Wednesday, February 27, 2008

II. Beauty as Complementarity: The Agonal Unification of Opposites

For Nietzsche, tragic beauty comes about through the agonal unification of the Apollonian and the Dionysian aspects of physis. Each is of equal importance (see BT) – if Nietzsche later emphasized Dionysus, it was to counterbalance the overly Apollonian-Socratic culture he was living in. After the 2oth Century, it is Apollo that is most necessary. Or, more accurately, a true balance between the two. Ernst Fischer goes further and says that all beauty has inherent in it an agonal unification of opposites, where “each contains the germ of its opposite, as expressed in the yin-yang symbol” (167). Each is complementary; one is not above another, they are equal in importance, and each requires the other for existence. Thus, Fisher lists the following agonally unified opposites as constituting beauty:

Native – Foreign
Light – Shadow
Logos – Eros
Emotion – Intellect (Reason)
Conscious – Unconscious
Soul – Technology
Feeling – Thinking
General – Specific
Universal – Particular

Some of these are more applicable to humans than to other animals (the agonal unification of Soul – Technology in particular) – meaning humans, having more agonal elements, have a deeper understanding of beauty. Humans perceive beauty because beauty itself merges “a (mental) interior and a (sensorially grasped) exterior to make cognition aesthetically possible” (135). Through this, beauty “generates truth simply by a fusion of the mental and the sensual” (Joseph Brodsky, quoted by Fischer, 135). Thus Fischer concludes that “it is by perceiving with our senses and recognizing beauty that we come to regard a thing as valuable and worth preserving” (159).

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