Art of arousal
Saturday, 2 November 2019 at 18:07
According to Nietzsche, the priests gave meaning to suffering, expunging at a stroke the nihilism of existence. They also gave hope that suffering and penance now will produce rewards in the future. Meaning and hope overcome the suicidal response to the terrible existential truths.
The meaning that the priests offer is that the terrible existential truths arise out of human failure. It is a failure to pay due homage to the predetermined idol of truth or God. It is a failure to live up the ascetic ideal associated with this idol worship. They give meaning to human suffering by explaining it as a consequence of our own moral inadequacies.
Critiquing the priestly promises, Nietzsche argued that art achieves what homage to the ascetic ideal achieves, namely 'seducing one to a continuation oflife' (Birth of Tragedy). But how?
Nietzsche made the connection between aesthetic and sexual arousal:
The peculiar sweetness and fullness characteristic of the aesthetic condition might have its origins precisely in…sensuality [Sinnlichkeit] (though it is now) transfigure[d] and no longer enters consciousness assexual stimulus (Genealogy of Morals).
Is all art arousal? And how is it an alternative to the idol worship that he despised? How is it better? Is it simply more pleasurable?
If art maintains our attachment to life through essentially pleasurable, quasi-sexual arousal, then this is to reconfigure art as a form of distracting and anaesthetising pornography. I’m intrigued and will explore more.
© John Dunn.