Disciplines

Classical Literature and Philology | Continental Philosophy | Esthetics | German Language and Literature | Medieval History | Musicology | Other French and Francophone Language and Literature | Philosophy of Science | Rhetoric and Composition

Abstract

Offers a reading of the allusion to the 'Provencal' in Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, including the troubadour’s art (or 'technic') of poetic song, an art at once secret, anonymous and thus nonsubjective, but also including logical disputation, for which it is the model, and comprising, perhaps above all, the important ideal of action (and pathos) at a distance: l’amour lointain. But beyond the Provençal character and atmosphere of the troubadour, Nietzsche’s conception of a joyful science, Nietzsche's 'gay' science also adumbrates a critique of science understood as the collective ideal of scholarship, and including classical philology as much as logic, mathematics, and physics. A philological reflection on the origins of ancient Greek music drama had occupied Nietzsche’s first concerns with this general question as what he subsequently summarized as the “problem of science” in his 1886 reflections on his first book, The Birth of Tragedy. This was Nietzsche’s declared discovery of the birth – in music and words – of tragedy in the folk song, in lyric poetry. Seen from this perspective, Nietzsche's "gay" science also deploys this “science” on his own behalf, taking this as far as the consummate promise of his troubadour’s (even Catharist) ideal of self-overcoming. Thus a gay science is a dedicated science: scientific “all the way down,” including the most painful and troubling insights, daring, to use Nietzsche’s language here, every ultimate or “last consequence.” Doubting as well as Montaigne, doubting in a more radical fashion than Descartes, and more critical than either Kant or Schopenhauer, dispensing with Spinoza’s and with Hegel’s (but also with Darwin’s and even Newton’s) faith, Nietzsche’s joyful, newly joyful, scientist carries “the will henceforth to question further, more deeply, stringently, harshly, cruelly, and quietly than one had questioned heretofore.” Even confidence in life itself, as a value, of course, but also as such, now “becomes a problem.” The result is a new kind of love and a new kind of joy, a new passion, a “new happiness.”

 
 

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