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NTU Philosophical Review

Issue 56, October 2018

Tsang-Long Liu
Pages 1-37

On Nietzsche’s Aesthetic Freedom

Nietzsche ascribes to Herder’s views on aesthetics and further develops the connection between aesthetics and freedom. He advocates an aesthetic realization of a “human of nature” (Naturmensch) echoing Rousseau’s call for getting “back to nature.” The concept of nature in Nietzsche’s aesthetics leads us towards a non-moralism beyond good and evil, its purpose being to liberate the body from Christian asceticism. Nietzsche celebrates the virtuosity of the Renaissance and takes Goethe’s combination of “noble upbringing” and “bodily dexterity” as an example of aesthetically transforming the “binary opposition of good and evil” into the “non-moralism of good and bad.” Cultivated individuals, like artistic geniuses, are good at mobilizing the multiple forces intrinsic and extrinsic to the body, without excluding the bad; yet, they still recognize the contingency in their destinies. In modernity, which is essentially self-destructive, conflicting forces, capable of destroying life, in effect become the source of innovative lifestyles. Free play is the main form of artistic activity and a sign of life’s vitality. This paper takes the relationship between power, nature and freedom as a lens through which to explore the following questions: Does the power of artistic liberation manifest and reinforce subjectivity or is it actually a process of desubjectification? If artistic activities involve individual liberation, is there any dimension of political freedom involved therein as well? What is the relationship between Nietzsche’s aesthetic ideas and critiques of the Enlightenment?