Vortrag Arno Böhler bei: 16th International Conference of the Friedrich Nietzsche Society:
Nietzsche, Power & Politics

22. - 25. 3.2007 Universität Leiden, Niederlande

Nietzsche: Politics of the Muses

English Abstract

In opposition to most of his contemporaries it is not the enlightenment tradition that Nietzsche primarily had in mind when he called himself a “good European”, but a certain politic of the muses that he wished to enact in Europe for the sake of a new European Culture to come.
Being a professor for ancient Greek culture, Nietzsche knew very well that this “European Dream” of a culture, driven and governed by the muses, was not something entirely new, but a political vision deeply rooted in the history of European political discourse since its very beginning in Greek philosophy. One can find traces of such a “great politic” in Plato’s Politeia where Socrates tells us that all political power becomes weak, deaf, blind, wild, violent and insensitive from the very moment, people lose their sense for the muses and therefore become barbaric, amousia (Platon, Politeia 411 d-e). But not only Plato, Aristotle too called the creation of a state of leisure, in which contemplation (scholé) can take place the last and ultimate aim of all political, economical, scientific and pedagogical endeavors (Nik. Ethik, 1095 a).
As far as these ancient political concepts have in common that they don’ t treat work as an aim in itself like in modern times, but as a mean to reach a contemplative state of being-in-the-world, in which the noble class of people have leisure time enough to do what pleases them, one can speak of an aristocratic conception of the polis in contrary to a bourgeois one that came up in 19th century Europe. Since the muses in general have been interpreted as the messengers of joy, pleasure, enthusiasm and fun in ancient times, every non-barbaric state had to take care that its people had access to the temples of the muses in order to facilitate them the experience of a world beyond the efforts of daily life. It is this ancient, aristocratic concept of politics that Nietzsche had in mind, when he called himself a “good European”.
On the one hand my lecture will affirm Nietzsche’s critique of bourgeois forms of democracy, on the other hand it will question Nietzsche’s own aristocratic gesture of making a clear cut between democratic and aristocratic politics. Shouldn’t it be possible – after Nietzsche – to treat people in general as global aristocrats, “destined” to have leisure enough to cultivate themselves in contact with the muses?