The background for the question is: I often struggle with feelings of a kind of resentment, and I believe that traditional morality isn't going to help with that.

Nietzsche writes, in The Birth of Tragedy, on what he calls Duplicitat, which is translated as "duality" (by e.g. Kauffman) but also "duplicity". Here, it means the "two fold basis... in creation and destruction" (see Peter Durno Murray's book p81).

Duplicitous people, or those perceived by others to be duplicitous, seem almost innately frustrating. If that is the case, then perhaps we could refer to the form of duplicity as marks of strength or weakness.

  • Does anyone know whether the artistic "duplicity" of Dionysus, is a form of an everyday deceitful hypocrisy?
  • 1
    Nietzsche does not refer to the duality of Dionysus alone but the duality of the Apolline and Dionysiac. It is a mistake the exclude the Apolline. It is a further mistake to read duality as duplicity and then to render that as deceit or hypocrisy.
    – igravious
    Jun 2, 2016 at 14:57
  • Where are you getting the quote "marks of strength (or weakness)" from?
    – igravious
    Jun 2, 2016 at 14:58
  • can't recall, will italicize them to be sure, sorry
    – user6917
    Jun 2, 2016 at 16:47
  • 2
    Don't be sorry! Let's make this a journey of discovery together. People think philosophy is just. like. your. opinion. man. Bzzzt! Nope. Philosophy is hard. But one thing that makes it a whole lot easier is quoting big chunks of text and being generous with context. I don't want to come across like some expert here -- I have to look up the answer to every question I attempt.
    – igravious
    Jun 2, 2016 at 17:10
  • @igravious ah yeah good attitude, you come across as sharp
    – user6917
    Jun 2, 2016 at 17:13

3 Answers 3


Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, CAMBRIDGE TEXTS IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY (2007), Translated RONALD SPEIRS, opening paragraph,

We shall have gained much for the science of aesthetics when we have come to realize, not just through logical insight but also with the certainty of something directly apprehended (Anschauung), that the continuous evolution of art is bound up with the duality of the Apolline and the Dionysiac in much the same way as reproduction depends on there being two sexes which co-exist in a state of perpetual conflict interrupted only occasionally by periods of reconciliation. We have borrowed these names from the Greeks who reveal the profound mysteries of their view of art to those with insight, not in concepts, admittedly, but through the penetratingly vivid figures of their gods.

Click here for a different translation to see the subtle differences.

I think that a clear reading of the text does not support the framing and construction of your question. The Apollonian/Dionysian dichotomy has had reams devoted to it :) not least of which is Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. As you know Apollo and Dionysus are mythological figures, sons of the Ancient Greek sky god Zeus, this makes them sons of the big cheese. These two figures have come to symbolise many different aspects of human nature but it is their relation to art and the artistic impulse and their interrelation that Nietzsche explores. This is what my edition, a Penguin Classic has to say,

In crudest outline, and not following exactly the course of Nietzsche's wavery narrative: the Dionysiac and Apolline are in the first places forces, or categories in a metaphysical sense. In a way they are opposites, and Nietzsche, who was both attracted to dichotomies and intent on overcoming them (hence, perhaps, his claim in Ecce Homo that BT 'smells offensively Hegelian') does not regard them as mutually hostile, as many commentators think. […] For the Dionysiac pertains to the nature of reality, while the Apolline is connected with modes of appearance.

It is not my business here to give a complete explanation of the dichotomy even if I could, nor is it to give a complete reading† of this short dense work. I aim to suggest that your question cannot follow from a standard reading. That is not to dismiss your question in its entirety, only the framing of it which I believe to be inaccurate. Sincerely hope this helps.

† I recommend this podcast on the topic. I've posted links to the Partially Examined Life podcast crew before because they base their shows on a close and, to my mind, faithful readings of the texts to hand.

  • hm not totally convinced that the question of the relation of artistic duplicity and hypocrisy cannot be framed, if only because the two are of interest to nietzsche. i like the idea that the former is too metaphysical etc. to be broached in those terms
    – user6917
    Jun 3, 2016 at 10:04
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    Have a listen to that podcast I linked to. And give The Birth of Tragedy another flick through and see what you think then. Put aside all your beliefs for the moment and let Nietzsche speak to you :)
    – igravious
    Jun 3, 2016 at 10:34

I suppose you might ask what Nietzsche values in humans, both the soft (mercy) and hard (power) virtues, and ask yourself which, of those, we can be a hypocrite about while not merely getting one over others but actually articulating strength. Surely 'power' is a good candidate ("I am not powerful", certainly not "I am powerful" if we are not) cf 'mercy', which - naively - must be dishonestly attributed to the self by weak hypocrites only but is a more public virtue. Dunno how this links to that 'duality', but I suppose a privacy might allow us to channel creativity into autonomous/socially destructive impulses.

Anyway, these are just naive observations about what is great in others.


I don't think it's an institutional context of Dionysian hypocrisy that makes it noble. Personally speaking, I think the answer would hinge on 'empathy' and 'conscience', and which one of these is creative (and which is destructive). I suppose the latter is usually more "creative", and that society at large may need to enjoy the superman's powers, just not necessarily enjoy them.

I have no idea if lining up dualities like that is really unhelpful.

  • obviously, i don't know what i am talking about, just battling ressentiment here ha
    – user67302
    Aug 21, 2023 at 19:00

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