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Normandy6644
2005-Mar-08, 03:58 AM
I've been reading Nietzsche's Truth and Lie in an Extramoral Sense (http://www.geocities.com/thenietzschechannel/tls.htm) in my class and particular passage is bothering me, mostly because I think everyone (including the grad student teacher) is misinterpreting it. Here it is, upfront, though you will have to read the entire essay to see why I disagree with my class:


What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms—in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.

And original German:


Was ist also Wahrheit? Ein bewegliches Heer von Metaphern, Metonymien, Anthropomorphismen, kurz eine Summe von menschlichen Relationen, die, poetisch und rhetorisch gesteigert, übertragen, geschmückt wurden, und die nach langem Gebrauch einem Volke fest, canonisch und verbindlich dünken: die Wahrheiten sind Illusionen, von denen man vergessen hat, dass sie welche sind, Metaphern, die abgenutzt und sinnlich kraftlos geworden sind, Münzen, die ihr Bild verloren haben und nun als Metall, nicht mehr als Münzen, in Betracht kommen.

So everyone in my class, teacher included, seems to accept this as his definition of truth. But he's being completely sarcastic! The rest of the passages indicate that Nietzche believes that perceptions and concepts take away from the truth of something. "Truth" becomes destroyed when we attempt to talk about it or describe it. Basically language is dependent upon perceptions, which are not universal.

My point about this passage is that he is saying exactly the opposite of all that. Here he describing what has become truth in modern society, not what actually is truth. Because we pretend that we have discovered the truth about something, we are deceiving ourselves about the real truth.

Anyway, what do you all think? It's a good read regardless, and I'm curious to see if anyone else is interpreting the passage the way I have.

Maksutov
2005-Mar-08, 04:15 AM
"Ein bewegliches Heer von Metaphern, Metonymien, Anthropomorphismen... " is a give-away. Old Fred is stating what most persons accept as being the truth, which means of course that it's just the opposite.

Check out this parallel passage from Die fröhliche Wissenschaft


Over immense periods of time the intellect produced nothing but errors. A few of these proved to be useful and helped to preserve the species: those who hit upon or inherited these had better luck in their struggle for themselves and their progeny. Such erroneous articles of faith, which were continually inherited, until they became almost part of the basic endowment of the species, include the following: that there are enduring things; that there are equal things; that there are things, substances, bodies; that a thing is what it appears to be; that our will is free; that what is good for me is also good in itself.
One could paraphrase that last part as "What is true for me is also truth in itself.", the exact idea that Nietzsche was poking fun at and revealing as not true at all.

This is speaking in opposites, a basic method of irony. Add scorn to that equation and, yes, you definitely have sarcasm.

Perhaps if you're writing a paper, you could use this icon:

http://img53.exs.cx/img53/7940/sarcasm2ev.gif

Normandy6644
2005-Mar-08, 04:39 AM
Thanks Mak! Glad to know I wasn't just misinterpreting! :D

Kesh
2005-Mar-08, 06:48 AM
But, it seems to me that Nietzsche is saying exactly what you did: that the real truth often is obscured by human assumptions and biases.

trob
2005-Mar-08, 08:46 AM
Nietzsche, and also Kierkegaard, are among the most difficult of writers, exactly because their writings were often "in character", and because the thinking of these were often very artistic in nature. Also their projects transformed while being worked upon. Thus the character of Nietzsche's writings, as you know, commonly dealt with in several phases (1872-1876, 1878-1882, 1883-1887, and the final writings of 1888), where he often relates to himself in earlier phases through Irony.
Kierkegaard does the same thing. When one reads Begrebet Angest, Sygdommen til Døden, Forførerens Dagbog or Frygt og Bæven this is clear. He gives an almost phenomenological approach to many emotions that one must tackle existentially - sexual excitement is a good example. How does one handle the meanings of this in an existential perspective. This does not mean that Kierkegaard was the constant seducer that En Forføreres Dagbog [a seducers diary] makes out to be - quite the contrary. In fact Kierkegaard discusses Irony in the book: Om Begrebet Ironi med stadigt Hensyn til Socrates which could be translated as On the concept of Irony under continuous reference to Soctrates. Of prime importance for an understanding of this Irony is the need to read from a meta-perspective which is lost if one lust plucks out a book and begins to read.
One must remember that this strategy of irony creates a duality that constructs "a space" within which one can handle things that were socially unacceptable at the time [representation and dictance, understanding and condemnation, protected enactment were methods] was quite obviously in vogue at the time, and can be seen as a rhetorical tool that was necessary at the time. A famous example of another contemporary is Hans Christian Andersen who fused many homoerotic aspects into his fairytales. Nietzsche was also gay by the way, and he probably went bonkers at the end of his life because of a syphilitic infection that went untreated.

Trob

Ps: the paper that one ought to write: Sex and truth in the work of Nietzsche and Kierkegaard talk about sublimation LOL :D

Richard of Chelmsford
2005-Mar-08, 10:03 AM
I've got some Niech...can't spell his name..somewhere and hope to get round to reading him over the next few weeks during illness convalescence.
he's got to be right that truth does get pulled around and changed by the attitudes of people and this has bably affected us in all topics in the recent past. From politics to racicm, to religion, ..even science can be affected by people's attitudes.

I try har to believe nothing.

I try instead either to know something is a fact.

Or not to know something is a fact.

Works quite well.

farmerjumperdon
2005-Mar-08, 02:17 PM
I'm not understanding the distinction between what truth has become and what truth is. Outside of mathematics and other tautological systems that support themselves by definition (hence it is true that there can be no such thing as a round square), truth is always going to be subjective. To observe a thing is to see it's truth, but observations are so personal because they are based on perspective (the three components of perspective being location, scale, and past experience). To convey what we think is the truth means imparting our perspective, which can never be exactly the same as someone else's.

Perhaps the simple act of observing reveals truth, or what it is. But any attempt to share brings in perception and thus changes the observation ino what the truth has become. It does beg the question of whether or not we can observe without filters. I think it can be done with practice and discipline.

A more modern read for those that like this type of perspective is Joan Didion, The White Album. Here is a quote from JD:

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writer, by the imposition of a narrative line on disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.” – Joan Didion, The White Album.

Eroica
2005-Mar-08, 03:22 PM
So everyone in my class, teacher included, seems to accept this as his definition of truth. But he's being completely sarcastic! The rest of the passages indicate that Nietzche believes that perceptions and concepts take away from the truth of something. "Truth" becomes destroyed when we attempt to talk about it or describe it. Basically language is dependent upon perceptions, which are not universal.

My point about this passage is that he is saying exactly the opposite of all that. Here he describing what has become truth in modern society, not what actually is truth. Because we pretend that we have discovered the truth about something, we are deceiving ourselves about the real truth.
I concur. It's hard to see how any intelligent person could read that passage without realizing that he's critiquing, not defining!