I feel in accord with and enlightened by what I take as the two principal motivating ideas of Stephen Mulhall’s paper (Mulhall 2012), namely that Nietzsche’s early text The Birth of Tragedy is a central work of Nietzsche’s perfectionism and that this work proves itself to exhibit in its working the thing it argues: that philosophy’s ancient project of projecting, as in Plato, a world beyond in relation to this world, one that explains the coherence and the aspiration of this world, is to be understood simultaneously as a work that itself partakes of, not merely a work that is about, tragedy, a work showing human comprehension to effect and to require not alone liberation but suffering.2 This understanding in effect turns Plato on his head, showing that what we take as our world’s “imitation” of another world more perfect, guaranteeing our quest for knowledge, is itself the manifestation or flowering of a world otherwise dark to itself, allowing it to become known through our journey of perfection. I will accordingly assume Mulhall’s proposal of Nietzschean Perfectionism3

and let it prompt my own periodic obsession with Emerson and with my sense of Nietzsche’s companion obsession. I have sometimes felt, perhaps at moments of exasperation with my inability to make clear to myself some passage of Nietzsche’s, how it is that Nietzsche uses, and perhaps means to surpass or disguise, Emerson. Birth of Tragedy (henceforward BT) is a comparatively clear place to begin because it seems on the surface to endorse the separation of worlds that Emerson, according to my reading, denies. In my chapter on Nietzsche in Cities of Words (Cavell 2005), which focuses

on his text Schopenhauer as Educator, the third of his four Untimely Meditations (Nietzsche 1997), I contrast Nietzsche’s perfectionism with Emerson’s, suggesting that whereas Nietzsche metaphysicalizes – places in separate worlds – the visible Apollonian world in relation to the contrasting Dionysian world that it encodes and interprets, Emerson views something like this relation – I think of Emerson’s contrast between Intuition and Tuition – as a perpetual individual process of bringing light to darkness, consciousness to

unconsciousness, clarity to confusion, a process that is to inspire, but cannot insure, a comparable communal result. But Mulhall’s reading of BT as subjecting itself to its own discoveries, forging itself as an instance of the process it describes, is most congenial to me, prompting and demanding further thought. (Is Nietzsche’s publication an individual or a communal project?) In the immediate background of what I will go on to say now is my sense

of Nietzsche’s use of the architectural disposition of the Greek theater as an image or allegory of conditions of everyday human existence (conditions I think of as a priori, those in the absence of which there is nothing to call human), a disposition Mulhall describes, in part, as follows:

[T]he place of the chorus in Greek theaters was the orchestra, a semicircular area in front of the stage. … The chorus was Janus-faced – it was capable of engaging with the characters in the drama [on the stage] … inviting them not only to view but to identify with the chorus, and thereby to overcome their metaphysical distance from the drama in which that chorus is involved. The chorus’ function as participant-observer thus allows the audience to experience the drama as if they too were participants in it. The dramatic action on stage is then to be understood as a vision of the chorus, and so of the audience – a vision of their suffering, glorified master, Dionysus … [who] never ceased to be the [heroic figure underlying] all the tragic figures of the Greek stage, Prometheus, Oedipus …

(Mulhall 2012: 3)

I interpret the allegory to say that outside the architecture of theaters (but if I am right, there is, in the sense required, no place outside, it is the world) members of the audience are inescapably both participants and observers, separated and connected by the orchestra, a locale of music, namely the presence of chanted speech. Nietzsche’s insistence of the heightened awareness of another as preparation

for the appearance of the gods is a perception I find to make a double contribution to the philosophical understanding of our knowledge of others. First, there is the suggestion that this knowledge begins with the fateful knowledge of a particular other, or of those select few, who are able to reveal to observer/participants the reality of the realm of mind. Whereas with respect to the realm of objects, as detailed, for instance, in the passage from Augustine quoted at the beginning ofWittgenstein’s Investigations, we are not surprised to find this testimony: “When they (my elders) named some object, and accordingly moved toward something, I saw this and I grasped that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out” (Wittgenstein 1953: §1). Evidently neither the child nor Augustine singles out an object or kind of object as fateful, so long, presumably, as the instances are convenient, harmless, and apt to capture the child’s attention and interest.