Nietzche. On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense

Nietzche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.” The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical Times to the Present, edited by Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg, Boston & New York, Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2001, pp. 1171-79.

To remember:

  • language is rhetoric (1169).
  • The pride connected with knowing and sensing lies like a blinding fog over the eyes and senses of men, thus deceiving them concerning the value of existence. For this pride contains within itself the most flattering of estimation of the value of knowing. Deception is the most general effect of such pride …  (1172)
  • As a means for the preserving of the individual, the intellect unfolds its principle powers in dissimulation, which is the means by which weaker, less robust individuals preserve themselves–since they have been denied the chance to wage the battle for existence with horns or with the sharp teeth of prey (1172).
  • [The deceivers’] senses lead nowhere to the truth; on the contrary, they are content to receive stimuli and, as it were, to engage in a groping game on the backs of things (1172).
  • Insofar as the individual wants to maintain himself against other individuals, he will under natural circumstances employ the intellect mainly for dissimulation (1172).
  • This peace treaty brings in its wake something which appears to be the first step toward acquiring that puzzling truth drive: to wit, that which shall count as “truth” from now on is established … [via] this legislation of language (1172).
  •  The liar is a person who uses valid designations, the words, in order to make something which is unreal appear to be real … He misuses fixed conventions by means of arbitrary substitutions or even the reversals of names (1173).
  • what about these linguistic conventions themselves? Are they perhaps products of knowledge, that is, of the sense of truth? … Is language the adequate expression of all realities? (1173)
  • What is in a word? It is the copy in sound of a nerve stimulus (1173).
  • The “thing in itself” (which is precisely what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be) is likewise something quite incomprehensible to the creator of language and something not in the least worth striving for. This creator only designates the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors (1173).
  • It is this way with all of us concerning language: we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things–metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entries (1174).
  • Every word becomes a concept insofar as it is not unique and entirely individual original experience to which it owes its origin; but rather, a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases–which means, purely and simply, cases which are never equal and thus altogether unequal. Every concept arises from the equation of unequal things (1174).
  • we formulate from [honest actions] a qualitas occulta which has the name honesty (1174).
  • What then is truth? A movable host of metaphors and metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding (1174).
  • truths are illusions that we have forgotten are illusions (1174).
  • to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors. Thus, to express it morally, this is the duty to lie according to a fixed convention (1174).
  • Everything which distinguishes man from the animals depends upon this ability to volatilize perceptual metaphors in a schema, and thus to dissolve an image into a concept. for something is possible in the realm of these schemata which could never be achieved with the vivid first impressions: the structure of a pyramidal order … (1175).
  • Anyone who has felt this cool breath [of logic] will hardly believe that even the concept–which is as bony, foursquare, and transposable as a die–is nevertheless merely the residue of a metaphor, and that the illusion which is involved in artistic transference of a nerve stimulus into images is, if not the mother, then the grandmother of every single concept (1175).
  • every people has a similarly mathematically divided conceptual heaven above themselves and henceforth thinks that truth demands that each conceptual god be sought only within his own sphere (1175).
  • man builds with far more delicate conceptual material [than spider’s web or beeswax] which he first has to manufacture from himself (1175).
  • [an investigator’s] method is to treat men as the measure of all things, but in doing so he again proceeds from the error of believing that he has these things [which he intends to measure] immediately before him as mere objects. He forgets that the original perceptual metaphors are metaphors and takes them to be things themselves (1176).
  • only by means of the petrification and coagulation of a mass of images which originally streamed from the primal faculty of human imagination like fiery liquid, only in invincible faith that this sun, this window, this table is a truth in itself, in short, only by forgetting that he himself is an artistically creating subject … if but for an instant he could escape from the prison walls of his faith, his “self consciousness” would be immediately destroyed (1176).
  • criterion of correct perception [:] not available … “adequate expression of an object in the subject”… a contradictory possibility. For between two absolutely different spheres, as between subject and object, there is no causality, no correctness, and no expression; there is, at most, an aesthetic relation (176).
  • if each of us had a different kind of sense perception [as bird, worm, plant] … then no one would speak of such a regularity of nature, rather, nature would be grasped only as a creation which is subjective in the highest degree … We are not acquainted with it in itself, but only with its effects, which means in its relation to other laws of nature-which, in turn, are known to us only as sums of relations (1177).
  • this conceptual edifice is an imitation of temporal, spatial, and numerical relationships in the domain of metaphor (1177).
  • The drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive, which one cannot for a single instant dispense with in thought, for one would thereby dispense with in thought, for one would thereby dispense with man himself. This drive is … scarcely subdued by the fact that a regular and rigid new world is constructed as its prison from its own ephemeral products, the concepts … This drive continually confuses the concepts by bringing forward new transferences, metaphors, and metonymies (1177).
  • it is only by means of the rigid and regular web of concepts that the waking man clearly sees that he is awake (1178).
  • But man has an invincible inclination to allow himself to be deceived and is, as it were, enchanted with happiness when the rhapsodist tells him epic fables as if they were true … So long as it is able to deceive without injuring, that master of deception, the intellect, is free (1178).
  • And when it smashes this framework to pieces, throws it into confusion, and puts it back together in an ironic fashion, pairing the most alien things and separating the closest, it is demonstrating that it has no need of these makeshifts of indigence and that it will now be guided by intuitions rather than concepts (1178).

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