Duncan Large. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. 2009. Writings from the Early Notebooks. Translated by Ladislaus Löb. Cambridge/New York et al.: Cambridge University Press.


Copyright (c) 2017 Dieter Mersch

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.