On Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense Reflections and Applications

The intellect preserves man from the cruelty of nature. Yet, his intellect is a product of natural processes. Man, the most fragile of all animals, uses the intellect for self-preservation. The overarching theme of the history of man is self-preservation. As Nietzsche argues
It is remarkable that the intellect manages to do this, for in reality this faculty is given only as a help to the most unfortunate, most delicate, and most perishable creature, in order to preserve it for a moment in an existence out of which it would be otherwise  have every reason to flee (246).

As man advances in the stage of evolution, he becomes more and more acquainted with the workings of nature. His intellect becomes an instrument for dissimulation. The weaker members of the society are rooted out the stronger (the ones who possess higher intellect) survive. Man becomes a creature cloaked in vanity, over glorification, and deceit. Intellect is used to manipulate that which is both pure and inconsequential. Intellect, while remaining an instrument of survival, creates a consciousness based on indifference, ignorance, and disillusion.

Nietzsche continues
Since the individual wants to preserve himself against other individuals, in the natural state man uses the intellect mostly for dissimulation. But at the same time, because man out of necessity and boredom, wants to live socially in the herd, he needs a peaceful agreement, and he tries to eliminate at least the crudest forms of the bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all) (247).

Nietzsche echoes Hobbes theory of the state of nature. According to Hobbes, the state of nature is characterized by chaos and war. Individuals delegate the right to everything to a single individual. This individual is hailed as the absolute ruler of the political association. The ruler creates a set of political decrees (laws) which serves as framework for political action.

Nietzsche straightens Hobbes theory by adding a second dimension in the creation of a political association (either the state or the society itself). Nietzsche remarks that the purpose of the intellect is to dissipate the need for war against all. The intellect becomes an instrument for creating conventions.

Nietzsche notes
For what truth will be from now is fixed a uniformly valid and binding terminology for things is invented and the legislation of language also enacts the first laws of truth. For now, for the first time, the distinction between truth and lying arises. The liar uses the valid terms, the words, to make the unreal appear real  He misuses established conventions by arbitrary substitutions and even reversals of names (247-248).

This claim echoes Wittgensteins theory of language. According to Wittgenstein, words do not represent states of affairs, and the logical constants do not stand for objects. In short, the logic of the facts based on immediate symbolism cannot be represented. Now, for every state of affairs, a word is employed as descriptor. But the word has only meaning within the context of language. In its pure form, words are but conventions created by the human intellect. It has no inherent value as far as reality is concerned.

Nietzsche argues that conventions are but artificial representations of reality. Conventions are measurements of truth, as far as association is concerned. The sense of being real or the feeling of being frustrated is confined in the rubric of the mind-language game. In reality, the concepts of reality or frustration are but socio-psychological arbitraries.

As Nietzsche notes
We arrange things by genders, we designate the tree as masculine, the plant as feminine what arbitrary preferences How far-flung beyond the cannon of certitude We speak of a serpent the term applies nothing but its winding, and so it would apply equally to a worm. What arbitrary delimitations, what one-sided preferences for one trait or another of a thing (248)

Now, the problem of modern conventions is its practical application. Conventions are not free from error or human bias. For the most, a particular convention may be vaguely applied to various concepts. This creates a tension in the language. The society is forced to reevaluate its standards by eliminating unnecessary applications of selected conventions. Conventions therefore become means of alienating facts, inconsequential truths, and pure reason. Because human beings are becoming more and more addicted with the use and misuse of conventions, they failed to realize the genuine value of things which are natural, unique, and pure.

Lying is but a consequence of distorted arbitration. In reality, there is no such thing as liar because the liar itself is a creation of the society. The truth is simply a logical-conceptual proposition defined by a series of conventions. If conventions do not exist, then truth is simply a void. This is not the case in nature. It is evident that nature itself is true. It is true in the sense that, even without conventions, human beings can sense its reality. Epistemologically speaking, this sense of reality is what defines truth.

Nietzsches distinction between lies and truth has a significant bearing on the birth of romanticism. Romantic music dwells on multiple interpretations. It has several purposes. First, multiple interpretations limit the effects of thematic conventions (style and form). The audience is forced to accept the interpretation as part of what is real and genuine. Second, they expand the applications of specific forms and themes. This allows the musician to retract parts of a composition to improve quality. And lastly, they remind the common man that music has many forms a single form does not represent the totality.

The same case can be said of impressionism. Impressionism blurs the boundary between reality and fantasy. Because reality is depended on conventions and fantasy on the misuse of conventions, the proper way of attaining logical adequateness is to create a mid-solution  that is, to find a middle ground between assumed reality and assumed fantasy. In philosophy, this stance is unacceptable because the middle ground is often contradictory and passive. The truth is found in the extremes. In any case, impressionism is a product of Nietzschean conception of truth and lying.

It is tempting to say that there is indeed a Nietzschean art or Nietzschean music, but this should not be the case. Nietzsche merely summarizes his view of reality as it relates to conventions. Nietzsche simply creates a framework for interpreting reality  or in some cases, of deconstructing reality.


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