Nietzsche Questions for E492 Modern Critical Theory, Cal State Fullerton



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Assigned: Friedrich Nietzsche. "On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense" (764-74). Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2nd edition.

"On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense" (1873)

1. On 764-65, what complexities of attitude does Nietzsche convey about the capacity of human intellect and the claims often made on its behalf? What role does his analysis of "dissimulation" play in his exploration at this early point in the essay?, and why is what he calls the "impulse to truth" little short of a miracle?

2. On 765 bottom-766, 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 he 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?

3. On 766-77, how, according to Nietzsche, does language serve the sort of "forgetfulness" that fosters pleasant illusions instead of truth? How does it falsify the world around us, letting us 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 at this point in the essay?

4. On 767-68, furthering his critique of the relationship between words and the world, Nietzsche aims a broadside against concepts. According to him, how do concepts arise, and what societal purpose does the ability to create them serve?

5. On 768-69, what provisional definition of "truth" does Nietzsche offer following from his argument about how concepts are formed, and what conclusions does he draw about the value of what we call "truth"?

6. On 769 bottom-770, according to Nietzsche, if human beings were momentarily to grasp themselves as "artistically creative subject{s}," what would at once happen to their self-consciousness, to their sense that they understand themselves and the world in which they live and perceive? Moreover, Nietzsche writes that "between two absolutely different spheres, such as subject and object are, there is no causality, no correctness, no expression, but at most an aesthetic way of relating" (770). What is he admitting here regarding our chances of achieving genuine insight into the relationship between self and world, self and other?

7. On 770-71, what does Nietzsche suggest about so-called "laws of nature"? Why do we think we can articulate and manipulate such alleged laws of nature? What sham does he suggest is always involved in formulating them?

8. On 771-72, how does Nietzsche link the pursuit of scientific knowledge to what he has written about the formation of concepts? How is science, in its way, just as prone to the sway of illusions as Nietzsche has already said language is?

9. On 771 bottom-773, from what impulse, according to Nietzsche, does art spring? What does he say about the "man of intuition" – about his language, his role in culture and history, his ability or inability to cope with suffering?

10. On 773-74, how does Nietzsche's treatment of the "man of reason," and especially the final mention of the "stoic who has learned from experience" impact what he has written about the "man of intuition's" accomplishment? What seems to have been the point of comparing these two types or styles of humanity as Nietzsche has done here?

11. What do you think Nietzsche has achieved in this essay? That is, what has happened to the binary opposition between "truth" and "lying" with which the author began the essay, now that Nietzsche has examined it in a "non-moral" sense? (general question)

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