English 456: C20 Criticism and Theory

Questions on Friedrich Nietzsche's
"Truth and Falsity in an Ultramoral Sense" (1873)

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1. What attitude does Nietzsche convey about the capacity of human intellect and the claims made on its behalf?

2. Why, at the beginning of the essay, does Nietzsche more than once imply that the "impulse to truth" is little short of a miracle?

3. Nietzsche invokes the social contract as the way in which humans put an end to what Thomas Hobbes called in Leviathan "the war of all against all" (bellum omnium contra omnes). The social contract, says Nietzsche, gave rise to the binary or paired opposing concepts "truth/lie." What does Nietzsche immediately thereafter imply about the separateness and stability of the terms in that paired opposition? What is "truth" in the context of his remarks about the social contract?

4. How, according to Nietzsche, does language falsify the world, or let us falsely assert that we know things when we don't? Why might, say, a noun (a substantive, as it's called) harbor a lie? Why is the term "metaphor" important in this essay?

5. Nietzsche aims a broadside against "ideas." How do they arise, and what societal purpose does the ability to create them serve?

6. How does Nietzsche link the pursuit of scientific knowledge to what he has just said about the formation of ideas?

7. From what impulse, according to Nietzsche, does art spring? What does Nietzsche say about "intuitive man"--his language, his force in culture and history?

8. What has Nietzsche achieved in this essay? That is, what has happened to the binary opposition between "truth" and "lie" now that Nietzsche has examined it in his "extramoral" or "ultramoral" sense?

Edition: The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. ISBN: 0393974294.