Agonistic Metaphysics: The Homeric Origin of Nietzsche's Philosophy of Active Dionysian Joy


Laura Warner

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As a Classical philologist, Friedrich Nietzsche was interested in the study of Homeric epic. In my view, this early philological interest in Homer played a fundamental role in Nietzsche?s later thought. Nietzsche?s philosophy in its entirety comprises a solution to the problem of nihilism. It provides an alternative to merely avoiding pain in the face of the crisis caused by the death of God. This philosophy of active Dionysian joy is based on a reconstruction of nature, and man?s place within it, and in my view, the metaphysical notions inherent to this reconstruction may be derived from Nietzsche?s reading of Homeric epics. As Professor Damian Stocking has indicated in his recent work on The Iliad, Homeric man defined himself, not as a ?thinking thing,? but rather as an effect-producing thing, a res agens. Man exists only to the extent that he can effect changes in the world around him. It seems to me that Nietzsche transferred this Homeric notion of being as force into a metaphysical schema. For Nietzsche, the fundamental constituents of the world are not ?things,? but only what he conceives as ?will to power,? an underlying drive for domination and self-enhancement that makes things what they are. For Nietzsche, like Homer, force and aggression are essential components of existence that allow for immanent human joy-- that is to say, a joy in being in the world.


Damian Stocking




Ford Foundation Research Fellowship

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