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The Gay Science

The Gay Science

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The Gay Science is a book written by Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

, first published in 1882 and followed by a second edition, which was published after the completion of Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil
Beyond Good and Evil is a book by the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, first published in 1886.It takes up and expands on the ideas of his previous work, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, but approached from a more critical, polemical direction....

, in 1887. This substantial expansion includes a fifth book and an appendix of songs. It was noted by Nietzsche to be "the most personal of all [his] books", and contains the greatest number of poems in any of his published works.

Title


The book's title uses a phrase that was well known at the time. It was derived from a Provençal
Provençal
Provençal may refer to:*Provençal, meaning "of Provence", a region of France*Provençal dialect, a dialect of the Occitan language, spoken in the south-east of France*Provençal, meaning the whole Occitan language...

 expression (gai saber
Consistori del Gay Saber
The Consistori del Gay Saber , commonly called the Consistori de Tolosa today, was a poetic academy founded at Toulouse in 1323 to revive and perpetuate the lyric school of the troubadours.-Foundation:...

) for the technical skill required for poetry writing that had already been used by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

 and E. S. Dallas and, in inverted form, by Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

 in The dismal science. The book's title was first translated into English as The Joyous Wisdom, but The Gay Science has become the common translation since Walter Kaufmann's version in the 1960s. Kaufmann cites The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (1955) that lists "The gay science (Provençal gai saber): the art of poetry."

In Ecce Homo Nietzsche refers to the poems in the Appendix of The Gay Science, saying they were,
written for the most part in Sicily, are quite emphatically reminiscent of the Provençal concept of gaia scienza—that unity of singer, knight, and free spirit which distinguishes the wonderful early culture of the Provençals from all equivocal cultures. The very last poem above all, "To the Mistral", an exuberant dancing song in which, if I may say so, one dances right over morality, is a perfect Provençalism.


This alludes to the birth of modern European poetry that occurred in Provence around the 13th century, whereupon, after the culture of the troubadour
Troubadour
A troubadour was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages . Since the word "troubadour" is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a trobairitz....

s fell into almost complete desolation and destruction due to the Albigensian Crusade
Albigensian Crusade
The Albigensian Crusade or Cathar Crusade was a 20-year military campaign initiated by the Catholic Church to eliminate Catharism in Languedoc...

 (1209–1229), other poets in the 14th century ameliorated and thus cultivated the gai saber or gaia scienza. In a similar vein, in Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche observed that,
love as passion—which is our European speciality—[was invented by] the Provençal knight-poets, those magnificent and inventive human beings of the "gai saber" to whom Europe owes so many things and almost owes itself. (Section 260)


Another indicator of the deficiency of the original translation as The Joyous Wisdom is that the German Wissenschaft never indicates "wisdom" (wisdom = Weisheit), but a propensity toward any rigorous practice of a poised, controlled, and disciplined quest for knowledge, and is typically translated as "science".

The book is usually placed within Nietzsche's middle period, during which his work extolled the merits of science, skepticism
Skepticism
Skepticism has many definitions, but generally refers to any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere...

, and intellectual discipline as routes to mental freedom. The affirmation of the Provençal tradition is also one of a joyful "yea-saying" to life.

Content


In The Gay Science, Nietzsche experiments with the notion of power
The Will to Power
The Will to Power is the title given to a book of selectively reordered notes from the literary remains of Friedrich Nietzsche by his sister Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche and Heinrich Köselitz...

 but does not advance any systematic theory. The book contains the first consideration of the idea of the eternal recurrence, a concept which would become critical in his next work Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885...

and underpins much of the later works.
"What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.' " - [§341]

"God is dead"


Here also is the first occurrence of the famous formulation "God is dead
God is dead
"God is dead" is a widely-quoted statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It first appears in The Gay Science , in sections 108 , 125 , and for a third time in section 343...

," first in section 108.

Section 125 depicts the parable of the madman who is searching for God. He accuses us all of being the murderers of God. "'Whither is God?' he cried; 'I will tell you. We have killed him- you and I. All of us are his murderers..."

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