Duplicity

So, I’ve started writing a novel . . .

How I Killed Nietzsche & Became the New Übermensch

great awakening

The congregation raved about his eloquent homilies, his intellect, his moral fortitude, his perfect family . . . I remember their words as if it were yesterday:  “Just look at how well he manages his household. His children are so perfectly behaved!”

“Oh what a blessing it must be to have a minister for a father!”

“That man is a prophet.  You hear me boy?  A genuine prophet!”

How pathetic and blind they were.  They couldn’t see through his disguise, they couldn’t feel the truth as I did when he went into a rage.  My father, the great prophet . . . the great lie.  Let me tell you about his righteousness.

At church he could maintain the facade, he could preach about the judgement and fire of a holy God, he could pat the children on their heads and smile, he could quote you an encouraging scripture, he could…

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The Teacher

Here’s another sneak peak of The Diary of a Despairing . . . I Mean Aspiring Author.  You can find the first two installments here and here.  Please keep in mind that this is only the first draft.


 

The Teacher

Growing up in a devout Christian family I heard the stories of the great biblical heroes numerous times and could recite most of them by heart.  It wasn’t until I was twelve, however, that I dedicated time to personally studying Sacred Scripture.  Naturally, I was immediately drawn to the more exotic, and often overlooked, books; the “black sheep” of the canon.  The first to grab my attention was Ecclesiastes, in which, to my great dismay, I read the following passage for the first time:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”

says the Teacher.

“Utterly meaningless!

Everything is meaningless.”

What do people gain from all their labors

at which they toil under the sun?

 Generations come and generations go,

but the earth remains forever.

 The sun rises and the sun sets,

and hurries back to where it rises.

The wind blows to the south

and turns to the north;

round and round it goes,

ever returning on its course.

All streams flow into the sea,

yet the sea is never full.

To the place the streams come from,

there they return again.

All things are wearisome,

more than one can say.

The eye never has enough of seeing,

nor the ear its fill of hearing.

What has been will be again,

what has been done will be done again;

there is nothing new under the sun.

Is there anything of which one can say,

“Look! This is something new”?

It was here already, long ago;

it was here before our time.

No one remembers the former generations,

and even those yet to come

will not be remembered

by those who follow them.

I had never read anything so dismal, despairing, and disturbing in my life.  Don’t get me wrong, it was not as if this passage introduced me to concepts entirely foreign to my experience.  To the contrary, I found the words of the Teacher disturbing precisely because they resonated with intuitions buried in the far reaches of my soul.  They conjured impressions of reality I had held since my childhood but never wanted to face.  They rekindled the sense of dread and futility engendered by the swamp; feelings which seemed incongruent with the cheerful Christian worldview so tenderly nurtured by my parents.

“I don’t understand this,” I thought, “Perhaps it’ll make more sense as I continue reading . . .” I pressed on through several more chapters hoping for better results but to no avail.  In fact, things got worse:    “Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals,” proclaims the Teacher, “the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless.  All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.”  This was the last straw!  I slammed my bible shut and stormed downstairs to my father who sat unawares in the den.  “What’s his problem?” I exclaimed in frustration, “why is this even in the Bible?”

Somewhat taken aback by my outburst, my father responded: “Josh . . . what are you talking about?”  Realizing he hadn’t the faintest clue what I was ranting  about, I took a deep breath and proceeded to voice my dissatisfaction with the Teacher.  He listened patiently for several minutes and when, at last, I finished my diatribe he asked, “Have you finished reading it?”  Sheepishly I responded, “Well . . . no.”  “Read the whole thing,” he said, “then you’ll understand.”

This was not the answer I was looking for.  Begrudgingly I walked back upstairs, picked up my Bible, and pressed forward.  After reading the book all the way through . . . I still didn’t understand.  The Teacher left too many questions unanswered.  The resolution at the end, to “fear God and obey His commandments,” offered no consolation.  I needed things to be black and white—clear and simple.  The Teacher’s ideas were too discordant; too nebulous; too real.  I wasn’t prepared to accept an existence devoid of meaning—yet, this is the world presented by the Teacher; a cold, fleeting, impersonal, purposeless, unjust, world, full of uncertainty.

As most of us do, however, I set these troubling thoughts aside and retreated back into the world of fantasy.  I played video games, read Star War’s novels, and watched endless hours of T.V.  But, one can only drown the nihilism out for so long . . .

 An Encounter With Death

The one thing we can be absolutely sure of in this life is that everything living will die.  Death surrounds us–it haunts us every second of every day–relentlessly pursuing us into the grave.  At the very moment of our conception we begin our slow decent into dissolution and, in spite of all our efforts, there is nothing we can do to stop this from taking place.  We have tried and shall continue to try—but to no avail.  There is no escape from our temporality; from our profound limitedness.

Nevertheless, to dwell upon our finitude and impermanence – which death so robustly exemplifies – leads us quickly into the abyss of despair.  And, despair, true despair, is incredibly unpopular in the West. This is one of the reasons we desensitize ourselves, by means of video games, movies, and other such contrivances, from the reality of death.  We do this by transforming it into entertainment; by inoculating ourselves from the absurdity and pointlessness it engenders.  We, as a society, are enamored by the mere “shadow” of death – to borrow from Plato’s famous analogy of the cave – which seems less frightening and, at times, even pleasurable.  We dare not turn our gaze and face the reality which would be too much to bear.  Our obsession with the mere idea of death allows us to transform it into something enjoyable or thrilling (e.g., Mortal Combat) or even sexually arousing (e.g.,Twilight).  Hence, as a matter of profound irony, death has become the ideal distraction from death.  That is, until the real thing is unwillingly thrust upon us.

I entertained mere phantasms of death until it slowly took my friend Travis . . .

What’s New for 2014?

Hello friends!  Im excited to relate some of the projects I’ll be involved in this year.  As many of you already know, I’m the co-author of The Christian Watershed – a blog established by my long time friend and subversive writer Joel Borofsky.  I’m proud to announce that Joel and I have acquired ownership of two other exciting websites:  Hipsterdox and Orthodox Ruminations.  We are in the process of re-imaginging how these sites will look in the future and in recruiting additional writers.  In the mean time, we shall continue to post regularly on both blogs.  Joel is a member of the Orthodox Church and I recently converted to Eastern Catholicism; so, we do have an ecumenical vision and are excited about the chance to promote Christian unity.  Please check them out and show your support!

Additionally, I currently have three books well underway.  In no particular order, the titles are:

1. How I Killed Nietzsche and Became the New Übermensch

 

2. People are Essentially Good: Why I Don’t Believe in Total Depravity

 

3. The Diary of a Despairing . . . I Mean, Aspiring Author

 

I’ve been working on these projects for quite some time.  Sadly, I don’t write for a living, so things have been slow going.  Nevertheless, I’m pushing through, and I have made it a personal goal to release at least one of the books in 2014.  Please keep me in your prayers as I work toward this goal.

I Lost Faith in Myself . . . Now I Have Hope

Nietzsche_1561170c

It occurred to me the other day that Nietzsche is right.  The only thing I could possibly have faith in, if God is dead, is me.  This thought, I must confess, is rather unsettling (namely, because I know myself far too well).  But, if there are no transcendent values, if there is no meaning, what else is there to put my faith in?

I suppose I could put my faith in “science” or in some abstract notion like “humanity” or “the universe”—but these things are only meaningful, in a world devoid of intrinsic value, if I consider them meaningful.  In such a world, I, the subjective knower, am the arbiter of truth, meaning, and value.  It is clear, therefore, that, in actuality, “I” (and not some objective reality outside of myself) am what I truly have faith in.  I have faith in my beliefs, my intentions, and my desires (e.g., my affection for science is the source of my trust in science; for science in and of itself has no objective meaning or value).

This, however, is truly a miserable, and hopeless, state of affairs.  I am finite; I am mortal; I can be (and will be) destroyed.  My existence is a temporary blip—a shifting shadow like the shadows on Plato’s cave wall.  I am merely the byproduct of cold, impersonal, meaningless, physical processes which blindly, and uncaringly, march on without direction until the final death and collapse of the universe.  In such a world, I am not a subject; but, merely, an object—a passive object.  All of my thoughts, longings, desires, and emotions, as well as my ability to reason, are merely physical happenings—unimportant, undirected, predetermined, events.  Thus we see the sickening irony of the situation: there is no “I”—at least, not in any traditional sense of the term.

To make matters worse, I am unreliable.   I fail to understand or to comprehend or to communicate effectively.  I am forgetful and can easily be deceived.  I fail to keep my promises.  I tell lies and cheat and steal and have pity parties.  I lack self confidence and lack the power to change anything about the laws of nature which completely hold sway over my fate.

As I ponder these things I realize that, in the absence of God, there is no hope; because I am my only hope . . . and I have no delusions of grandeur.

When we recognize that placing total faith in ourselves is utterly useless and ultimately futile, we are finally in a position to understand the paradox that Truth presents us with:  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25).

“I” is an absurdity—a meaningless illusory object—operating under the delusion that the world has value.  Life is hopeless; the universe is impersonal; I will end; I can’t save myself.  This is because I live in a fallen world disconnected from Truth and estranged from the Giver of Life.  I remain in this despairing state so long as I worship “self”; so long as I pin my hopes on a temporal, finite, feeble, dying blip in the universe.  This is why Truth tells us to deny ourselves and to follow Him.  Only He can give us life; only He can restore meaning and value.  Apart from Him, we remain in the void, in the darkness, and held captive by death.

Lost, Lonely, Confused, and Loving It: A Condemnation of Western Society’s Indifference

What Gives Life Meaning?

We are, all of us, searching for water in a dry and desolate land; stumbling in the dark; groping for something stable to support us and give us direction . . . and that’s the way we like it.   Deep down, hidden beneath a host of questions and doubts, we realize we are lost and don’t want to be found.  We are hedonist’s at heart, and lazy ones to boot: we’d much rather watch pornography than discover Truth.  We are too selfish and controlling to even want Truth; because Truth is outside of our direct control.  Truth is not something we can create, or tame, or manipulate; it’s too restrictive and limiting and, thus, untenable.  It works against our inner narcissist.  Hence, we rest, quite contently – with only the slightest and most obligatory hint of angst – in the void of cynicism and doubt.

Sure, we pay lip service to the notion of Truth . . . but do we really desire it?  Years ago I met with a group of teenagers who fancied themselves Atheists and Agnostics.  I led discussions on a variety of philosophical and theological problems at a local coffee shop.  I remember asking one of the students, who attended regularly, what she thought the goal of our discussions was?  Her response was revealing:  “well . . . mainly to have fun, you know, talking about different ideas.”  Like so many in our culture, she wasn’t thirsty for knowledge; she was indifferent; she just wanted to have fun.  As many of religion’s “cultured despisers” did in the time of St. Gregory of Nazianzus:

“Who should listen to discussions of theology?  Those for whom it is a serious undertaking, not just another subject like any other for entertaining small-talk, after the races, the theater, songs, food, and sex:  for there are people who count chatter on theology and clever deployment of arguments as one of their amusements.”

The majority of young people I talk to have this attitude.  They are like the Athenians who, “spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing” (Acts 17: 21).  Discussions about God, morality, meaning, or value are just “small-talk” – an amusing pastime, like baseball.  There’s no substance to their questions and no deep desire to find answers.  More often than not, their “intellectual” struggles – which prevent them from accepting objective truth – are merely a facade maintained to justify elicit sex and drug use.  For others, the questions are asked in an effort to appear sophisticated or edgy.  Very few young people thirst for knowledge and actually want to find an answer to the question of value.

Put bluntly, our culture has lost its desire for meaning and replaced it with an insatiable lust for “reality” TV and Starbucks Frappuccino’s.  This is why the New Atheists will acknowledge the universe is utterly meaningless, that life has no intrinsic value, and that morality is rooted in the blind, ruthless, unintentional, irrational, laws of evolution (which is really just another way of saying, there is no morality) . . . and then shrug.  “Well, I like my life” they say; or, “life has meaning when we give it meaning.”  And what, precisely, is the meaning we ascribe to life?  Ultimately, in the West (and especially in the United States), life’s meaning can generally be classified in one of the the following three categories: (1) our elation over the new Star Wars film directed by J. J Abrams, (2) our intense love for shopping, and (3) our constant and unbridled desire for orgasm.  This is why we look at people in third world countries and wonder, “how can they stand to live that way?”  It is also the reason we can’t understand why the majority of people in third world countries have a deep faith in God and a firm belief in the supernatural.

It’s only in the face of tragedy that we Westerners are forced out of our drunken stupor . . . and, even then, only for a little while.  In the face of intense evil and hardship the reality of our fate often begins to sink in; the reality that we are weak, fragile, finite, temporary, shifting shadows.  In the midst of pain and suffering we are reminded of the absurdity and futility of our existence.  When we realize that our fate is no different than that of the irrational beast or the unconscious rock, we then start to consider the question of meaning more seriously.  When our dignity has been violated and we are standing on the edge of a cliff, we then find ourselves asking the same haunting question that William Shakespeare posed in one of his most famous monologues:

“To be, or not to be — that is the question: whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them / To die, to sleep no more, and by a sleep to say we end the heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.”

To exist or not to exist?  Have you actually considered this question?  Have you ever taken time to meditate on how utterly futile human existence is?  Or is Albert Camus just cool, hip and trendy?  Is it just fun to quote Nietzsche, to feel intellectual, and have a good laugh–or have you actually absorbed the implications of Nietzsche’s thought?  Have you, not just thought it, but felt it in your heart and soul?  It’s easy to shrug off the purposelessness of reality when you’re busy trying to look and sound cool . . . and trying to get laid.  It’s not so easy when your dignity and value has been utterly trampled on and life seems hopeless and unbearable.

Everything you think gives your life meaning becomes mere dust blowing in the wind when you have been violated or when life hangs in the balance.  Your cars, your computers, your video games, your films, your music, your beer, your pornography, your books, your drugs, your sexuality, your pets, your wealth, your sports, your technology, your scientific advancements, your successes, all fade into nothing when you are the girl who has been raped or you are the child sold into sex slavery, or you are the one lying in the hospital bed dying of cancer, or starving to death while living in a trash heap.  Suddenly, words like meaning, purpose, value, and eternity take on new life.  Suddenly trite answers like, “you give your life meaning” feel stupid and hopeless.  Especially when you understand that, if the nihilists are correct, there is no meaning, purpose, value, or eternity for the individual.

You’ll only want Truth when you realize that all of the things you think give your life meaning have no meaning at all apart from Him.  When you internalize the fact that we are completely helpless – slaves – in a world that is, at rock bottom, irrational, uncaring, and unintentional, you’ll finally be in a position to hunger and thirst for the Truth.  In that moment you will understand why Truth says,“I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

The Diary of a Despairing . . . I Mean, Aspiring Author: Part 4

So, I’ve reached a very interesting and exciting stage in the development of the book.  At this point in the story, the protagonist has started his ascent up the mountain to the cave of solitude overlooking mankind.  Just when he’s about to start climbing, however, he makes a quick stop in a small village at the foot of the mountain.  In this village he encounters the “Four Horsemen” who are proselytizing the common man – attempting to convert him to atheism.  After listening to the Horsemen’s diatribe for a couple of minutes the character is once again visited by the ghost of Nietzsche who immediately begins to ridicule the godless knights.  The Horsemen, of course, are the so called New Atheists: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens.  I can scarcely think of a better way to critique the New Atheists than pitting one of the most famous (and arguably well known) atheists in modern history against them . . . but, all of this will have to wait for now.

While I’m obviously anxious to get started writing this portion of the book, in the coming months I’ll have to step back and take a short break.  Please don’t get depressed—it’s for a good cause!  I’m excited to announce that I will be publishing an essay on the topic of divine love and the nature of existence through a small publishing house which goes by the name of Shadowfire Books.  The essay will be written in the form of a prayer and is part of a collaborative effort featuring several other new authors.  Thus, for the next couple of months all of my attention will be directed towards this essay—which I must have turned in by October 31st.  I’ll release more information about this project as time gets closer for its release.  Until then, you can expect to see more of my articles published on the Christian Watershed and the occasional post on this blog.

Nietzsche’s Theory of Truth

“Supposing truth to be a woman,” Nietzsche famously asserted in the opening of his classic work Beyond Good and Evil.  For just as the “dogmatists” fail to understand women, says Nietzsche, so they fail to understand truth.[1]  Perhaps nothing has been more influential in shaping post-modern thought than the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche; but how does one classify Nietzsche’s theory of truth?  Is he a strict pragmatist, does he hold to a coherence theory, or can he be placed in any category at all?  This paper seeks to define and explain Nietzsche’s theory of truth while defending a correspondence view.  To accomplish this task it will (1) summarize the major theories of truth within traditional Philosophical thought, (2) determine Nietzsche’s theory of truth by comparing his thought to other truth theories, and (3) explain the problems with Nietzsche’s theory which necessitate its rejection. 

Philosophical Theories of Truth

Until the 20th century philosophers subscribed to two primary theories of truth: correspondence and coherence.  However, due to growing problems in epistemology, linguistics, and other areas of study, the number of truth theories significantly increased.[2]  Today, there are a plethora of theories crowding the philosophical scene.  In the interest of time and space only a selection of these theories will be surveyed.

The Correspondence Theory of Truth

The correspondence theory of truth is often traced to Plato’s classic works Theaetetus and Sophist, and has a long list of adherents, including: Aristotle, the Stoics, various medieval philosophers, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Moore, and Russell.[3]  However, it can be argued that correspondence was assumed by writers predating the works of Plato.  For instance, William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland argue that the Bible, while not explicitly articulating a correspondence theory of truth, “regularly presupposes” such a theory.[4]  Therefore, it can safely be said that the correspondence theory of truth, “is both the commonsense view and the classic position embraced by virtually all philosophers until the nineteenth century.[5]

In its most basic form, the correspondence theory states that, “a proposition is true just in case it corresponds to facts or the world.”[6]  In other words, a proposition is true if, and only if, it “corresponds” to reality.  Thus, it presupposes realism; that truth is absolute or objective; that, “people discover truth, they do not create it, and [that] a claim is made true or false in some way or another by reality itself, totally independent of whether the claim is accepted by anyone.”[7]  In this system man is not the, “measure of all things,” as Protagoras famously stated; but asserts there is a concrete reality which can be discovered and understood by man.   

The Coherence Theory of Truth

 In the 19th century a new theory of truth began to take shape.  Espoused by the continental rationalists, J. G. Fichte, G. W. F. Hegel, F. H. Bradley, and other well known thinkers, the coherence theory approached truth from a completely different angle.  Contrary to the pre-modern view of correspondence, the coherence theory was predicated on antirealism and nominilism.   Nominilism rejects the existence of “universals” or “forms” and says that only concrete particulars exist.[8]  Thus, discovering the truth of a proposition was relegated to the realm of epistemology; more specifically rationalism.

 Simply put, the coherence theory states that, “a true proposition is one that belongs to some designated coherent set of propositions.”[9]  However, these propositions or “beliefs” do not necessarily have anything to do with reality.[10]  Thus, one’s system of belief could be the product of their imagination, and this would not be a problem; what matters is whether it is coherent. 

By “coherent” it is generally meant:  “(1) [that] each member of the set [i.e. proposition] is consistent with any subset of the others and (2) [that] each is implied (inductively if not deductively) by all of the others taken as premises.”[11]  Essentially, a coherence theory of truth is a circular chain of propositions which may or may not actually represent reality.  In addition, it must contain no contradictions within itself, that is, each proposition within one’s belief system must entail the other.  However, this is not to say that one’s “coherent” system of belief will not contradict another’s.  In this sense, truth is relative, varying from person to person, because it is not based upon any absolute standard; rather, it is based upon the coherence or consistency of one’s thought.     

The Pragmatic Theory of Truth

From the mid-19th century and into the 20th the pragmatic theory of truth also began to take shape.  Like the coherence theory, pragmatism is predicated upon nominilism and antirealism.  Early proponents of this view include, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey.[12]  Currently, the most notable adherents are Hilary Putnam and Richard Rorty.”[13]

The pragmatic theory is quite simple to understand, “[it] implies that a belief P is true if and only if P works or is useful to have.  P is true just in case P exhibits certain values for those who accept it.”[14]  In this sense the pragmatic theory of truth is very practical; built upon utility, as opposed to objectivity.  It is also relativistic, “Pragmatism . . . must be formulated relativistically, since whether it is useful to believe a proposition evidently varies from one believer to another.”[15] 

Postmodern Theories of Truth

Postmodern Theories of truth can be broken down into three basic categories:  Phenomenological, Structural, and Pragmatic.[16]  Do to the constraints of this paper, only a broad survey will be made about postmodernisms overall view of truth; there will not be an in-depth presentation of each of these theories.  However, it is difficult to confine the movement to any one set of truth theories anyways.  A postmodern philosopher may also utilize coherence or pragmatic theories of truth, or some modified form of them, if he so desires.[17]  That being the case, it is difficult to describe attributes of postmodern thought with any level of certainty. 

What can be said with certainty is that postmodernists reject the correspondence theory of truth.[18]  In their view, “truth is relative to a linguistic community that shares the same narrative.”  In other words, truth is determined by one’s community (i.e. culture, language, social environment).  This may be represented by any one of the afore mentioned theories, as long as they are consistent with a subjective view of reality. 

Like the coherent and pragmatic theories, postmodern theories are built upon antirealism and nominalism.  Even more foundational, is their rejection of absolutes or dichotomous thinking.  Dichotomous thinking occurs when, “someone divides a range of phenomena into two groups and goes on to claim that one is better than the other.”[19]  Examples of dichotomous thinking include distinctions between good and bad, right and wrong, or true and false.

Nietzsche’s Theory of Truth

Now that the primary theories of truth have been defined, we can properly asses Nietzsche’s interpretation of truth.  Whether it is possible to ascribe to Nietzsche a specific theory of truth remains to be seen; for, in his own writings he “vacillates between the denial of truth and its affirmation.”[20]  However, for the sake of clarity, it must be attempted.  Consequentially, this section will attempt to synthesize Nietzsche’s thought with each theory of truth; eliminating each one that fails to adequately conform to his views. 

Nietzsche and the Correspondence Theory

Traditionally, interpreters ascribed to Nietzsche the classic view of truth as “correspondence to reality,” believing that his own views were true in a correspondence sense.[21]  There are several important advocates of this interpretation; however, only two will be examined in this paper:  Kaufmann and Wilcox. 

“Kaufmann’s strategy . . . [was] . . . to show that the contradiction in Nietzsche’s position is merely apparent, that Nietzsche does not deny the existence of truth, and that he does not put forward any metaphysical theories.”[22]  He argued that Nietzsche did not reject the existence of empirical truth but merely certain interpretations of it.  For instance, Kaufmann explained Nietzsche’s apparent denial of truth, “as a denial of . . . [the] eternal world of the Platonic forms or the Kantian thing-in-itself.”[23]  Further, he argued that Nietzsche only denied metaphysical statements of truth, but acknowledged the existence of empirical truth.  For instance, Kaufmann maintained that Nietzsche’s own doctrines of “eternal recurrence” and “will to power” were put forth as “empirical truths.”[24]   

Kaufmann’s interpretation was later advanced, with slight modifications, by John T. Wilcox.  Like Kaufmann, Wilcox recognized the apparent contradiction in Nietzsche’s thought, namely that it appeared as though Nietzsche both affirmed and denied the existence of truth.  To address this problem, Wilcox had to make a distinction between the type of truth that Nietzsche rejected and the type of truth that Nietzsche affirmed.   

Whether or not there is a contradiction depends upon whether “truth” is used in the same sense when Nietzsche writes in these two ways, upon whether the “truth” whose possibility he rejects is the same “truth” that he criticizes the Christian for refusing to face.  And it is fairly clear that they are not the same.  Nietzsche rejects transcendent truth; but he believes in perspectival truth and hopes for a kind of man who can live in that truth.[25]   

Wilcox, like Kaufmann, maintained that Nietzsche primarily rejected “metaphysical truths” but accepted the existence of empirical truth.  However, he hastened to point out that the type of empirical truth Nietzsche accepted did not have the “status” that Kant maintained for science.  Thus, Nietzsche rejected the type of empirical truth, founded upon a priori knowledge, which Kant attempted to prove, believing, instead, that empirical truth was grounded in the individual.[26] 

            According to Wilcox, Nietzsche’s brand of truth was, “this-worldly, fallible, hypothetical, perspectival, value-laden, historically developed, and simplifying truth.”[27]  In other words, truth was based upon reality, and the reality was that truth was interpreted differently by each individual’s senses.  In his mind, Wilcox saw no contradiction between Nietzsche’s “advocacy” of perspectival truth and his rejection of absolute or “transcendent” truth.[28]

Recently, however, Maudemarie Clark challenged the traditional interpretation of Nietzsche’s theory of truth.  Clark notes, “if one interprets will to power . . . in traditional terms – as straightforward claims about the nature of reality, as claims that are supposed to correspond to reality – it seems implausible to deny their metaphysical character.”[29]  In other words, to accept this interpretation of Nietzsche’s theory leads one into contradictory thinking. 

To argue that Nietzsche rejected metaphysical truths but also to maintain that he accepted certain “empirical truths” which “correspond to reality” is to ignore the problem of absolutes.  That is, to ignore that fact that metaphysical truths are generally considered “absolute” or “universal” truths about the nature of reality.  If Nietzsche believes that certain empirical truths “correspond to reality” he, by definition, accepts that an absolute “reality” exists.[30]  This would make him a metaphysical realist, in which case he would maintain that both universals and particulars exist. 

Nietzsche, however, is clearly not a metaphysical realist

Indeed, what compels us to assume there exists any essential antithesis between ‘true’ and ‘false’?  Is it not enough to suppose grades of apparentness and as it were lighter and darker shades and tones of appearance . . . why could the world which is of any concern to us – not be fiction?[31]

  For, as both Kaufmann and Wilcox affirm, he denies the existence of metaphysical truths and by doing this rejects the notion of universals.  Hence, to accept this interpretation of Nietzsche is untenable. 

Nietzsche and Coherent/Pragmatic Theories of Truth

  If Nietzsche’s theory of truth is not based upon correspondence, then perhaps a coherent or pragmatic theory best describes his thought.  After all, both of these theories are based upon antirealism and nominalism which are compatible with his worldview.  However, these are not the only two conditions which must be met in order to establish his theory of truth. 

Of the two systems, it is harder to argue that Nietzsche held to a coherent theory of truth.  As we have seen, there is debate as to whether or not Nietzsche’s view of truth is “coherent” at all; seeing as how he appears to, “make claims to metaphysical truth while at the same time rejecting all such claims.”[32]  Hence, it seems more profitable to examine the pragmatic theory of truth.

As was established above, the pragmatic theory states that a belief is true if, and only if, it “works” or is useful to the individual.[33]  In a sense, the pragmatist view of truth is not unlike the utilitarian’s view of morality.  A utilitarian gages what is right or wrong on the amount of pleasure or pain an action might confer upon him and those around him.  Similarly, the pragmatist gages truth on the usefulness of a proposition.  In other words, if an idea “works” or seems useful to an individual it is true, but if it fails to achieve the desired result, it is false.  Thus, truth, for the pragmatist, is based upon utility; not objectivity. 

On a surface level this theory might seem to be compatible with Nietzsche because of its focus on the individual.  However, there are grave problems with this interpretation of Nietzsche’s thought.  Namely, the fact that Nietzsche despised utilitarianism,

This way of reasoning smells of the mob, which sees in bad behavior only its disagreeable consequences and actually judges ‘it is stupid to act badly’; while it takes ‘good’ without further ado to be identical with ‘useful and pleasant’.  In the case of every utilitarian morality one may conjecture in advance a similar origin and follow one’s nose . . .[34] 

Nietzsche challenged the idea that “usefulness” or “pleasantness” was equivalent to what was good or right, because what was useful or pleasant was determined by society.  Hence, utilitarianism was a form of the “herd” mentality of which he despised.

Similarly, pragmatism, with its assertion that truth is what “works” or “is useful to procuring happiness” carries with it the potential for “mob” mentality.  For, one is inevitably tied to a community, a culture which defines one’s ideas of happiness or usefulness.  One could conceivably believe that something is useful because everyone else believes it to be useful. 

Beyond this, however, lies a more serious objection, “why couldn’t a false belief make us happier than a true one?”[35]  Why couldn’t “untruth” be what works or what is useful to the individual?  “Nietzsche, in fact, insisted repeatedly that knowledge of the truth may conflict with the satisfaction of practical interests.”[36] 

Hence, upon a closer examination, the pragmatic theory of truth, despite its predication of antirealism and nominalism, and his semi-commitment to individualism, does not seem to be the perfect fit.  Of all the theories of truth, Nietzsche’s theory must fall somewhere within the realm of post-modern thought.

Nietzsche and Post-Modern Theories of Truth

  Post modern theories of truth completely reject the idea of absolute truth or objective reality.  As was noted above, post-modern theories of truth also reject dichotomous thinking, which makes distinctions between contrasting ideas (i.e. good/bad, right/wrong, truth/falsity).  Having abolished dichotomous thinking and having rejected the notion of absolute or objective reality, post-modern theories of truth, in the end, place truth upon the individual.  What is right or wrong, good or bad, true or untrue is ultimately a matter of one’s perspective. 

In his book, Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche ponders, “What really is it in us that wants ‘the truth’. . . why not rather untruth?  And uncertainty?  Even ignorance?”[37]  At the core of his philosophy is a deep and unbending skepticism.  Nietzsche questions our need for absolute truth by challenging its very existence.  Throughout all of his writings, he attempts to break down distinctions between right and wrong or truth and falsity, denying that such distinctions are valid . . . 

It is quite clear that the world is not good and not bad (to say nothing of its being the best or the worst), and that the terms “good” and ‘bad” have only significance with respect to man, and indeed perhaps, they are not justified even here in the way they are usually employed.[38]    

Upon reflection, one cannot help but notice that Nietzsche’s mode of thinking is entirely consistent with post-modern theories of truth. 

His emphasis on the perspective of the individual in interpreting reality is another key aspect of Nietzsche’s thought.  He believed that, “the essence of man-the sole form of cognitive life with which we are acquainted—has emerged in the course of universal becoming as a unique way of interpreting being.”[39]    In other words, the way in which man apprehends the world, by means of sense perception, is the consequence of the his intellect.  Thus, concluded Nietzsche, “every single kind of intellect must have its own way of understanding the world.”[40]  Consequentially, individualism, in the realm of truth and morality, is a key component of post-modern thought. 

Structuralist’s recognize that there are multiple truths (ways of viewing the world), and believe that truth is ultimately about power.[41]  This too, is compatible with Nietzsche; especially his doctrine of the “superman” and the idea of “will to power.”  It also fits well with his conception of a great philosopher; one who is a “free-spirit,” able to place himself beyond good and evil and create his own values.[42]

     While it may not be possible to attach Nietzsche’s view of truth to any one post-modern theory, it is apparent that Nietzsche’s theory of truth is best understood in light of post-modern ideology.  Everything from his rejection of absolute truth to his concept of the “superman” fits nicely within the post-modern framework. 

The Problem with Nietzsche’s Theory of Truth

This paper seeks to defend a correspondence theory of truth against Nietzsche’s post-modern critiques.  Instead of building a case for the correspondence theory as a defense, it will cut straight at the heart of Nietzsche’s philosophy, placing correspondence on the offensive line.  Now that Nietzsche’s theory of truth has been properly defined, this task will be much easier to accomplish.     

Nietzsche’s theory suffers from the same ailment that all post-modern theories of truth do: it is self refuting.  If absolute truth does not exist, if all perspectives and all interpretations of the world are equally valid, then truth is an empty term.  If truth is everything, then it is nothing; but this is precisely what Nietzsche’s rejection of dichotomous thinking accomplishes.  It bypasses the fundamental rules of logic; rendering any statement of value superfluous.

Although Nietzsche, and other post-modern thinkers still use the term “truth”, as if it carried with it some existential value, by their own definition truth does not exist.  Truth, by its very nature, is absolute; otherwise it is no truth at all.  Hence, by rejecting absolutes they reject truth and here in lies the problem:  their rejection of absolutes is itself an absolute.  Consider carefully, the proposition; “there is no truth.” For, is it not, in and of itself, a statement of truth?  Is not, such a proposition, itself and absolute statement about reality?

How, then, can anyone seriously consider such a problematic theory of truth?  A truth theory that rejects truth!  This is pure and unadulterated nonsense!  I summit that any system that fails to acknowledge the existence of objective reality or absolute truth is unlivable.  One can believe such nonsense in a theoretical realm, far removed from the day to day happenings of life, but in the real world, one must operate in accordance with a correspondence theory of truth.  All other systems simply break down.

               Conclusion

Upon examining most of the major theories of truth it becomes clear that Nietzsche is best described as a post-modern thinker.  His rejection of absolute truth and dichotomous thinking, and his aversion to metaphysical realism all play a major role in making this distinction.  However, it seems that no existing philosophical theory of truth perfectly aligns with Nietzsche’s thought.  So, in this sense, in can be said, that Nietzsche was truly an original thinker; far removed from the theorizing of his own day. 

Ultimately, despite attempts to claim otherwise, Nietzsche’s theory is a complete rejection of the correspondence theory of truth, and as such, is subject to enormous flaws.  In spite of his brilliance as a writer and thinker, Nietzsche’s theory of truth is inconsistent and contradictory; and consequentially must be rejected.   

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Clark, Maudemarie. Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Clive, Geoffrey, ed. The Philosophy of Nietzsche. New York: Meridian, 1996.

Jaspers, Karl. Nietzsche. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1965.

Kirkham, Richard L. Theories of Truth. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995.

Lanier, Anderson R. “Nietzsche on Truth, Illusion, and Redemption.” European Journal of Philosophy 13 (Aug 2005): 185-225.

Mitchell, Craig Vincent. Charts of Philosophy and Philosophers. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007.

Moreland, J. P., William Lane Craig. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Beyond Good and Evil. Translated by R. J. Hollingdale. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

Schmitt, Frederick F. Truth: A Primer. Boulder: Westview Press, 1995.

Wilcox, John T. Truth and Value in Nietzsche. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1974.

 


[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin Books, 2003), 31.

[2] Craig Vincent Mitchell, Charts of Philosophy and Philosophers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 21.

[3] Frederick F. Schmitt, Truth: A Primer (Boulder: Westview Press, 1995), 145.

[4] J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2003), 131-132.

[5] Ibid.,132.

[6] Schmitt, 145.

[7] Moreland, 132.

[8] Mitchell, 7,10.

[9] Schmitt, 103.

[10] Mitchell, 22.

[11] Richard L. Kirkham, Theories of Truth (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1995), 104.

[12] Schmitt, 77.

[13] Moreland, 144.

[14] Ibid., 144.

[15] Schmitt, 79.

[16] Mitchell, 23.

[17] Moreland, 146.

[18] Ibid., 146.

[19] Ibid., 146.

[20] Anderson R. Lanier, “Nietzsche on Truth, Illusion, and Redemption,” European Journal of Philosophy 13 (Aug 2005): 185.

[21] Maudemarie Clark, Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 5.

[22] Ibid., 5.

[23] Ibid., 5.

[24] Ibid., 5.

[25] John T. Wilcox, Truth and Value in Nietzsche (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 1974), 155.

[26] Ibid., 156.

[27] Ibid., 156.

[28] Ibid., 156.

[29] Clark, 6.

[30] Ibid., 40.

[31]  Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 65-66.

[32] Clark, 4.

[33] Moreland, 144.

[34] Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 113.

[35] Clark, 32.

[36] Ibid., 32.

[37] Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, 33.

[38] Geoffrey Clive, ed., The Philosophy of Nietzsche (New York: Meridian, 1996), 498.

[39] Karl Jaspers, Nietzsche (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1965), 185.

[40] Ibid., 185.

[41] Mitchell, 23.

[42] This is the primary theme of his book, Beyond Good and Evil.