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He saw in it the rise and climax of values so dear to him that their subsequent drop into catastrophe in the person of Socrates - Plato was clearly foreshadowed as though these were events taking place in the theater. And so in this work, unpublished in his own day but written at the same time that his The Birth of Tragedy had so outraged the German professorate as to imperil his own academic career, his most deeply felt task was one of education.

He wanted to present the culture of the Greeks as a paradigm to his young German contemporaries who might thus be persuaded to work toward a state of culture of their own; a state where Nietzsche found sorely missing.

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Chapter 1. At the best there would have come forth a brook soon trickling away in the sand or evaporating into fogs, but never that broad river flowing forth with the proud beat of its waves, the river which we know as Greek Philosophy. True, it has been eagerly pointed out how much the Greeks could find and learn abroad,in the Orient, and how many different things they may easily have brought from there. Of course an odd spectacle resulted, when certain scholars brought together the alleged masters from the Orient and the possible disciples from Greece, and exhibited Zarathustra near Heraclitus, the Hindoos near the Eleatics, the Egyptians near Empedocles, or even Anaxagoras among the Jews and Pythagoras among the Chinese.

In detail little has been determined; but we should in no way object to the general idea, if people did not burden us with the conclusion that therefore Philosophy had only been imported into Greece and was not indigenous to the soil, yea, that she, as something foreign, had possibly ruined rather than improved the Greek.

Nothing is more foolish than to swear by the fact that the Greeks had an autochthonous culture; no, they rather absorbed all the culture flourishing among other nations, and they advanced so far, just because they understood how to hurl the spear further from the very spot where another nation had let it rest. They were admirable in the art of learning productively, and so, like them, we ought to learn from our neighbors, with a view to Life not to pedantic knowledge, using everything learnt as a foothold whence to leap high and still higher than our neighbor.

The questions as to the beginning of philosophy are quite negligible, for everywhere in the beginning there is the crude, the unformed, the empty and the ugly; and in all things only the higher stages come into consideration. The road towards the beginning always leads into barbarism, and he who is concerned with the Greeks ought always to keep in mind the fact that the unsubdued thirst for knowledge in itself always barbarises just as much as the hatred of knowledge, and that the Greeks have subdued their inherently insatiable thirst for knowledge by their regard for Life, by an ideal need of Life,-since they wished to live immediately that which they learnt.

The Greeks also philosophised as people of culture and with the aims of culture,and therefore saved themselves the trouble of inventing once again the elements of philosophy and knowledge out of some autochthonous conceit, and with a will they at once set themselves to fill out, enhance, raise and purify these elements they had taken over in such a way, that only now in a higher sense and in a purer sphere they became inventors. For they discovered the typical philosopher's genius , and the inventions of all posterity have added nothing essential.

Every nation is put to shame if one points out such a wonderfully idealised company of philosophers as that of the early Greek masters, Thales, Anaximander, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Anaxagoras, Empedocles, Democritus and Socrates. Severe necessity exists between their thinking and their character. They are not bound by any convention, because at that time no professional class of philosophers and scholars existed.

They all stand before us in magnificent solitude as the only ones who then devoted their life exclusively to knowledge.

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They all possess the virtuous energy of the Ancients, whereby they excel all the later philosophers in finding their own form and in perfecting it by metamorphosis in its most minute details and general aspect. For they were met by no helpful and facilitating fashion.

Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks

Thus together they form what Schopenhauer, in opposition to the Republic of Scholars, has called a Republic of Geniuses; one giant calls to another across the arid intervals of ages, and, undisturbed by a wanton noisy race of dwarfs, creeping about beneath them, the sublime intercourse of spirits continues.

Of this sublime intercourse of spirits I have resolved to relate those items which our modern hardness of hearing might perhaps hear and understand; that means certainly the least of all. It seems to me that those old sages from Thales to Socrates have discussed in that intercourse, although in its most general aspect, everything that constitutes for our contemplation the peculiarly Hellenic. In their intercourse, as already in their personalities, they express distinctly the great features of Greek genius of which the whole of Greek history is a shadowy impression, a hazy copy, which consequently speaks less clearly.

Beyond the Birth of Tragedy: Nietzsche’s ‘Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks’

If we could rightly interpret the total life of the Greek nation, we should ever find reflected only that picture which in her highest geniuses shines with more resplendent colors. Even the first experience of philosophy on Greek soil, the sanction of the Seven Sages is a distinct and unforgettable line in the picture of the Hellenic. Other nations have their Saints, the Greeks have Sages. Rightly it has been said that a nation is characterised not only by her great citizens but rather by the manner in which she recognises and honors them.

In other ages the philosopher is an accidental solitary wanderer in the most hostile environment, either slinking through or pushing through with clenched fists. With the Greek however the philosopher is not accidental; when in the Sixth and Fifth centuries amidst the most frightful dangers and seductions of secularisation the philosopher appears and as it were steps forth from the cave of Trophonios into the very midst of luxuriance, the discoverers' happiness, the wealth and the sensuousness of the Greek colonies, then we divine that they come as noble warners for the same purpose for which in those centuries Tragedy was born and which the Orphic mysteries in their grotesque hieroglyphics give us to understand.

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24 Replies to “Philosophy in the Tragic Age of the Greeks – Friedrich Nietzsche”

Configure custom resolver. Nietzsche's Positivism. Nadeem J. Hussain - - European Journal of Philosophy 12 3 — Charles H. Pence - - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 33 2 James S.

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Pearson - - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 49 4 The Normative Heights and Depths of Play. Scott Kretchmar - - Journal of the Philosophy of Sport 34 1 Tragedy and Philosophy. Georgopoulos ed. Martin's Press. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche - - Gordon Press. Mann Contra Nietzsche.