Dionysus / Apollo


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Dionysus                             -                      Apollo
Nature                                 -                      Culture
Periphery                            -                      Centre 
Unconscious                       -                      Conscious
Dark                                     -                      Light 
Earth                                    -                      Heaven


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In The Birth of Tragedy Apollo and Dionysus, whatever character each of them possesses in other contexts and different bodies of lore, are defined as opposing forces.

Dionysus is a god of nature, associated with forces biological and violent, orgiastic mysteries, with everything that refuses to be civilised. Apollo is the god of civilisation: if he were linguistic, he would be the perfectly formed sentence, self-possessed in its transparency.

Dionysus wants not to possess himself but to lose himself in an ecstasy in which he and nature are one and the same: the methods of ecstasy are intoxication, sexuality, the Dionysiac music and dance, the dithyramb in which the barrier between man and nature are overwhelmed.

As he appears in the Bacchae, Dionysus is wild, god of maddened group, people who drive themselves out of civilisation by wine, drugs, dismemberment. Modern versions of the Dionysiac include the forces active in bullfights, cockfights, rock concerts, wrestling, charismatic revival meetings.

In Nietzsche, tragedy is the form in which Dionysus and Apollo are reconciled.

The Dionysiac music, by itself, would be unbearable, because it would defeat culture and shatter the necessary limits implied in character and individuality. The Apolline hero is a hero because he takes upon himself the Dionysiac experience and, not at all transcending it, incorporates it in himself, reconstituting his experience now as form and beauty.

[…] the Greeks allowed for an Apolline incorporation of Dionysus, and did not try to suppress him:

“The delight in drunkenness, delight in cunning, in revenge, in envy, in slander, in obscenity - in everything which was recognised by the Greeks as human and therefore built into the structure of society and custom: the wisdom of their institutions lies in the absence of any gulf between good and evil, black and white.

Nature, as it reveals itself, is not denied but only ordered, limited to specified days and religious cults. That is not the root of all spiritual freedom in the ancient world; the ancients sought a moderate release of natural forces, not their destruction and denial.”

We are not supposed to hanker after an aboriginal state of union with nature, as if culture had never happened. Drink and drugs are deemed to be harmful for many reasons but mainly because they remove the cultural distinction between a man and the nature from which he has been rescued. Apollo must win.

Each society recognises that there are Dionysiac forces at large, and it makes some provision for them. The carnival of Fasting in Germany is a few days of tumult and licence followed by Lenten rectitude. Public entertainments, sports, including blood sports, motor racing, and sporadic limited wars are provided, as far as possible under controlled conditions.

If we continue extending the definition of culture so that it covers virtually the whole of experience, leaving nothing to nature, we will make it impossible for ourselves to understand violence and obscenity except as failures of ‘the system’.

It would be wise to regard culture as a partial and improbable transformation of natural impulse rather than a comfortable norm. That way, manifestations of violence could be considered without the normal accompaniment of shock, horror, and insult.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 83-5


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The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state.

It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek society: women, slaves, homosexuals and foreigners.

'Dionysian Mysteries'


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Abstract / Concrete


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Concrete                    -                      Abstract
Analogue                   -                       Digital


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People can identify a given action in many ways. Of particular interest is that act identifications vary in level of abstraction.

High-level identifications are abstract (e.g. becoming more cultured), lower-level identifications become more and more concrete (e.g. attending a ballet; listening to sounds and watching people move around while you sit quiet and still). Low-level identifications tend to convey a sense of "how" an activity is done; high-level ones tend to convey a sense of "why."

Although people drift upward and downward as circumstances change, there's also evidence that people differ in the levels they tend to maintain as they think about what they're doing. Some people report typically thinking of their actions in low-level terms; others typically think of their actions in high-level terms.

These differences are reflected in a variety of ways. For example, compared with high-level identifiers, low-level identifiers tend to be more impulsive and less planful or stable in their behaviour, consistent with the idea that they're especially vulnerable to cues implying different identifications.

[...] Emmons (1992) found evidence that people differ in levels of abstraction they characteristically use when reporting their personal strivings. Some people report strivings that are broad, abstract, and expansive. Others report strivings that are narrower, more concrete, and even superficial.

These tendencies are also reflected in moment-to-moment contruals of behaviours they're engaged in. When randomly paged and asked to report what they were doing, high-level strivers reported they were engaged in relatively high-level activities; low-level strivers reported they were engaged in relatively concrete actions.

[C.S. Carver & M.F. Scheier]
On the Self-Regulation of Behavior, p. 74-5, 79


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A high-level identifier is akin to a frame, or a grand-narrative.

In the absence of high-level story, behaviour becomes more diverse. The story imposes sense on those things nested within it; it orders them, providing direction, or 'rules'; it erects boundaries and classes certain things as off-limits.

In its absence, anything goes.

God is the ultimate high-level identifier. For believers, everything takes place under the omniscient eye of a higher-power: no action goes unseen.


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Another similarity between the Miller et al. (1960) statement and the Powers (1973a) model concerns the distinction between digital and analog processes and the idea that the two can work in concert within a system.

The Powers model is mostly analog in nature (i.e. both feedback and discrepancies are represented continuously and quantitatively). It deviates from that quality only at the program level, where behaviour is a digital process (i.e. a linear string of decisions).

In the same way, Miller et al. argued that "planning at the higher levels [equivalent to Powers's programs] looks like the sort of information-processing we see in digital computers, whereas the execution of the Plan at the lowest levels looks like the sort of process we see in analogue computers."

They went on to suggest that development of a skill is comparable to providing a digital-to-analog converter for the output of a digital machine. Thus, Miller et al. saw the two kinds of systems as compatible.

[C.S. Carver & M.F. Scheier]
On the Self-Regulation of Behavior, p. 76-7


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Restraint / Engagement


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At the broadest level of trait description, therefore, variability in human personality appears to reflect restraint and engagement.

Stability appears to be associated with refraining from a variety of behaviors associated with disruptive impulses (such as drug use and reactive aggression), whereas Plasticity appears to be associated with engaging in a variety of behaviors associated with approach behavior and exploration (such as creative expression and attending social events) [...] behaviors consistent with an underlying exploratory drive.

These results are consistent with the theory that the metatraits reflect serotonergically mediated self-regulation and constraint on the one hand and dopaminergically mediated exploration and engagement on the other.

In particular, some of the processes underlying these traits may best be understood in terms of the different systems that are being restrained or regulated in each case. Process models that are consistent with this view include those linking Agreeableness to the inhibition of interpersonal aggression, Conscientiousness with the inhibition of distraction, and Emotional Stability with the inhibition of negative affect.

Stability appears to be reflected most strongly in restraint from drug use and hostility and in the absence of disrupted sleep. The association of Stability with stable sleep is consistent with the finding that Stability is associated with circadian timing, such that people higher in Stability tend to be ‘‘morning people’’ with circadian rhythms more strongly entrained to the daily light–dark cycle.


[Jacob B. Hirsh, Colin DeYoung, and Jordan B. Peterson]
'Metatraits of the big five differentially predict engagement and restraint of behavior', p. 11-13


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Becoming conscious

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[…] that’s what consciousness is doing all the time. You’re laying out an automatised routine, and if that doesn’t produce the intended outcome, you stop [and] become conscious. There’s nothing like an error to make you conscious. Then you do a high-resolution analysis of the space in which the error emerged, [and] you [recalibrate] to make that error go away.

To some degree the purpose of consciousness is to make you functional unconsciously. You don’t want to be conscious of most things.

If you’re good at something, you hardly have to be conscious of it at all. So consciousness is something like an error-detection-and-rectification system.

[Being conscious means] always attending to your errors. If you’re always attending to your errors, you’re always improving your automated adaptability.

Your consciousness seems to be continually building your unconscious.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'2017 Maps of Meaning 6: Story and Metastory (Part 2)'


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