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Nietzsche's Critique of Truth

Citation: Gemes, Ken (1992) Nietzsche's Critique of Truth.

Nietzsche has made many paradoxical remarks about truth, including the claim that truth does not exist. Philosophers have attempted to tease out various theories of truth from his scattered remarks. This piece argues that Nietzsche had no interest in a theory of truth, rather he is interested in the rhetoric of truth; how claims of truth are used to coerce agreement and conformity, to hide expressions of subjective wills behind alleged objective facts. This kind of analysis is predicated on understanding Nietzsche’s various prima facie conflicting pronouncements by finding their intended audience. Nietzsche is not interested in finding eternal truths, rather his pragmatic concern is to move various audiences from their complacent beliefs. What is needed to move one target audience might be the opposite of what is needed at another time to move another targeted audience. Nietzsche is aiming at local interventions rather than global philosophical truths. This suggests a general model for Nietzsche interpretation: To understand a given Nietzsche text, first try to find who his intended audience/ audiences is/are and from what beliefs is he trying to pry them, and in what direction he seeks to move them. The general thought behind this piece is that Nietzsche should be regarded more as a psychologist or Kulturkritker than as a philosopher in the modern sense (one who is interested in questions of ultimate ontology, epistemology, etc.). I also suggest in this piece that careful attention be paid to Nietzsche language, in particular his use of the metaphoric of degeneration. To this end I analyze his use of martial and forensic metaphors. Footnote 14 touches on the highly important and vexing question of his responsibility for his subsequent use arguing that Nietzsche's culpability lays not so much in his particular claims but in his very language.Article (Reprinted in "Oxford Readings in Philosophy: Nietzsche", edited by B. Leiter and J. Richardson, Oxford University Press, 2001

Additional Information: Citation: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (1992) 52: 47-65.
Creators: Gemes, Ken and
Subjects: Philosophy
Keywords: Nietzsche, Truth
Divisions: Institute of Philosophy
Collections: London Philosophy Papers
  • 1992 (published)
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