Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, Attempt at Self-Criticism

What I began to grapple with at that time was something fearful and dangerous, a problem with horns but not necessarily a bull exactly, in any case a new problem – today I would call it the problem of science itself – science grasped for the first time as problematic, as questionable. But the book in which my youthful courage and suspicion found an outlet – what an impossible book had to grow out of a task so uncongenial to youth! Constructed from a lot of precocious and underripe personal experiences, all of which bordered on the inexpressible, presented in the context of art – for the problem of science cannot be recognized in the context of science – it is a book perhaps for artists who are inclined to retrospection and analysis (in other words, for an exceptional kind of artist, who is not easy to find and whom one would not care to seek out), full of psychological innovations and artists’ secrets, with an artists’ metaphysics in the background; a youthful work full of the exuberance and melancholy of youth, independent, defiantly self-reliant even where it seems to bow before an authority and personal reverence; in short, a a first work also in the bad sense of the term, a work afflicted, in spite of the ancient nature of its problem, by every defect of youth, with its “length in excess” and its “storm and stress.” On the other hand, considering its success (especially with the great artist to whom it addressed itself as in a dialogue, Richard Wagner), a book which has proven itself, which in any case measured up to the “best of its time.” As a result, it should be handled with some consideration and discretion. Still, I do not want to suppress entirely how disagreeable it now seems to me, how strange it appears now, after sixteen years – to an older eye, an eye grown a hundred times more discriminating, but an eye grown no colder, no less familiar with the audacious task first undertaken by this daring book – that of viewing science through the optic of the artist, and art through the optic of life…


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