Nietzsche’s Dionysos


  • Dieter Mersch Zurich University of the Arts



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


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.

Author Biography

Dieter Mersch, Zurich University of the Arts

Dieter Mersch studied mathematics and philosophy at the University of Cologne and the Ruhr-Universität Bochum. He worked from 1983 to 1994 as associate professor for mathematical economics at the University of Cologne and the TH Köln-University of Applied Sciences. Also he worked as freelance author for several public radio broadcasting agencies between 1983 and 1997.

He earned his doctoral degree (Dr. phil.) in 1992 at the Technische Universität Darmstadt with a dissertation in philosophy on semiotics, rationality and rationality criticism. From 1997 to 2000, he worked as research assistant in philosophy at the Technische Universität Darmstadt and graduated in 2000 with the habilitation Materialität, Präsenz, Ereignis. Untersuchungen zu den Grenzen des Symbolischen (lit. transl.: “Materiality, Presence, Event: Inquiries into the Limits of the Symbolic”). From 2001 to 2004, he was guest professor of art philosophy at the Muthesius University of Fine Arts and Design in Kiel. Between 2004 and 2013, he held a professorial chair for media studies at the University of Potsdam. Since October 1, 2013, Mersch has been head of the Institute for Critical Theory (ith) at the Zurich University of the Arts.

Dieter Mersch is a member of Deutsche Gesellschaft für Philosophie, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ästhetik, Society for Music and Aesthetics (Freiburg), Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft and Deutsch-Ungarische Gesellschaft für Philosophie. He is also advisory board member of the Zeitschrift für Kulturphilosophie (“Journal for Cultural Philosophy”) and Editor of Internationales Jahrbuch für Medienphilosophie (International Yearbook for Media Philosophy). His working emphases encompass the areas of media philosophy, art philosophy, the philosophy of language and 19th- and 20th-century philosophy as well as semiotics and aesthetics.


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How to Cite

Mersch, D. (2017). Nietzsche’s Dionysos. Performance Philosophy, 3(3), 604–615.