Apollonian and DionysianThe Apollonian and Dionysian is a philosophical concept, or dichotomy, based on certain features of ancient Greek mythology: Apollo and Dionysus. While the concept is famously related to The Birth of Tragedy, poet Hölderlin spoke of them before, and Winckelmann talked of Bacchus. One year before the publication of The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche wrote a fragment titled "On Music and Words". In it he asserted the Schopenhauerian judgment that music is a primary expression of the essence of everything. Secondarily derivative are lyrical poetry and drama, which represent mere phenomenal appearances of objects. In this way, tragedy is born from music.
Nietzsche found in classical Athenian tragedy an art form that transcended the pessimism found in the so-called wisdom of Silenus. The Greek spectators, by looking into the abyss of human suffering depicted by characters on stage, passionately and joyously affirmed life, finding it worth living. A main theme in The Birth of Tragedy was that the fusion of Dionysian and Apollonian "Kunsttrieben" ("artistic impulses") forms dramatic arts, or tragedies. He goes on to argue that this fusion has not been achieved since the ancient Greek tragedians. Apollo represents harmony, progress, clarity and logic, whereas Dionysus represents disorder, intoxication, emotion and ecstasy. Nietzsche used these two forces because, for him, the world of mind and order on one side, and passion and chaos on the other formed principles that were fundamental to the Greek culture. Apollonian side being a dreaming state, full of illusions; and Dionysian being the state of intoxication, representing the liberations of instinct and dissolution of boundaries. In this mold, man appears as the satyr. He is the horror of the annihilation of the principle of individuality and at the same time someone who delights in its destruction. Both of these principles are meant to represent cognitive states that appear through art as the power of nature in man.
The relationship between the Apollonian and Dionysian juxtapositions is apparent, in the interplay of tragedy: the tragic hero of the drama, the main protagonist, struggles to make order (in the Apollonian sense) of his unjust and chaotic (Dionysian) fate, though he dies unfulfilled in the end. Elaborating on the conception of Hamlet as an intellectual who cannot make up his mind, and therefore is a living antithesis to the man of action, Nietzsche argues that a Dionysian figure possesses knowledge to realize that his actions cannot change the eternal balance of things, and it disgusts him enough not to be able to make any act at all. Hamlet falls under this category – he has glimpsed the supernatural reality through the Ghost, he has gained true knowledge and knows that no action of his has the power to change this. For the audience of such drama, this tragedy allows them to sense an underlying essence, what Nietzsche called the Primordial Unity, which revives Dionysian nature. He describes this primordial unity as the increase of strength, experience of fullness and plenitude bestowed by. Frenzy acts as an intoxication, and is crucial for the physiological condition that enables making of any art. Stimulated by this state, person's artistic will is enhanced:
"In this state one enriches everything out of one's own fullness: whatever one sees, whatever wills is seen swelled,, strong, overloaded with strength. A man in this state transforms things until they mirror his power—until they are reflections of his perfection. This having to transform into perfection is—art."
Nietzsche is adamant that the works of Aeschylus and Sophocles represent the apex of artistic creation, the true realization of tragedy; it is with Euripides, he states, that tragedy begins its "Untergang" (literally "going under", meaning decline, deterioration, downfall, death, etc.). Nietzsche objects to Euripides' use of Socratic rationalism and morality in his tragedies, claiming that the infusion of ethics and reason robs tragedy of its foundation, namely the fragile balance of the Dionysian and Apollonian. Socrates emphasized reason to such a degree that he diffused the value of myth and suffering to human knowledge. Plato continued with this path in his dialogues and modern world eventually inherited reason at the expense of artistic impulses that could be found only in the Apollonian and Dionysus dichotomy. This leads to his conclusion that European culture from the time of Socrates had always been only Apollonian and thus decadent and unhealthy. He notes that whenever Apollonian culture dominates, the Dionysian lacks the structure to make a coherent art, and when Dionysian dominates, the Apollonian lacks the necessary passion. Only the beautiful middle, the interplay of these two forces, brought together as an art represented real Greek tragedy.
An example of the impact of this idea can be seen in the book Patterns of Culture, where anthropologist Ruth Benedict uses Nietzschean opposites of "Apollonian" and "Dionysian" as the stimulus for her thoughts about Native American cultures. Carl Jung has written extensively on the dichotomy in Psychological Types. Michel Foucault has commented that his book Madness and Civilization should be read "under the sun of the great Nietzschean inquiry". Here Foucault references Nietzsche's description of the birth and death of tragedy and his explanation that the subsequent tragedy of the Western world was the refusal of tragic and, with that, refusal of the sacred. Painter Mark Rothko was influenced by Nietzsche's view of tragedy, which were presented in The Birth of Tragedy.