Nietzsche's Sophist: Rhtr, Musician, Stoic Academic Article uri icon


  • ABSTRACT Traditional readings of Nietzsche's essay On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense tend to emphasize the clash between philosophy and rhetoric in the form of two distinct personaethe intuitive, Sophistical artist who embraces the rhetorical power of language to create and destroy on the one hand, and the rational, Stoic philosopher who uses concepts to order the world into a block universe on the other. However, I argue that his essay presents us with not two characters but threethe Stoic philosopher, political rhtr, and the Dionysian artist. Furthermore, none of these three characters can be said to be representative of Nietzsche's attitude toward the Sophists. This article thus proposes a model of the Sophistical artist which combines aspects from each of these personae in a way that brings together the power of tragic suffering, persuasive word, and passionate music, respectively. This reading of Nietzsche's work discloses an ideal image of a new Sophist as an unfettered spirit for whom Dionysian music and philosophical word cooperate to produce a complex rhetorical discourse capable of overcoming the nihilism of the modern age in order to produce a higher culture. This attitude would therefore make the new Sophist capable of grand aspirations and opportune actions while always remaining cognizant of the sublime and terrible nature that underlies his fragile dreams of beauty.

published proceedings

  • Advances in the History of Rhetoric

altmetric score

  • 4.05

author list (cited authors)

  • Crick, N.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Crick, Nathan

publication date

  • April 2011