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3 - The Culture of Myth and the Myth of Culture

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 September 2014

Julian Young
Affiliation:
Wake Forest University, North Carolina
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Summary

Nietzsche's Birth of Tragedy promotes the claim that illusion is necessary for "existence and the world to appear justified". Nietzsche tells us that culture replaces old illusions with new ones; this allows that culture itself is one of those very illusions. Nietzsche's key objection to previous illusions is not that they are illusions but that they are no longer useful illusions for the modern world. Nietzsche's early project is best viewed as a project of understanding the ways in which cultures perpetuate myths that allow their members to affirm life despite its horrors. The slant that Nietzsche places on Schopenhauerian pessimism can plausibly be seen as owing much to Wagner's own idiosyncratic interpretation of Schopenhauer the philosopher. Nietzsche analyzes three distinct types of illusion that work at the level of culture as "exquisite stimulants". The Socratic illusion is the illusion most pertinent to the hyper-rationalism and scientism of modernity.
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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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