The Pennsylvania State University
Cover for the book The Smile of Tragedy

The Smile of Tragedy

Nietzsche and the Art of Virtue Daniel R. Ahern
  • Copyright: 2012
  • Dimensions: 6 x 9
  • Page Count: 184 pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-271-05250-2
  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-271-05251-9
  • Series Name: Literature and Philosophy
The Smile of Tragedy is a valuable addition to the literature on Nietzsche. The book is clearly argued and well written, with an abundance of references to the primary sources seamlessly integrated into the text. Particularly impressive is the concise and sustained development of the exposition, the arc of which unfolds without loss of shape or focus.”

In The Smile of Tragedy, Daniel Ahern examines Nietzsche’s attitude toward what he called “the tragic age of the Greeks,” showing it to be the foundation not only for his attack upon the birth of philosophy during the Socratic era but also for his overall critique of Western culture. Through an interpretation of “Dionysian pessimism,” Ahern clarifies the ways in which Nietzsche sees ethics and aesthetics as inseparable and how their theoretical separation is at the root of Western nihilism. Ahern explains why Nietzsche, in creating this precursor to a new aesthetics, rejects Aristotle’s medicinal interpretation of tragic art and concentrates on Apollinian cruelty as a form of intoxication without which there can be no art. Ahern shows that Nietzsche saw the human body as the vessel through which virtue and art are possible, as the path to an interpretation of “selflessness,” as the means to determining an order of rank among human beings, and as the site where ethics and aesthetics coincide.

Daniel R. Ahern is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton. He is the author of Nietzsche as Cultural Physician (Penn State, 1995).





1. Dionysian Pessimism

2. The Good and Beautiful Body

I The Risk of Virtue

II An Outline for a Physiology of Aesthetics

3. The Socratic Cure for Life

I The Twilight of Ecstasy and the Birth of “Happiness”

II Apollo Democratized: The Birth of “Aesthetics”

Tomorrow and the Day After Tomorrow




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