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The themes of affirmation and illusion in The birth of tragedy and beyond

Came, Daniel


Daniel Came


The main theme of Nietzsche’s first published work, The Birth of Tragedy (BT, 1872), is that the affirmation of life requires ‘illusion’ which allows us to cope with the ‘insight into the horrible truth’ of our condition. This article argues that Nietzsche held the same position in his later works: that illusion is a necessary to affirm life. The discussion is organized as follows. Section 1 sets out the core thesis of BT vis-à-vis the relationship between affirmation and illusion. Section 2 examines the role of illusion in one of Nietzsche’s litmus tests of affirmation found in The Gay Science of 1882, ‘amor fati’—that is, the ability ‘to see as beautiful what is necessary in things’. Sections 3, 4, and 5 consider Nietzsche’s understanding of ‘self-creation’ and how, through the employment of ‘distance’ and ‘pretence’, it engenders an affirmation of existence. Finally, Section 6 attempts a provisional assessment of Nietzsche’s conception of affirmation.


Came, D. (2013). The themes of affirmation and illusion in The birth of tragedy and beyond. The Oxford handbook of NietzscheOxford University Press (OUP). doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199534647.013.0010

Online Publication Date Dec 16, 2013
Publication Date Sep 1, 2013
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2014
Journal The Oxford Handbook of Nietzsche
Publisher Oxford University Press (OUP)
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Book Title The Oxford handbook of Nietzsche
ISBN 978-0-19953-464-7
Keywords Friedrich Nietzsche; Illusion; Life; Affirmation; The Gay Science; Amor fati; Self-creation
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