It Takes Three To Make A Tragedy

3 min readJan 18, 2021


“A perfect equilibrium between the three impulses is an extraordinary achievement”

There are three impulses that drive humans and whose intensity and ways of expression determine people’s behavior, culture and on a larger scale, the characteristics of what we call civilizations.

Some societies only know two out of the three impulses while others value one over the two others. Few societies try to achieve a balance between two forces and sometimes, although it is very difficult to do, an equilibrium of the three.

The latest ambition is difficult to achieve because of the cancellation effect each impulse has on the other. As if each force tries to spontaneously spread into the space of the other and replace it.

Think of that relationship as a Möbius strip or a Rock-Paper-Scissors game, always running in one circular direction. Every impulse, while having the power to annihilate another one, is powerless in front of the other impulse.

These impulses namely are: the Apollonian, the Dionysian and the Aphrodisian.

If you have already heard of Nietzsche’s first major work, you can guess the society that shaped him only knew, or at least only valued, the Apollonian and the Dionysian elements. This explains why he dismissed the Aphrodisian force although it represents an impulse way more antiquated than the two others.

He thought the world was dyadic while in fact, it’s triadic.

“The logic of the Aphrodisian is purpose, its manifestation focus.”

The three impulses have a logic and a manifestation that are proper to each of them.

The logic of the Dionysian is harmony, its manifestation chaos.
The logic of the Apollonian is process, its manifestation structure.
The logic of the Aphrodisian is purpose, its manifestation focus.

To be Aphrodisian is to be driven by a purpose. The Apollonian finds satisfaction in following processes while the Dionysian accomplish themselves in the harmony of the living.

But the manifestation of each impulse systematically cancels the logic of another.

Chaos destroys structures as processes can no longer hold. Rigid structures weaken the focus which ends up losing the purpose. And Focus undoes harmony as it makes it impossible to connect to the multitude beyond a single target.

“The Apollonian finds satisfaction in following processes”

Individuals often have a Major and a minor. At least when it comes to typical profiles. An example would be: 60% Aphrodisian, 35% Apollonian, 5% Dionysian.

Less typical profiles have a dominant impulse that leaves few space to the others. Example: 90% Apollonian, 7% Dionysian, 3% Aphrodisian.

Overall, people thrive in an environment that favors an impulse over the others but as they grow more independent, they start exploring and cultivating a second impulse to usually end up with a Major and a minor.

It is difficult to know how feasible a perfect equilibrium between the three impulses is but such an extraordinary achievement is so to speak, intriguing.

“Chaos destroys structures as processes can no longer hold”

The three impulses have downsides that one can experience as dysfunctions or retaliations from the forces themselves.

Retaliation of the Apollonian impulse is destruction. The Dionysian causes madness and the Aphrodisian, apathy.

While the attempt of each impulse to grow over the two others is natural, their retaliation is a worrying sign of the upcoming collapse of an individual, society or civilization.

That dysfunction can be either explained by the overwhelming growth of an impulse over the two others, threatening the survival of the triad, or by the agony of one of them under the pressure of the two others.

For although a perfect equilibrium is scarce, the extinction of any of the impulses marks the tragic end of existence as a whole.




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