Abstract

The “terrible” existential truths about the human situation raise Schopenhauer's question: why continue living at all? Nietzsche's answer is that only viewed in terms of aesthetic values can life itself be “justified” (where “justification” really means restoring an affective attachment to life). But how could the fact that life exemplifies aesthetic value restore our attachment to life in the face of these terrible existential truths? I suggest that there are two keys to understanding Nietzsche's answer: first, his assimilation of aesthetic pleasure to a kind of sublimated sexual pleasure; and second, his psychological thesis that powerful affects neutralize pain, and thus can “seduce” the sufferer back to life. Life can supply the requisite kind of aesthetic pleasure only if it features what I call the “spectacle of genius,” the spectacle represented by the likes of Beethoven, Goethe, and Napoleon. Since such geniuses are not possible in a culture dominated by “morality” (in Nietzsche's pejorative sense), the critique of morality is essential to the restoration of an affective attachment to life.

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