On Friedrich Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy (1872), which was his first book.
What's the connection between art and society? Nietzsche thought that you could tell how vital or decadent a civilization was by its art, and said that ancient Greek tragedy (like Antigone) was so great because it was a perfect synthesis of something highly formal/orderly/beautiful with the intuitive/unconscious/chaotic. He calls these two elements the Apollonian and the Dionysian and gives a whole history of the rise and fall of ancient Greece as seen through their art. They were noble savages, but channeled their savagery in a way that formed what Nietzsche later called master morality. Whereas later, playwrights like Euripides lost touch with the chaotic side, really lost sight of themselves, and this was reflected in Western philosophy and later science from Socrates to the present. Can we stir the pot now to get a re-birth of tragedy in this awesome sense? Nietzsche was ultimately not optimistic.
You can also watch the Aftershow where we got Dr. Gregory B. Sader to come tell us how we got it wrong. PEL Citizens can get the full audio of that beamed straight to their mobile devices with our new Citizen feed.
Nietzsche picture by Genevieve Arnold.