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“On truth and lying in a non-moral sense” by Friedrich Nietzsche Essay


Interpreting Nietzsche’s argument

The accumulation of metaphors becomes the accepted truth. They emerged from their repeated use. Without the body of the argument, the title expresses that there is a form of lying that is not considered immoral. In the body of his argument, Nietzsche (146) indicated that there are different forms of truth.

He stated that the absolute truth is impossible to generate from nature because nature gives no explanation (Nietzsche 142). All forms of truth are derived in relativity with other objects, concepts, and forms. The lack of an absolute truth from which all other facts can be derived makes all things that are considered facts to be lies.

In the title, Nietzsche referred to these facts, whose foundation is based on metaphors, as the non-moral deception. In his argument, lying refers to the use of common knowledge as truths when we know that they cannot stand out by themselves without support from earlier assumptions.

Nietzsche differentiated the form of lying associated with the lack of integrity from that of using common attributes as absolute truths. When a man says that he is rich when he is poor, he is a liar. In that case, Nietzsche (143) explained that a liar in common terms misuses established meanings and descriptions.

However, there is the acceptable lie of classifying common knowledge as the absolute truth. The main difference between the two forms of lying is that the former distorts conventional descriptions. In the latter, something that was derived from assumptions, with time becomes the truth.

The story of its derivation is lost as it passes through generations. Nietzsche elaborated that “truths are illusions of which we have forgotten that they are illusions” (146). Nietzsche’s argument is that the language that defines concepts was once formed from cultural beliefs, which were based on illusions.

Nietzsche (153) showed the difference between the man guided by concepts and the man guided by his intuition. Misfortune is likely to fall on the man of intuition because he forgets his past when most events are a repetition of the past. The man of concepts may also meet his misfortune.

However, he is strong enough to maintain his composure. He hides his pain and bad feelings from the view of the majority. Nietzsche labeled the man’s reaction as a “masterpiece of pretence” (153). The man of intuition develops metaphors when the intellect forms concepts.

Both metaphors and concepts are based on their alignment with other objects. From his argument, one can suggest that man would be more insightful if he were to remember both the metaphors and the concepts.

The conventional concepts give human beings a reason to live. According to Nietzsche (150), man would have nothing to believe in without settling in conventional concepts.

He would lose faith in reality and everything would become like a dream. Without the concepts, man would find no reason to struggle for self-preservation. In other words, man would live as long as life was pleasant. He would allow himself to die, if suffering came into his life.

The project of language and art

Nietzsche (141) began his argument by relating the existence of the world to a story invented by a creative writer. Nietzsche claimed that “the intellect is human, and only its own possessor and progenitor regards it with such pathos” (141).

From the statement, Nietzsche suggested that common knowledge is more valuable to those who develop it. He showed that language and art should not be perceived as if they have less value because they do not portray the absolute truth.

The fact is that common knowledge also has failed to convey the absolute truth. It appears more valuable because of the emphasis that its developers have put on it. The same point is reinforced when he stated that when someone dreams the same dream every day, he will take it seriously (Nietzsche 151).

Art should not carry less weight because it is perceived as an illusion. Considering that illusion is the basis of all relative truths, art is as illusionary as common knowledge.

Language is developed and passed through generations. Its original metaphors are lost in the modern world. Nietzsche (143) questioned whether language is the true designation of things because it was developed from the perceptions of delusional people.

It becomes a hard task to find absolute truth when the language used to develop facts is itself a product of illusion. It also becomes a problem to claim that one has the absolute truth when one relies on using the same language. However, he recognized that there are generally accepted terms in language that makes it valid.

These conventional terms can be used as truths based on rules and laws. His argument recognized that differences exist in generalized words, objects, and concepts. Language is useful, provided it is used within the accepted rules and laws. In such a case, it can be used to give different people similar images when a word is mentioned.

In the formation of words, Nietzsche (145) identified that they were formed relative to other words and concepts. His argument is evident in the modern world. New words are developed to fit into existing words and concepts.

The differences in languages are an indication of the difference in perceptions. Language is developed from metaphors, which show that people aligned different metaphors for the same objects. Nietzsche claimed that the differences in language show that “what matters is never the truth, never the full and adequate expression” (144).

The perfect metaphor cannot be obtained by human judgment. It leaves out gaps for the man of intuition to continuously form new images.

There is a need to develop concepts that align themselves with that which already exists. Nietzsche (150) described that emerging ideas have to form their foundation on the concepts that already exist. There is a need for protection from generally accepted concepts. Ideas that are contrary to conventions will be regarded as baseless thoughts.

Nietzsche (151) claimed that the need to form concepts based on conventions has imprisoned thoughts in its own fortress. The need to align ideas with those that exist has reduced the extent to which creative writers can reach in forming new images.

The importance of his argument in the context of modern literature

Imagination should be used to give descriptions in areas that common knowledge has not been developed. Nietzsche (141) claimed that any little thing will expand to be as large as a balloon full of air. He gives the impression that there are many areas that are untapped in storytelling.

A modern creative writer should fill the missing common knowledge by his imagination. The reason is that common knowledge was derived from metaphors. A writer can build his art by giving vivid descriptions of little things that have not been explained by science. A modern writer should remember that any small part can be expanded through imagination.

A modern creative writer has to use his imagination to substitute science in trying to create an understanding of the world. Nietzsche (148) claimed that man wants to align things with mankind, as we strive to get a better understanding of the world. There is the perception that everything that exists has some relationship with man.

Modern literature has followed a similar path in linking all existing objects to mankind’s benefits and destruction. Nietzsche (151) described that there is a desire to create metaphors that remains unsatisfied.

Scientific knowledge has set a barrier on creating metaphors. The desire for metaphors finds an opportunity in the creative arts and myths.

In modern contexts, Nietzsche (142) gave the impression that fiction can be used to give images a weight similar to facts because people love dreams. Nietzsche stated that “in the indifference of its ignorance, rests on the pitiless, the greedy, the insatiable, the murderous – clinging to dreams, as it were, to the back of a tiger” (143).

People have desires that they yearn to satisfy. The author gave the impression that literature that aligns itself with people’s dreams will be more attractive.

A modern writer should think of using creativity to describe things differently. Nietzsche (143) claimed that the masses are indifferent when it comes to choosing between pure knowledge and fiction when they do not give them a pleasant life. It shows that whether a writer uses facts or fiction in a story, it may not alter their preference.

Equally, people are hostile to truths and lies that are damaging. Nietzsche (143) stated that people have a strong desire for harmless creative deception, as much as they desire for harmless truth.

The man of intuition should continue forming images that are not restricted by scientific knowledge because common knowledge was derived from metaphors.

Works Cited

Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy and Other Writings, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Print.

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IvyPanda. "“On truth and lying in a non-moral sense” by Friedrich Nietzsche." June 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/on-truth-and-lying-in-a-non-moral-sense-by-friedrich-nietzsche/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "“On truth and lying in a non-moral sense” by Friedrich Nietzsche." June 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/on-truth-and-lying-in-a-non-moral-sense-by-friedrich-nietzsche/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) '“On truth and lying in a non-moral sense” by Friedrich Nietzsche'. 21 June.

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