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  • Between Intoxication and Narcosis: Nietzsche’s Pharmacology of Modernity

The idea of an “aesthetics of intoxication” seems to be nearly synonymous with Friedrich Nietzsche’s work. Introduced most famously in his earliest writings, the idea that a frenzied, intoxicated state was a crucial component of Hellenic art was part of what made Nietzsche’s first book so provocative upon its initial reception, and the nature of Dionysian intoxication has been a concern of tremendous importance to a host of subsequent readers. Yet when intoxication reappears in what scholarship often identifies as the more positivist-empirical works of the “middle” period, it does so in a different guise. In these books, intoxication functions particularly as an object of a cultural diagnosis and a polemic, in marked contrast to his earlier positing of intoxication as fundamental to the creation of tragedy. When in The Gay Science (1882) Nietzsche questions, “[w]hat is wine to the inspired!,” he speaks from a spirit very different than that of Dionysus.1 Yet the concept of intoxication—along with the figure of Dionysus—recurs in his late thought, particularly in Twilight of the Idols (1889) and in his notes for The Will to Power (1901). In those writings, it is once again conjoined with poetic practices and visionary states. Indeed, intoxication runs like a curious thread through the labyrinth of Nietzsche’s evolving thought.

That the semantic range of intoxication is an elusive component of his vocabulary is evidenced by its array of antipodes throughout his work: dream, vision, sobriety, and narcosis occur as correlates of intoxication at certain points in his writing. Each opposition speaks to different and intersecting planes of experience as well: from the aesthetic and affective to the epistemological [End Page 115] and cultural-historical—intoxication has a bearing on them all. Certainly, the vicissitudes that the concept undergoes are a testament to how slippery and elusive this semantic field is in Nietzsche’s work. And not only do its metonymical relations range far and wide in his thought, but intoxication is itself a signifier with an ever-shifting set of signifieds: he employs it as a trope to address such a varied set of concerns about modernity that the concept takes on a depth of metaphoricity as multivalent as his idea of the body itself.

While the scholarship on the Nietzschean Dionysian is nothing short of gargantuan, the amount of attention paid to intoxication itself is much more limited and the topic often somewhat narrowly construed.2 I look to offer here a broader understanding of what I will show to be a rich dimension of Nietzsche’s work and a crucial facet of the historicity of his thought. As I will argue throughout, intoxications, narcotic effects, drugs, and alcohol, as well as stimulants and depressants of various sorts, played a dynamic role in Nietzsche’s writings; their increasing presence in his contemporary Europe formed a part of his historical circumstances, and his work can be read as among the literary and philosophical expressions of modernity’s drug discourse. The narcotic lexicon that appears in his writing is frequently poised between the literal and metaphoric and thus presents the interpreter with all the problems of negotiating that apparent polarity. And yet principal among Nietzsche’s concerns when deploying that army of narcotic tropes, as I will argue, was a struggle over the concept of health, a struggle that animated much of his writing, and a point upon which his thought produced a dissonant resonance with the medical, legal, and moral discourses that were swarming around a great variety of drugs and their effects at the time he was writing.

Techno-modernity and its Intoxicants

Opiates, cannabis, cocaine, chloral hydrate, chloroform, ether, nitrous oxide, as well as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine all formed part of the landscape of Western modernity in the late nineteenth century. The moods of the era were stimulated and depressed by a variety of pharmacological substances. Numerous scholars have shown a discourse of addiction emerging at this time and have explored its coincidence with notions of autonomous selfhood and the autonomous nation-state.3 Temperance and teetotal movements formed, addiction narratives proliferated, and nations began to enact legislation to deal with drugs, all trends that would gain momentum well into the next century. A moralizing discourse for habitual users was being replaced by a medical discourse; the holy was yielding to a notion of the healthy, as newly defined by a democratic, rational, and secular age. Out of the sinner evolved the addict, who was subjected to new forms of institutional coercion, and who was a presence in both the prison and the asylum.

Pharmacology was an important expression of techno-modernity. The use of opium rose throughout Europe in the nineteenth century. The drug had an abundance of medical uses, was widely available, and was inexpensive. Its literary associations with the visions of dark romanticism (those of De Quincey and Poe), and with the aesthetics [End Page 116] of Baudelaire and French Symbolism, need to be understood alongside its quotidian presence as a medicament in the average household, and as a common intoxicant. Members of all social strata variously used and abused opium, though it was particularly prevalent among the poor. It was a medicine for a host of ills, including the physiological, psychological, and social, doing much to both alleviate and exacerbate those maladies. And it was made even more powerful in the age of technological reproduction. Early in the nineteenth century, a young assistant to a German pharmacologist isolated the alkaloid of the poppy plant, producing “morphine” and marking a breakthrough in modern chemistry. With the invention of the syringe, new medical applications were made possible. The drug was liberally administered by medical professionals and was often given to patients to self-administer; addiction now became a significant problem among those who could afford doctors. Further pharmacological developments would produce what commercial marketing would dub “heroin” (from heroisch, meaning “heroic”), which, along with aspirin, was the chief product of the pharmaceutical company Bayer beginning in the 1890s and was championed for a variety of uses, including as a remedy for morphine addiction. Chloral hydrate, a sedative capable of producing hallucinations in appropriate doses, was commonly taken throughout Europe to treat insomnia beginning in the late 1860s. Chloroform and ether, two anesthetics, became available as well, and nitrous oxide had an established presence. Amphetamines were synthesized in the 1880s and would help fuel the war machines of the twentieth century.

A modern form of psycho-pharmacology was emerging as well. In the middle of the century, a French psychiatrist, Jacques-Joseph Moreau, who worked at the Bicêtre Hospital for the Insane, showed great interest in a host of drugs, particularly hashish. In 1845, he published Du Hashish et de l’aliénation mentale (translated in English as Hashish and Mental Illness). He saw in the drug a tool that could induce a condition that resembled insanity, thus enabling the empirical observation of the onset of such a state, as well as making madness something psychiatrists themselves could subjectively experience. At his most grandiose Moreau saw hashish as an unobstructed avenue into madness, noting, “[t]here is not a single, elementary manifestation of mental illness that cannot be found in the mental changes caused by hashish.”4

New drugs attracted new medical advocates. The coca leaf was brought to the West as a product of the colonization of South America and Indonesia, and from it cocaine was produced by German and American pharmaceutical companies that competed with one another for the new market. It was most commonly available as an ingredient in alcoholic beverages, and in 1886, it appeared in the new temperance drink, Coca-Cola. Sigmund Freud was an early proponent of the drug and wrote a series of papers (1884–87) on its therapeutic potentials. Freud was interested in cocaine’s ability to incite productive activity, to enhance concentration without any apparent negative effect, and to improve moods—the “cocaine euphoria” he repeatedly notes in his papers. Cocaine could help the ill convalesce and help the healthy to excel. In a gesture that was common in nineteenth-century pharmacological practice, Freud would pit pharmakon against pharmakon: he advocated the new drug as a treatment for addictions to both alcohol and morphine, an advocacy that caused him professional [End Page 117] embarrassment and considerable guilt when, as a treatment for “morphinism,” he recommended cocaine to his colleague Ernst von Fleischl-Marxow. Marxow’s addictions thereupon multiplied and contributed to his early death. Though Freud would deny (or repress) any significance that cocaine might have had in shaping his subsequent thought, his early encounter with the drug began his therapeutic inquiry; cocaine was the first cure with which he would experiment.

Drugs were a site at which technological advances and contested definitions of health and illness converged. Evaluation of the psychosomatic and social effects of drugs was taking place throughout Europe, amidst a network of overlapping and competing powers. It was an era that was becoming increasingly intoxicated and increasingly sober, an often overlooked facet of the trajectory of modernity.

Malaise and Addiction: On Use and Abuse

Indeed, Nietzsche’s personal reputation for sobriety, largely based on his advocacy of teetotalism in several passages from his work, is at least somewhat misleading. His own concern with medications and pharmacological effects was considerable; drugs of various sorts were of use and interest to him. Franz Overbeck, visiting Nietzsche, noted the host of medications he found atop Nietzsche’s stove.5 In an effort to counter stomach pains, migraines, hemorrhoids, and principally insomnia, problems (and solutions) that Daniel Braezeale claims began as early as 1868, Nietzsche employed “massive and regular doses of drugs.”6 He used a variety of psycho-active substances with considerable frequency, consuming opium, hashish, potassium bromide (an anticonvulsant and depressant, often prescribed for epilepsy), and chloral hydrate. His proclivity seems to have been for the latter; Nietzsche’s mother claimed that he bought chloral hydrate “by the pound,” and he noted being dependent on it for sleep.7 His sister, who had attributed his madness to his drug use, claimed he used drugs that “had not, as yet, been tried out by science” (Podach, Madness of Nietzsche, 56). Resa von Schirnhofer, recollecting her acquaintance with him, recalled that “he had written for himself all kinds of prescriptions signed Dr. Nietzsche,” which to his own surprise were filled without any question.8

Nor was the effect of those drugs always predictable. In an 1882 letter to Lou-Salomé and Paul Rée, Nietzsche recounted having taken “an enormous dose of opium” to “lose reason. . . . However, instead of losing reason, I found it,” he claimed, noting that he gained insight regarding their concerns over his solitude and megalomania.9In opio veritas,” he would note, only to retract that claim in a subsequent letter, asking Rée not to “confuse [his] reason with the nonsense of the opium letter” (Nietzsche Briefwechsel, 3.1:309).10

Even alcohol, which Nietzsche on numerous occasions made the object of his polemics, was not something he entirely foreswore. In Ecce Homo (1908), he notes the curious nature of his inability to process small amounts of alcohol, but his affinity for occasional strong doses, dating from his time as a schoolboy. He relates how over the course of a peculiar night of heavy drinking and Latin composition, the young Nietzsche [End Page 118] at Schulpforta attempted to emulate his model, Sallust. He notes: “to pour some grog of the heaviest caliber over my Latin . . . did not disagree with my physiology.”11 In The Birth of Tragedy (1872), he admires the Greeks for combining “Dionysiac and political instincts,” and likens the balance of the two to “the glorious mixture that one finds in a fine wine, which both fires the blood and turns the mind to contemplation.”12 Here Nietzsche finds the effect of wine to concentrate the apparently antithetical domains of the erotic and intellectual—precisely the type of psychosomatic intensification that figures so prominently throughout his thought. For Nietzsche, the principal reason for rejecting intoxication was not so much anything essential in its effect, but rather the stupefying regularity of its consumption throughout Europe.

And yet what is far more interesting than Nietzsche’s personal use of drugs and alcohol are the numerous ways in which intoxicants and intoxicated states of various sorts occupy his thought and the frequency with which narcotics figure in his analysis of modernity. In The Gay Science, Nietzsche noted the role of intoxication in cultural productions. In criticizing contemporary theater for titillating the feelings and offering a merely intoxicating experience, Nietzsche exclaims the following:

The strongest thoughts and passions are [in the theater] presented before those who are capable not of thought and passion—but of intoxication! And the former as a means to the latter! And theatre and music as the hashish-smoking and betel-chewing of the European! Oh, who will tell us the entire history of narcotics? —It is nearly the entire history of “culture,” our so-called higher culture!

(Gay Science, 87, emphasis in original)

In fact, modernity itself in Nietzsche’s diagnosis is heavily narcotized, and among the most powerful of modern intoxicants is Wagnerian music. It is perhaps not insignificant that Nietzsche’s early enthusiasm for Richard Wagner coincides with the incorporation of intoxication and the effects of narcotic draft into his aesthetic theory. In The Birth of Tragedy, Wagner is conceived as a potential source of the revival of Dionysian tragedy in the form of the modern music drama, and if it is among Nietzsche’s contributions to have introduced the principle of intoxication, frenzy, and exuberance into an understanding of Greek culture, it is important to note that he does so while under the influence of Wagner.

Nietzsche’s later relation to Wagner is largely one of rejection, yet he continues to assess him in terms of narcotic effects.13 When Nietzsche suggests understanding all higher culture in relation to drug effects his intention is to address a general existential malaise of modernity, one that Wagner’s audience typifies. In his attempt at self-criticism, appended to The Birth of Tragedy in 1886, Nietzsche contends that “German music” is “a narcotic of the worst kind . . . which hails lack of clarity as a virtue, with its dual properties of being both an intoxicating and a befogging narcotic [berauschendes und zugleich benebelndes Narkotikum]” (10). He proceeds to place his own early work under the same suspicion, questioning whether it is not “‘as intoxicating as it is befogging’ a narcotic at any rate” (11). Nietzsche’s own work falls under the same criticism as Wagner’s: characterized by a lack of clarity, both are alternately intoxicating and befogging, intensifying and stupefying. Elsewhere, he notes the infectious nature of [End Page 119] Wagner: “[he] has the same effect as the continual consumption of alcohol: blunting, and obstructing the stomach with phlegm.”14 As with alcohol intoxication, Wagner’s effect is decidedly physiological—both obstruct the stomach, the organ to which Nietzsche repeatedly attributes matters of the spirit. He claims Wagner’s music contains “the three great stimulantia of the exhausted: the brutal, the artificial, and the innocent (idiotic)” (Case of Wagner, 622). Wagnerian art both produces and caters to its philistine audience and in so doing obeys a curious pharmacologic: it stimulates the exhausted, and stimulates them to exhaustion—producing a narcotizing intoxication. Wagnerian music has an ambivalence of effect, it is both stimulating and depressing; and what remains implicit in Nietzsche’s discussion is that it is subject to abuse. When Theodor Adorno noted Wagner’s music as “an intoxicating brew,” he not only concurred with Nietzsche’s negative valuation, but employed an important trope of his as well.15

Yet the pharmacological valence of Wagnerian intoxication is not something that Nietzsche gives absolute determination. Noting the importance of Wagner to him in his youth, Nietzsche claims, “If one wants to rid oneself of an unbearable pressure, one needs hashish. Well then, I needed Wagner. Wagner is the antitoxin against everything German par excellence—a toxin, a poison, that I don’t deny” (Ecce Homo, 705). For all his toxicity, Wagner has an ambivalent pharmacological effect—he is like hashish or alcohol, a remedy and a poison, depending on how he is used. He is considerably addictive, both to Nietzsche and to the German public, if not European modernity as a whole. And like a pharmakos, he is both distinctly German and the antidote to all German effects.

Germany itself is in fact often heavily implicated in modern narcosis, and Wagnerian art is not the only drug that it employs. In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche explicitly identifies “our constipated, constipating German music” as only the third and most recent addition to European narcotics, having been preceded by alcohol and Christianity.16 At numerous points in his writing Nietzsche conjoins these latter two, and the conjunction is no mere rhetorical flourish.17 The particularly insidious effects of each are most prominent in beer-drinking, protestant Germany: “nowhere else are the two great European narcotics, Christianity and alcohol, so greatly abused” (Twilight of the Idols, 72). When Nietzsche identifies the destructive effect on Europe of the ascetic ideal as the “true calamity in the history of European health,” he finds it only comparable to “the alcohol poisoning of Europe”—a poisoning that he finds largely to have taken place under the Germans.18 Like Europe as a whole, Germany is hooked on narcotics that it in turn peddles to others, and the fact that at the time of Nietzsche’s writing, the German pharmaceutical companies Boehringer Ingelheim, Merck, and Bayer were leading Europe in the producing and marketing of cocaine, morphine, and heroin resonates with this narcotic dimension of his cultural diagnosis.

In a passage from The Anti-Christ in which Nietzsche extols the nobility of Islam over Christianity, he notes “The German aristocracy is virtually missing in the history of higher culture: one can guess the reason . . . Christianity, alcohol—the two great means of corruption. . . . For in itself there should be no choice in the matter when faced with Islam and Christianity” (Twilight of the Idols, 196). An apparently similar [End Page 120] comment appears in a passage from The Gay Science, in which he posits an identity of effect between Christianity and alcohol: “What do savage tribes today take over first of all from the Europeans? Liquor and Christianity, the narcotics of Europe. And from what do they most often perish? From European narcotics” (129). In both passages intoxicants serve to distinguish Europe from its other—the abstinence of Islam and the innocence of other “savage tribes” contrast with European alcoholism. Nietzsche thus shows a critical awareness of intoxicants not only as cultural markers, but as important players in colonial power dynamics as well. Europe not only has a proclivity for its narcotics, but effectively pushes them on its colonial subjects; both user and dealer, Europe is itself sick and is poisoning others.

And Nietzsche does not simply correlate Christianity and alcohol; he looks to understand the former in terms of the latter. Divested of its transcendent aspirations, the effect of Christianity begins to look entirely similar to that of alcoholism, and Nietzsche often evaluates them in identical terms. They produce a common physiological effect: a dulling of pain and deadening of affect. In reducing suffering by positing a metaphysical beyond and higher moral meaning in it, Christianity limits the heights of joy as well—and when Nietzsche aligns alcohol with exhaustion, it is this same affective muting that he has in mind.19 Christianity anaesthetizes, and its physiological depression is the same as that of alcohol. Both are palliatives, ones that contribute to the overall enervation that Nietzsche sees as endemic to modernity—both tend towards quiescence and resignation, or in other words, nihilism.

Nietzsche’s lifelong antagonism toward Christianity was part of his attempt to overcome the anesthesia of metaphysics; in particular, the ascetic priest, whom Nietzsche sketches in detail in the third essay of The Genealogy, is heavily implicated in Christian narcosis. The ascetic priest comes to prominence only in the presence of a waning of life, a physiological disturbance in need of medication. The sufferer, unable to act out against an external cause of suffering, experiences a discomfort in need of narcotic relief, and the ascetic priest is a dealer of narcotics—guilt, sin, and ressentiment:

The venting of his affects represents the greatest attempt on the part of the suffering to win relief—anesthesia—the narcotic he cannot help desiring to deaden pain of any kind. This alone, I surmise, constitutes the actual cause of ressentiment, vengefulness, and the like: to deaden pain by means of affects.

(Genealogy of Morals, 563, emphasis in original)

By locating the cause of suffering inwardly, as guilt and sin, the ascetic priest enables the sufferer to release tension, to identify and thus act out against the putative cause of suffering: one’s self. By these means the ascetic looks to alleviate the discomfort of those who are not otherwise capable of coping with suffering, and he effects what Nietzsche refers to as “a repose of deepest sleep” (570). Christianity produces a narcotic effect, and modernity itself is hooked on the ascetic’s drugs. Wagner’s audience—among the sickliest in modern Europe—Nietzsche implicitly aligns with the ascetic’s narcotics, when he notes: “Revenge upon life itself—this is the most voluptuous form of intoxication [Rausch] for such indigent souls!”20 [End Page 121]

The work of scholarship, Wissenschaft, Nietzsche sees as also complicit in modern narcosis. Wissenschaft can be either the most spiritual expression of the ascetic ideal, Nietzsche claims, or its opposite:

[W]here it is not the latest expression of the ascetic ideal . . . science [Wissenschaft] today is a hiding place for every kind of discontent, disbelief, gnawing worm, despectio sui, bad conscience . . . how often the real meaning of this lies in the desire to keep something hidden from oneself. Science as a means of self-narcosis [Selbstbetäubung]: do you have experience of that?

(Genealogy of Morals, 583, emphasis in original)

The scholar is not a creator of values and largely conducts his or her work in the absence of any great passion or commitment. Scholarship does not look to discover what is new so much as it looks to conceal from itself the rickety foundations of what is already established. It functions much like the ascetic ideal insofar as it numbs an area of aggravation. Alcohol is thus by no means necessarily an impediment to good scholarship. In fact, in one of Nietzsche’s most vociferous denunciations of alcohol, it plays a complementary role to the dispiritedness of Wissenschaft. Nietzsche states:

How much dreary heaviness, lameness, dampness, sloppiness, how much beer there is in the German intellect! How can it possibly happen that young men who dedicate their existence to the most spiritual goals lack all sense of the first instinct of spirituality: the spirit’s instinct for self-preservation—and drink beer? . . . The alcoholism of scholarly youth does not constitute a question mark in regard to their erudition—one can even be a great scholar without possessing any spirit at all—but from any other point of view it remains a problem.

(Twilight of the Idols, 72, emphasis in original)

Spirit is not a prerequisite for the rigor and clarity of scholarship because good scholarship is not necessarily value-creating; rather it often adheres to an already accepted set of values and truths, and thus foregoes the Nietzschean imperative to affirm the flux of becoming through creatively positing values. In this way the scholar is, in fact, better suited than most others to an enervated modernity: the scholar—like most drinkers—is missing spirit in favor of spirits. In the same passage Nietzsche cites David Strauss, a figure whom he identified as a scholarly philistine in his essay of 1873, as a particular example of “that bland degeneration that beer produces in the spirit!” (72). In offering a portrait of Jesus from an essentially positivist and historicist point, Strauss typifies the dispiritedness of the boozy Teutons.

Dr. Nietzsche’s Prescriptions

Through alcohol, Christianity, Wagner, and Wissenschaft, Nietzsche identifies a modernity that is fundamentally narcotized. They combine to produce a distinctly modern physiological depression, a comfort with the uncomfortable, an easing of profound discontentment, and an exhilarating rush from ignoble substances. A strong taste for intoxication is nearly the hallmark of modern decadence. Noting the “mob taste” that [End Page 122] prefers the titillation of intoxication to the substance of food, Nietzsche asks “is it to them that politics are to be entrusted? So that they can make of them their intoxication?”21 It is, in fact, largely this combination of narcotic influences that has produced in modernity what Nietzsche—as well as Zarathustra—repeatedly refers to as a “sleep.” Upon his descent from the mountains Zarathustra is described as “an awakened one” who returns “among the sleepers.”22 Zarathustra rejects the wise man who promotes sleepiness and his “opiate virtues,” and elsewhere he notes himself as a disturber of sleepiness (Thus Spoke, 30).23 Zarathustra concludes with daybreak and an awakening, while his disciples remain asleep, emphasizing again the importance of the dichotomy. For Nietzsche, this sleep of modernity is always partly narcotic, and the rousing from narcotic slumber is largely the task both of Zarathustra and Nietzsche himself.

And yet for all his condemnation of modern narcotics, Nietzsche’s diagnoses of— and prescriptions for—modernity reflect his intense interest in the pharmacological. Nietzsche not only identifies a narcosis in modernity, but is always writing prescriptions with an aim towards a convalescence—and what he, particularly in his late work, prescribes to counter the narcotizing tendencies and general exhaustion of modern life, as well as the sobriety of the ascetic ideal, is the rush of intoxication—Rausch. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that a tremendous amount of Nietzsche’s philosophy is concerned with drawing a line between that which promotes narcosis, the banalizing and dulling effects of contemporary life, and that which promotes intoxication, a state of the creation of values, style, and self that Nietzsche in his late work implicitly suggests as the counter-response to modernity’s dormancy. It is a state that in his late work Nietzsche claims to be necessary for any sort of creative practices:

For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity or perception to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication [Rausch]. Intoxication must first have heightened the excitability of the entire machine: no art results before that happens. All kinds of intoxication, no matter how different their origin, have the power to do this.

(Twilight of the Idols, 82, emphasis in original)

This state can be brought on by a host of different intoxicants, among which he notes sexual excitement, bravery in battle, the onset of spring, and even the use of narcotics—and Rausch is not only a precondition for art, but for “any sort of aesthetic activity or perception,” any active positing of values. The concept reemerges at this stage in Nietzsche’s work partly as an antipode to Wagnerian intoxication. It is not romantic excess, the excesses of harmony, of rhythm, and of Bayreuth, but rather the state in which energy expresses itself in form and style: “The essence of intoxication is the feeling of plenitude and increased energy . . . what one sees, what one desires, one sees swollen, pressing, strong, overladen with energy” (Twilight of the Idols, 83). Nietzsche’s idea of intoxication is a self-drugging in which the spirit intoxicates itself, animating and energizing itself, and therefore decidedly different from the titillation of Wagnerian art.

That Nietzsche aligns this state of intoxication with sexuality suggests that the idea of generativity is prominent in his mind as well.24 Intoxication is a sensualized state of creativity that Nietzsche thinks of as obtained in and through the creation of philosophy [End Page 123] and art, and most importantly, it counteracts the old, metaphysical source of values, religion, with an embodied, corporeal state. Thus Nietzsche claims that “artist” and “Christian” are antithetical terms, and accordingly notes, “Raphael was not a Christian” (Twilight of the Idols, 84). For Nietzsche, the state of intoxication is one of excess, intensity, and above all, force—and it is as antithetical to the tendencies of modernity as Dionysus is to Christ.

Perhaps the most extensive recent work to address the importance of Rausch in Nietzsche’s writing is John Richardson’s Nietzsche’s New Darwinism (2004). Richardson claims that the “real strength” in Nietzsche’s position can best be understood “by setting it down on its crucial Darwinian ground,” and he understands Nietzsche’s philosophy to derive from a naturalism that is essentially Darwinian (Nietzsche’s New Darwinism, 220, emphasis in original). Richardson argues that Nietzsche sees an essential conflict between “aesthetics” and “epistemology” and feels an imperative to balance, if not reconcile, them. In an effort to comprehend Nietzsche’s notion of intoxication, and situate it within an empirically explanatory system, Richardson asks:

[f]or we haven’t seen why we have these drives, by his account. Why, in particular, this Rausch? It’s only this explanation that makes Nietzsche’s claims about Rausch, and his schema of aesthetic attitudes, very interesting. Without it, they seem free-floating and personal expressions about what aesthetic experience “should” be—or what it happens to be in his case. Nietzsche’s quasi-Darwinian account of how we all have come to have this experience greatly enhances his analysis, by tying it down to facts.

(236, emphasis in original)

Rausch plays an important role in Richardson’s reading: its roots, he finds, lie in sexuality, and its connection to physical beauty is significant in the process of sexual selection. It is thus a central component of the will-to-life, and for this reason was fundamental to Nietzsche’s thought. Richardson thus rescues Nietzsche’s thought for an empirical perspective—and in so doing makes Nietzsche’s thought “very interesting” as opposed to merely subjective. And yet it is precisely “facts” that Nietzsche vociferously warns against, and the empirical stance of a naturalist philosopher such as Darwin (or for that matter, Richardson himself) is in fact quite different from the hermeneutic position that Nietzsche throughout his writing both adopts and forcefully advocates. Nor is it to be taken for granted that the audience Nietzsche had in mind for his works and thought was the same one Richardson has in mind when he sets the conditions for what makes a claim “very interesting.” Certainly Rausch is by no means ideally suited to discourses that see facts as fundamental, and to reduce it to an empirically explanatory matrix misses much of what is at stake in Nietzschean Rausch—in fact, I would suggest, considerably misconstrues it. Rather, Nietzsche claims the highest state a philosopher can attain is “to stand in a Dionysian relation to existence,” a state that seems remote from an empiricist epistemology like Darwin’s, and constative claims about truth (Will to Power, 536). Rausch for Nietzsche is a state as much beyond epistemological claims to truth and falsity as it is beyond good and evil. [End Page 124]

Thus, while Richardson undoubtedly draws attention to an important facet of Nietzsche’s thought—his grappling with Darwinian physiology—in the process, he misses a great deal that is important in Nietzsche’s work, and even more so in his idea of Rausch.25 In particular, Richardson mistakenly conflates Darwinian naturalism’s silent rejection of religion and theology with Nietzsche’s richly antagonistic engagement with that tradition. He reduces Nietzsche’s idea of intoxication to the genetic demand for the propagation of the species and fails to note its particular significance for Nietzsche as an antidote to nihilism. The state of Rausch for Nietzsche is not best understood as principally part of a philosophically explanatory project; rather, it functions phenomenologically and experientially as a remedy to the narcotizing effects (and affects) of Western metaphysics. It is a state of body that cannot be reduced to its function within a linear model of progression, but instead one in which the body opens onto a multiplicity of potential reconfigurations and restylizations—new articulations of “health.” In particular, as I will show, Nietzsche employs Rausch in both his early and late writing, in his active antagonism to religion: in an effort to overcome Christian redemption through Dionysian redemption, and religious vision through inebriate vision, Nietzsche transforms the wine of Christ into that of Dionysus, replacing the collapsed values of the holy with those of “a new health” (The Gay Science, 246).

Intoxicated Visions and Poiesis

When in his early works Nietzsche sees in the rituals of Dionysus a crucial cultural and phenomenological significance, he knowingly evokes a religious tradition with a strongly narcotic genealogy. The rituals of the Dionysian mysteries, as Nietzsche was aware, featured narcotic drafts, and their alleged visionary capacities may have been on his mind as well.26 Indeed in his late work, The Twilight of the Idols, where the concept of Rausch reemerges, Nietzsche notes the incompatibility of the sober, scholarly approach with the Dionysian mysteries as an object of study, citing

the laughable poverty of instinct displayed by German philologists whenever they approach the Dionysian. The celebrated Lobeck especially, who crept into this world of mysterious states with the honest self-confidence of a dried-up old bookworm, and by being nauseously frivolous and childish he persuaded himself he was being scientific—Lobeck intimated, with a great display of erudition, that these curiosities were of no consequence.

(Twilight of the Idols, 119)

The Dionysian mysteries, Nietzsche goes on to say, deal with the ecstatic and orgiastic, narcotic draft, music and dance—all decidedly problematic objects of study for the sober eye of Wissenschaft. What distinguishes Nietzsche’s thought on the topic is his willingness to identify an existential importance in states of intensity, possession, and trance—states that are not easily reducible to the conceptual clarity of philology. Indeed those states even hide themselves as potential objects of study. The “mysterious” nature of Dionysus, his association with a hermetic knowledge and irreducible foreignness, is something that Nietzsche emphasizes in both early and late works. [End Page 125]

Dionysus’s mysteriousness, in fact, coincides with Nietzsche’s own hermetic knowledge: that of eternal recurrence. Nietzsche notes in Twilight of the Idols that it is only in the mysteries that one finds an expression of “the fundamental fact of Hellenic instinct. . . . Eternal life, the eternal recurrence of life; the future promised and consecrated in the past; the triumphant Yes to life beyond death and change” (120). In what reflects a return on Nietzsche’s part to the mystery rituals of Dionysus and the Greeks, and to the state of intoxication, he identifies as fundamental an affirmation of eternal recurrence—a non-transcendent vision of the eternal. Dionysus is both indigenous and foreign, Greek and Asian—the god who returns to his native soil in Greece; he is a question mark, and ultimately the excess that remains beyond the conceptual determinations of sober philologists like Lobeck.

Through intoxication, Nietzsche transfigures not only Schopenhauer’s Will, as Martha Nussbaum has argued, but also central tropes of Christianity, including the eternal, the spirit, and redemption—effectively inebriating them. Nietzsche’s turn to intoxication as a state of creativity in his later work is meant to counteract the narcosis of modernity and the nihilism of metaphysics. Through countering the affective depression of modernity with the highs of tragic joy—an affective modality brought about though creation in the absence of God, Truth, and Morality—Nietzsche sees in the visionary state of intoxication a redemption of existence. It is thus not simply that poetics takes the place of epistemology, but that the state of creativity, the positing of values and the imposing of form, actively confronts and takes to the end the nihilistic space left in the wake of the death of God.

Creativity and intoxication are frequently conjoined in Nietzsche’s thought on poetic processes, both in his earliest and latest writings. Insofar as one can identify a theory of poetics in Nietzsche, the idea of intoxication clearly plays a particularly important role in it. He first articulates a connection between intoxicated states and poetic ones in his earliest work, The Birth of Tragedy. And, in preliminary essays for that work, “The Birth of Tragic Thought” (1870) and The Dionysian Vision of the World (1870), he clearly evokes narcotic draft. At times this conjunction is made in terms of an “analogy”: intoxication is not entirely synonymous with the creative state, but exists among the chain of deferred terms that he employs in describing the actual state of creativity, including “ecstasy” (Ekstase), “enchantment” (Entzauberung) and “enthusiasm” (Enthusiasmus). None of these are fully adequate to identify the state itself, but exist among the handful of contiguously related terms that Nietzsche puts in play to articulate a phenomenology of creation. What is common to them all is their decidedly anti-transcendent character: from his earliest work through his last, Nietzsche articulates a decidedly embodied poetics in contradistinction to the otherworldliness of Christianity. In the early works, as is well known, Nietzsche posits a division of the kinaesthetic, tactile, and auditory of the Dionysian from the visionary state of the Apollonian, aligning them with the physiological states intoxication and dream, respectively. Both states are decidedly embodied, and insofar as they are conceptualized as antithetical, the distinction between them serves to divide the corporeal sensorium, carving out a particular space for vision, distinct from the other senses. [End Page 126]

And yet, while establishing on the one hand a stark partition between the state of intoxication and the dream vision, Nietzsche on the other hand subsumes that division within a theory of poetic practice that posits the confluence of those principles as a necessity to the poetics of tragedy. The state that produces tragedy, his principal focus, is one in which the principles of intoxication and dream interpenetrate. Intoxication he conceives of principally as a medial state: the vision is obtained through intoxication. In the “Dionysian Vision” he notes, “it is not in alternation between clarity and intoxication, but in their entanglement, that Dionysian artistry shows itself.”27 In his late work, Nietzsche identifies the Dionysian and the Apollonian as having been “both conceived as forms of intoxication,” and he notes,

Apollonian intoxication alerts above all the eye, so that it acquires power of vision. The painter, the sculptor, the epic poet are all visionaries par excellence. In the Dionysian state on the other hand, the entire emotional system is alerted and intensified: so that it discharges all its powers of representation, imitation, transfiguration, transmutation, every kind of mimicry and play-acting, conjointly.

(Twilight of the Idols, 84)

This suggests that the apparent stark division between the two is not of as much significance to Nietzsche as their confluence, and that the Apollonian is perhaps not best thought of as the “sober” antithesis of the drunken Dionysian, but rather just a different modality of intoxication. Yet one thing that remains clear in both Nietzsche’s early and late work is the visionary nature of intoxication. In his notes for the Will to Power, he states:

The condition of pleasure called intoxication is precisely an exalted feeling of power—The sensations of space and time are altered: tremendous distances are surveyed and, as it were, for the first time apprehended; the extension of vision over greater masses and expanses; the refinement of the organs for much that is extremely small and fleeting; divination, the power of understanding with only the least assistance

(Will to Power, 420–21)

The command of the inebriate over time and space and the intensification of vision in the intoxicated state echo the opium visions of De Quincey and Baudelaire, among others.28 The vision of Greek drama comes in and through a state of intoxication. Under the influence of its god, the tragic chorus discharges its energies in a collective hallucination.29 Losing the boundaries of selfhood, it sees the god Dionysus before it—the god whose presence is both the cause and effect of intoxication, and Nietzsche attributes tremendous existential importance to this vision.30

If the Apollonian is complicit with, rather than opposed to, intoxication, then the historical moment that marks the death of tragedy is the yielding of intoxicated states to the waking world of sobriety. Euripides, who is a chief culprit in tragedy’s death, Nietzsche suggests, was likely to have seen himself as a sober man among inebriates: “as the first ‘sober’ poet he was obliged to condemn his ‘drunken’ peers” (Birth of Tragedy, 63). Here Nietzsche shows sufficient concern here with his narco-lexicon to render it in quotations—it is not drunkenness and sobriety he is concerned with, but [End Page 127] “drunkenness” and “sobriety.” This sobriety, however, is largely that of philosophy. Thus, Anaxagoras “seemed to be the first sober philosopher in the company of drunkards,” and that sobriety continues through the Cyclops-eye of Socrates (63). The antithesis of Dionsysus and Apollo yields to a “new opposition: the Dionysiac and the Socratic,” as inebriate vision gives way to a rational world-view (60).

Visionary inebriation appears even in Nietzsche’s more sober works. Zarathustra himself is a water drinker, the teetotaling counterpart to Nietzsche’s drunken alter ego, Dionysus. He soberly notes how the world once appeared to him as “drunken joy,” seeming to establish a reflection on Nietzsche’s own early work. Zarathustra continues, “Thus I too cast my delusion beyond man, like all the afterworldly” (Thus Spoke, 31). Zarathustra rejects the drunkenness of the Dionysian spirit in favor of sobriety and thus aligns intoxication with the type of otherworldliness that Nietzsche adamantly rejects; Dionysian drunkenness now appears as a noumenal realm that does not interest the earthly Zarathustra. In a particularly ironic moment in the text, the commencement of his mock Last Supper, Zarathustra is unable to provide wine for his guests. The soothsayer complains to the sober sage, “Not everybody is a born water drinker like Zarathustra. Nor is water fit for the weary and the wilted: we deserve wine. That alone gives convalescence and immediate health” (284, emphasis in original). The health that Zarathustra articulates, however, unlike that of Christ, is largely one antithetical to the health of inebriates.

Nonetheless the book’s penultimate section, “The drunken song,” not only serves as a narrative punctuation to Zarathustra’s Last Supper, but it also presents once more Zarathustra’s vision of redemption in the eternal recurrence—this time in inebriate form. The soothsayer is reputed by “some chroniclers” to have been “full of sweet wine”; the same suspicion is cast upon the ass that accompanies him, which now begins to dance (318). Zarathustra himself is subsequently brought into metonymical relation with a state of inebriation: “Zarathustra stood there like a drunkard: his eyes grew dim, his tongue failed, his feet stumbled. And who could guess what thoughts were then running over Zarathustra’s soul” (318). Zarathustra, likened to a drunkard, sings: “All joy wants the eternity of all things, wants honey, wants lees, wants drunken midnight, wants tombs, wants tomb-tears’ comfort, wants gilded evening glow” (323). The vision that redeems life from the nihilism of Christianity is presented as an ironic inversion of Christian ritual, and the text’s drunkenness is an important component of that irony. Much as the Apollonian vision redeems life from Dionysian chaos in Nietzsche’s early work, the vision of eternal recurrence redeems life from the nihilism left in the wake of a metaphysical tradition of the West. Zarathustra awakens on the subsequent morning and notes of his companions, “They still sleep in my cave, their dream still drinks of my drunken songs,” evoking once more the polarity of dream and intoxication (325).

Physiology and Nihilism: Moods and Bodies

Rausch (intoxication) was for Nietzsche a state of physiological intensity in which the question of values figured most prominently, and it was precisely on account of [End Page 128] this convergence of concerns that Martin Heidegger made Rausch a focal point in his lectures on Nietzsche. In particular, Heidegger understood Rausch as a key moment in Nietzsche’s confrontation with nihilism. He identified as one of the “six basic developments in the history of aesthetics” Nietzsche’s break with Wagner, particularly based on his different conception of intoxication.31 Wagnerian aesthetics, on Heidegger’s reading, entailed “the plunge into frenzy and the disintegration into sheer feeling as redemptive,” an idea which Nietzsche ultimately rejects (Nietzsche, 86). On Heidegger’s account, Rausch emerges for Nietzsche as “the basic aesthetic state,” a state Nietzsche thinks of as one of active creation, in opposition to the passive and receptive aesthetics of Kant (97). Heidegger identifies as the great problem of Nietzsche’s aesthetics the nihilistic consequences of bare physiology. The central problem is how Nietzsche can conceive embodiment as the ultimate horizon of experience yet not condemn himself to the nihilism of Western metaphysics, how there can be a “physiology of art” without thereby conceding the very nihilistic foundations of the metaphysical tradition. Heidegger articulates this problem in terms of a “discordance”: “[a]rt as the counter-movement to nihilism and art as an object of physiology—that’s like trying to mix fire and water” (93). He proceeds to turn his attention to elucidating the compatibility between the two—effectively quaffing this draft of firewater—and the result is an important moment in his own work.

For Heidegger the idea of a “body” is problematic insofar as its various formulations in relation to spirit, mind, or soul, all situate it in the language of dualisms and thus metaphysics. His insistence on the gender neutrality of Dasein and his marginalization of perception have given rise to the criticism that his relation to the body is largely one of “neglect.”32 And yet in his discussion of the physiological state of Nietzschean intoxication, Heidegger gives a lucid articulation of a type of embodiment not reducible to dualisms and their nihilistic consequences:

Bodily being does not mean that the soul is burdened by a hulk we call the body. In feeling oneself to be, the body is already contained in advance in that self, in such a way that the body in its bodily states permeates the self. . . . We do not “have” a body; rather we “are” bodily. Feeling, as feeling oneself to be, belongs to the essence of such Being.

(Nietzsche, 98–99)

The body is not a possession, not an inert res extensa; it is not even a noun—rather, it is adverbial, an inflection, a shading of actions and characteristics that is always already there. Embodiment cannot be reduced to quantitative terms, and is not experienced in a dualistic relation to “feeling” (much less “mind”); rather it is a qualitative structure, and thus irreducibly different from what (in Heidegger’s vocabulary) is the merely present-at-hand.

In fact body and mood intermingle, producing an atmospheric intensity, and Heidegger finds this interpenetration particularly apparent in Nietzschean Rausch. It is a feeling not localized in a subjectivity, but diffused throughout a horizon upon which beings reveal themselves more robustly. Heidegger reads Rausch as “a state of feeling which explodes the subjectivity of the subject” (123). His ultimate assessment of Nietzsche [End Page 129] is to understand the Will to Power as the culmination of Western Metaphysics, and to fault Nietzsche’s masculinization of Rausch as indicative of Nietzsche’s inability to think beneath the ontic determinations of gender. Nonetheless in the ecstatic state of Rausch Heidegger sees an anticipation of his own articulation of the ecstatic nature of Dasein, which is always-already outside, ek-static, extended beyond itself in its relation to Being. And also like the ecstasy of Nietzsche’s creative state, Heidegger finds Dasein principally disposed to the world through the attuning of mood: “Mood [Stimmung] is precisely the basic way in which we are outside of ourselves” (99). Like Nietzsche’s creator in the state of Rausch, Dasein is disposed to the world through embodiment and the attunement of mood; in an ecstatic state the world lights up before it, as in a clearing, or a luminous vision.

While Heidegger draws attention to the phenomenology of affective embodiment in Nietzsche’s state of creativity, his principal interest is in the general intensifying of mooded life; however, what he does not explore is the specificity that Nietzsche gives to the mood of Rausch. For Nietzsche, the mood that is repeatedly identified with the state of intoxication is the oxymoronic affective state of tragic joy—this discordant harmony, or dissonance, is the interval to which the attunement of the creative state is tempered. In The Birth of Tragedy, Nietzsche notes of tragedy that the “metaphysical consolation” it offers is the revelation that “life is at bottom indestructibly powerful and joyful” (39). It is a joy arrived at through creation, and it takes place against the background of what he alternately identifies as tragic knowledge and nihilism.

It is precisely this oxymoronic state of affective attunement that constitutes in Nietzsche’s thought the borderline between nihilism and redemption, poison and remedy, or, as I am suggesting, narcosis and intoxication. In Nietzsche’s thought, joy is not the opposite of the tragic, nor is redemption the opposite of nihilism—rather, joy and redemption are brought about by seeing the tragic and nihilistic through to their ends. It is because of this existential weight that tragic joy is qualitatively different from a simple, or naïve, joy. It is not joy as a “basic emotion,” as certain theories of affect advance; for Nietzsche Dionysian “joy” is an affective attunement that is only possible under certain existential and cultural-historical circumstances. It is qualitatively different from joy obtained under different (e.g., hospitable) conditions—thus, the simplicity of “Epicurean delight” is not adequate: “only Dionysian joy is sufficient” (Will to Power, 531). It is a phenomenological attunement that bears the existential burden of being the only possible response to the nihilism of Christian metaphysics, the only non-transcendent redemption available. It is an affective state that can only be brought about through some ontological knowledge and through creation in light of that knowledge. It is the state in which Zarathustra, in his inebriate song, affirms the eternal recurrence: “Joy wants itself, wants recurrence, wants everything eternally the same” (Thus Spoke, 322).

It is largely for this reason that Nietzsche, in both early work and late, associates the state of intoxication with a principal concern of his: health. He employs intoxication in his project to eradicate the historical idea of the holy in favor of the healthy, overcoming the transcendent soul with a spiritualized body; he rejects the medicines of a [End Page 130] priest for those of a vigorous physiologist, and the wine of Christ for that of Dionysus. Nietzsche pits pharmakon against pharmakon, intoxicant against narcotic, and he posits this affective state as the only justification for life—intoxication is both the experience and expression of health. Thus, tragedy, as he insists in his early work (and all art, as he claims in his late) is a tonic. It is essential to the type of convalescence Nietzsche advocates. In his late notes, he claims “[a]ll art works tonically, increases strength, inflames desire (i.e., the feeling of strength), excites all the more subtle recollections of intoxication,” and he elsewhere finds “[a]rt . . . [as] the great stimulant of life, an intoxication with life. . . tragedy is a tonic” (Will to Power, 427, 449, emphasis in original). This tonic dimension of the intoxicated vision is already present in The Birth of Tragedy, where the Apollonian vision redeems life from its contingency and stupidity, producing a healing effect: “there approaches a redeeming, healing enchantress—art. She alone can turn these thoughts of repulsion at the horror and absurdity of existence into ideas compatible with life” (Birth of Tragedy, 40).

Nietzsche’s work is among the clearest and most vigorous expressions of the pharmacology of modernity. Drugs and the discourses that surrounded them were an important feature of the late nineteenth century and played an important role in modernity’s discourse on health; perhaps no other thinker intuited that trend as sensitively as Nietzsche. The task that he set himself as a physiologist of modernity was to identify processes of incorporation and to evaluate their effects—to distinguish stimulants from depressants, intoxicants from narcotics. And it was out of the necessities of that task that he found its means. Nietzsche always conceptualized his writings as prescriptions, and dangerous ones—ones not suited for all physiological constitutions, ones not likely to produce “health” in any narrow, bourgeois sense—always partly toxic. Aware of the ambivalent effects of all medications, including those which he prescribes, he would note that “[t]he poison from which the weaker nature perishes strengthens the strong man—and he does not call it poison,” and Nietzsche’s writings should themselves be held in similar pharmacological regard (The Gay Science, 43).

Jason Ciaccio

Jason Ciaccio holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the CUNY Graduate Center, and he currently teaches in the English Departments of Hunter College and Fordham University. His scholarship addresses intoxication and modernist aesthetic practice.


1. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science: with a Prelude in German Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs, trans. Josefine Nauckhoff, ed. Bernard Williams (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 87.

2. Among the most important work on the topic: Martha Nussbaum, “The Transfigurations of Intoxication: Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and Dionysus,” Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics 1, no. 2 (1991): 74–111; Dieter Mersch, “Ästhetik des Rausches und der Differenz. Produktionsästhetik nach Nietzsche,” in Trunkenheit: Kulturen des Rausches, ed. Thomas Strässle and Simon Zumsteg (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008), 35–50; David Allison, “Nietzsche’s Dionysian High: Morphin’ with Endorphins,” in High Culture: Reflections on Addiction and Modernity, ed. Anna Alexander and Mark S. Roberts (Albany: SUNY Press, 2003), 45–57; Sonia Sikka, “Nietzsche’s Contribution to a Phenomenology of Intoxication,” Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 31, no. 1 (2000): 19–43; Carsten Bäuerl, Zwischen Rausch und Kritik: Auf den Spuren von Nietzsche, Bataille, Adorno und Benjamin (Bielefeld, Germany: Aisthesis-Verlag, 2003); and Stephen Barker, “Rhetoric and Rausch: de Man on Nietzsche on Value and Style,” in The Political Archive of Paul De Man: Property, Sovereignty, and the Theotropic, ed. Martin McQuillan (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012), 57–71. See [End Page 131] also John Richardson, Nietzsche’s New Darwinism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), whose argument I deal with at length further on.

3. See Eve Kosofsky Sedgewick, “Epidemics of the Will,” in Tendencies (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993), 130–42; Avital Ronell, Crack Wars: Literature, Addiction, Mania (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992), 3, 85; Alina Clei, A Genealogy of the Modern Self: Thomas De Quincey and the Intoxication of Writing (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995); and Susan Zieger, Inventing the Addict: Drugs, Race, and Sexuality in Nineteenth-Century British and American Literature (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2008), 4.

4. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, Hashish and Mental Illness, trans. Gordon J. Barnett (New York: Raven Press, 1973), 18.

5. See Karl Jaspers, Nietzsche: An Introduction to the Understanding of his Philosophical Activity, trans. Charles F. Wallraff and Frederick J. Schmitz (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1965), 109.

6. Daniel Breazeale, “Ecce Psycho: Remarks on the Case of Nietzsche,” International Studies in Philosophy 23, no. 2 (1991): 19–33, 19.

7. Erich F. Podach, The Madness of Nietzsche, trans. F. A. Voigt (London: Putnam, 1931), 52.

8. Resa von Schirnhofer, quoted in Conversations with Nietzsche: A Life in the Words of His Contemporaries, ed. Sander L. Gilman, trans. David J. Parent (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 163.

9. Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche Briefwechsel: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, ed. Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1981), 3.1:307, my translation.

10. My translation.

11. Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, trans. and ed. Walter Arnold Kaufmann (New York: Modern Library, 1992), 655–791, 695.

12. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy out of the Spirit of Music, trans. Shaun Whiteside, ed. Michael Tanner (London: Penguin, 1993), 100.

13. Among the numerous causes of Nietzsche’s break with Wagner, Walter Kaufmann notes Nietzsche’s disgust with the spectacle at Bayreuth, his dislike of the Christianity in Parsifal, his need to break with an increasingly overbearing father figure, and his conflicted admiration for Wagner’s wife, Cosima. Noting this amalgam of causes and the significance of the relationship for Nietzsche, Kaufmann claims that “their break illuminates Nietzsche’s thought and his historical position” (Walter A. Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist [Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974], 41). I suggest that Nietzsche’s rhetoric of narcotics and intoxication in relation to the matter constitutes part of that illumination.

14. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, 601–45, 640.

15. Theodor W. Adorno, In Search of Wagner, trans. Rodney Livingstone (London: New Left Books, 1981), 100.

16. Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols and the Anti-Christ, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin, 1990), 72.

17. In addition to the passages I discuss, see also Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, 694 and Twilight of the Idols, 83.

18. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals, in Basic Writings of Nietzsche, 437–600, 579.

19. See also Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, trans. Walter Arnold Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Random House, 1967), 31, 41.

20. Friedrich Nietzsche, Nietzsche contra Wagner, in The Portable Nietzsche, trans. Walter Arnold Kaufmann (New York: Penguin, 1973), 661–83, 670. Translation modified.

21. Friedrich Nietzsche, Daybreak: Thoughts on the Prejudices of Morality, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 188.

22. Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, trans. Walter Arnold Kaufmann (New York: Modern Library, 1995), 11.

23. See Nietzsche, Thus Spoke, 196.

24. Its erotic dimension is commonly noted; see Nussbaum, “The Transfigurations of Intoxication”; Allison, “Nietzsche’s Dionysian High”; Mersch, “Ästhetik des Rausches”; and Richardson, Nietzsche’s New Darwinism. [End Page 132]

25. This is currently a contested topic in Nietzsche scholarship. See Dirk R. Johnson’s Nietzsche’s Anti-Darwinism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010).

26. Carl A. P. Ruck noted the prominence of narcotics in Dionysian rituals and mythology. In identifying the variety of hallucinatory effects and the apparent strength of the drafts consumed, he suggests “ancient wine, like the wine of most early peoples, did not contain alcohol as its sole inebriate” (“Solving the Eleusinian Mystery,” in R. Gordon Wassan, Albert Hofmann, and Carl A. P. Ruck, The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries [New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978], 35–50, 42).

27. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Dionysian Vision of the World, trans. Ira J. Allen (Minneapolis, MN: Univocal, 2013), 32.

28. Andrea Gogröf-Voorhees notes Nietzsche’s “thorough reading of Baudelaire” between 1887 and 1888 (Defining Modernism: Baudelaire and Nietzsche on Romanticism, Modernity, Decadence, and Wagner [New York: Peter Lang, 1999], 1). Resa von Schirnhofer, an acquaintance of Nietzsche’s, had noted his familiarity with Baudelaire’s hashish writings in particular (Conversations with Nietzsche, 163).

29. See Allen S. Weiss, The Aesthetics of Excess (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989).

30. Gary Shapiro has explored the importance of the “visionary” in Nietzsche’s work; see Gary Shapiro, Archaeologies of Vision: Foucault and Nietzsche on Seeing and Saying (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2003).

31. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, trans. David Farrell Krell (San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1979), 1:86.

32. See Kevin Aho’s Heidegger’s Neglect of the Body (Albany: SUNY Press, 2009). Aho traces this branch of criticism of Heidegger’s work, arguing against it. [End Page 133]

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