One of Friedrich Nietzsche’s central doctrines, the doctrine of eternal recurrence, asks us to consider how we would feel if we had to repeat our lives exactly as we have lived them. Rather than despair at this possibility, Nietzsche describes the kind of attitude we would adopt if we desired nothing more. He labels such an attitude as “Dionysian”: we rejoice in every pain and every joy that has colored our lives and use them as creative fodder for the future. This identification links the doctrine to Nietzsche’s earlier work on aesthetics, The Birth of Tragedy, where he describes the driving forces behind Greek tragic art, the Apollonian and Dionysian. In this text, Nietzsche also marks a decline in that tragic art through a loss of the Dionysian which signifies a greater decline in Western society. With the absence of the Dionysian, Western thought cannot address the challenges of pessimism which results in a crisis of values. I argue that Nietzsche’s doctrine of eternal recurrence reconciles us with pessimism and thus allows for a creation of new values. Therefore, The Birth of Tragedy describes the conditions that necessitates the doctrine of eternal recurrence, and, in turn, the doctrine addresses the crisis first outlined in The Birth of Tragedy. I further propose that we can re-read the doctrine in light of the aesthetics of The Birth of Tragedy to nuance our understanding of the Dionysian attitude we must adopt in order to overcome the crisis of meaning in our lives.
McSwain, Jared R.
""A Self-Propelling Wheel": Prefigured Recurrence in Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy,"
Oglethorpe Journal of Undergraduate Research: Vol. 8:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.kennesaw.edu/ojur/vol8/iss1/3