Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 2014


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

James Swindal

Committee Member

Frederick Evans

Committee Member

Bernard Freydberg


Aesthetics, Affirmation, Comedy, Nietzsche, Schein, Tragic Wisdom


Friedrich Nietzsche is well known as the philosopher of the tragic view of life. Because we are part of the world of becoming the tragic view maintains that human beings are given over to certain limits that we cannot transcend. These include ourselves as finite beings, the recognition that noumenal knowledge is not possible and, because we are subject to the flux of existence, that life can be both painful and destructive. However, for Nietzsche the tragic view of life ought not result in humorless resignation. Just as he appeals to ancient Greek tragedy to demonstrate how the ancients remained cheerful in the face of their harsh existence, Nietzsche is equally clear that comedy and laughter too are ways to embrace the truth of tragic wisdom and vie for that space that pessimism would otherwise haunt. In this work which examines three key texts that span Nietzsche's productive life--The Birth of Tragedy, The Gay Science, and Thus Spoke Zarathustra--I will argue that comedy and laughter are central to Nietzsche's endeavor to surmount pessimism, bring intellectual honesty (Redlichkeit) to Wissenschaft, and appreciate appearance where we become witness to the wonder and folly of the human being. Far from being a heuristic device used simply as a tool to combat pessimism, the comedy and provocative laughter found in Nietzsche's texts represent the affirmation of an ethics that says "yes" to life, multiplicity, perspective, and amor fati. It is part of an authentic response of a subject in affirming being here as part of the world of becoming and, "living in Schein as goal." In the end I will demonstrate that Nietzsche's use of comedy and laughter is a herald that when sounded urges us to recognize the limits we are all subject to in order to return us to the humble, but noble, earthbound beings that we are. Set amidst all the serious issues that Nietzsche's writings detail--the death of God, nihilism as the terminal sickness of the West, the will to power, the eternal return--comedy and laughter resound in his thinking in order to yoke those attempts to transcend our being human, all too human.