Those who take Friedrich Nietzsche's thoughts about the arts and related matters seriously have usually stressed his significance as a critic and theorist of literature, rhetoric, or music. From a biographical point of view, Nietzsche's notoriously poor eyesight would seem to make him a bad candidate to play a similar role with regard to the visual. His optical disability can also be turned into an asset by those who have been critical of the alleged ocularcentrism of Western thought. From that perspective, the philosophical tradition has been dominated by the model of what Plato called "the noblest of the senses," a model that, in the critics' view, is misleading insofar as it suggests that the world is completely open to and masterable by our gaze. The model is said to promote the notion that the seeing subject is independent of the object seen; analogously, the subject of knowledge would maintain a distance from the object that would allow for a purely theoretical (i.e., spectatorial) cognition.

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Copyright © 1998 Oxford University Press. This article first appeared in Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Vol. 3. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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