Why are you so in love with the truth? Why do you worship it like the false god that it is? I bet you only enjoy the aesthetics and power of truth. Look at me everyone, I got the truth. Aren’t I special?
This section opens Beyond Good and Evil, by Fredrich Nietzche. Nietzche will cure you of your delusional love of facts and logic.
1. The Will to Truth, which is to tempt us to many a hazardous enterprise, the famous Truthfulness of which all philosophers have hitherto spoken with respect, what questions has this Will to Truth not laid before us! What strange, perplexing, questionable questions! It is already a long story; yet it seems as if it were hardly commenced. Is it any wonder if we at last grow distrustful, lose patience, and turn impatiently away? That this Sphinx teaches us at last to ask questions ourselves? WHO is it really that puts questions to us here? WHAT really is this “Will to Truth” in us? In fact we made a long halt at the question as to the origin of this Will—until at last we came to an absolute standstill before a yet more fundamental question. We inquired about the VALUE of this Will. Granted that we want the truth: WHY NOT RATHER untruth? And uncertainty? Even ignorance? The problem of the value of truth presented itself before us—or was it we who presented ourselves before the problem? Which of us is the Oedipus here? Which the Sphinx? It would seem to be a rendezvous of questions and notes of interrogation. And could it be believed that it at last seems to us as if the problem had never been propounded before, as if we were the first to discern it, get a sight of it, and RISK RAISING it? For there is risk in raising it, perhaps there is no greater risk.
2. “HOW COULD anything originate out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? or the Will to Truth out of the will to deception? or the generous deed out of selfishness? or the pure sun-bright vision of the wise man out of covetousness? Such genesis is impossible; whoever dreams of it is a fool, nay, worse than a fool; things of the highest value must have a different origin, an origin of THEIR own—in this transitory, seductive, illusory, paltry world, in this turmoil of delusion and cupidity, they cannot have their source. But rather in the lap of Being, in the intransitory, in the concealed God, in the ‘Thing-in-itself—THERE must be their source, and nowhere else!”—This mode of reasoning discloses the typical prejudice by which metaphysicians of all times can be recognized, this mode of valuation is at the back of all their logical procedure; through this “belief” of theirs, they exert themselves for their “knowledge,” for something that is in the end solemnly christened “the Truth.” The fundamental belief of metaphysicians is THE BELIEF IN ANTITHESES OF VALUES. It never occurred even to the wariest of them to doubt here on the very threshold (where doubt, however, was most necessary); though they had made a solemn vow, “DE OMNIBUS DUBITANDUM.” For it may be doubted, firstly, whether antitheses exist at all; and secondly, whether the popular valuations and antitheses of value upon which metaphysicians have set their seal, are not perhaps merely superficial estimates, merely provisional perspectives, besides being probably made from some corner, perhaps from below—”frog perspectives,” as it were, to borrow an expression current among painters. In spite of all the value which may belong to the true, the positive, and the unselfish, it might be possible that a higher and more fundamental value for life generally should be assigned to pretence, to the will to delusion, to selfishness, and cupidity. It might even be possible that WHAT constitutes the value of those good and respected things, consists precisely in their being insidiously related, knotted, and crocheted to these evil and apparently opposed things—perhaps even in being essentially identical with them. Perhaps! But who wishes to concern himself with such dangerous “Perhapses”! For that investigation one must await the advent of a new order of philosophers, such as will have other tastes and inclinations, the reverse of those hitherto prevalent—philosophers of the dangerous “Perhaps” in every sense of the term. And to speak in all seriousness, I see such new philosophers beginning to appear.
3. Having kept a sharp eye on philosophers, and having read between their lines long enough, I now say to myself that the greater part of conscious thinking must be counted among the instinctive functions, and it is so even in the case of philosophical thinking; one has here to learn anew, as one learned anew about heredity and “innateness.” As little as the act of birth comes into consideration in the whole process and procedure of heredity, just as little is “being-conscious” OPPOSED to the instinctive in any decisive sense; the greater part of the conscious thinking of a philosopher is secretly influenced by his instincts, and forced into definite channels. And behind all logic and its seeming sovereignty of movement, there are valuations, or to speak more plainly, physiological demands, for the maintenance of a definite mode of life For example, that the certain is worth more than the uncertain, that illusion is less valuable than “truth” such valuations, in spite of their regulative importance for US, might notwithstanding be only superficial valuations, special kinds of niaiserie, such as may be necessary for the maintenance of beings such as ourselves. Supposing, in effect, that man is not just the “measure of things.”
4. The falseness of an opinion is not for us any objection to it: it is here, perhaps, that our new language sounds most strangely. The question is, how far an opinion is life-furthering, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps species-rearing, and we are fundamentally inclined to maintain that the falsest opinions (to which the synthetic judgments a priori belong), are the most indispensable to us, that without a recognition of logical fictions, without a comparison of reality with the purely IMAGINED world of the absolute and immutable, without a constant counterfeiting of the world by means of numbers, man could not live—that the renunciation of false opinions would be a renunciation of life, a negation of life. TO RECOGNISE UNTRUTH AS A CONDITION OF LIFE; that is certainly to impugn the traditional ideas of value in a dangerous manner, and a philosophy which ventures to do so, has thereby alone placed itself beyond good and evil.
5. That which causes philosophers to be regarded half-distrustfully and half-mockingly, is not the oft-repeated discovery how innocent they are—how often and easily they make mistakes and lose their way, in short, how childish and childlike they are,—but that there is not enough honest dealing with them, whereas they all raise a loud and virtuous outcry when the problem of truthfulness is even hinted at in the remotest manner. They all pose as though their real opinions had been discovered and attained through the self-evolving of a cold, pure, divinely indifferent dialectic (in contrast to all sorts of mystics, who, fairer and foolisher, talk of “inspiration”), whereas, in fact, a prejudiced proposition, idea, or “suggestion,” which is generally their heart’s desire abstracted and refined, is defended by them with arguments sought out after the event. They are all advocates who do not wish to be regarded as such, generally astute defenders, also, of their prejudices, which they dub “truths,”—and VERY far from having the conscience which bravely admits this to itself, very far from having the good taste of the courage which goes so far as to let this be understood, perhaps to warn friend or foe, or in cheerful confidence and self-ridicule.
Why do you like the truth? Like what is the point? A secular and obvious answer is that the truth is useful. This lacks the romantic vision that the truth is its own end. Truth is something which does not come easy to us, it is rare. But knowing the truth is often inconvenient and hard. Can we really say that humans are these rational truth loving beings? That is probably a stupid idea.
What Nietzche is really getting at here has to do with this realization that humans are not rational, truthful, or altruistic beings. You can’t just trust humans to be able to separate their thoughts from their own subjective experience. Humans are not simple machines for satisfying the noble goals we are supposed to seek. We have to put in effort to discover the truth. To solve this problem we try to develop institutions and methods of helping remove subjective experience. There is a strong optimism; humans are flawed, but we can attempt to pursue noble ends the best we can.
There is a problem here that these optimists have overlooked. It is summed up so ellongantly here, “How could anything originate out of its opposite?”
Consider that humans are not machines to seek out the truth. Now we have these institutions that are supposed to help us reach the truth. This just sidesteps the question; how could we even value truth in the first place? Sure we might value truth by coincidence, but not innately. If we had innate love of the truth, then there would not be an issue of trying to discover the truth. Maybe we love the truth partially? This still sidesteps the issue of why we only love the truth in certain ways; I propose this is just another way of saying we love truth by coincidence.
The issue is not a matter of how or what we say is a noble end. The issue is how we can even arrive at these moral noble ends. If we are inherently selfish creatures, then is it possible for us to act for altruistic ends? What we call our noble ends must originate out of our selfish and lower nature. Perhaps the difference is illusory? Maybe all of what we call nobel ends originates from selfish urges.
Let us use the example of scorning groups of people for having sexual motivations. A lot of people shame sexual and gender minorities for having sexual urges that motivate their behavior. Unlike the higher and nobel urges of normal heterosexual cisgendered society. But why not just point out the universality of sexuality motivating all actions? It is taken as basic evolutionary psychology that people are motivated by the desire to get sex, because it is an evolutionary strategy. This has yieled surprisingly both explanations for heterosexual and homosexual sexual desires. They are united in a common explanation and not an illusory distinction.This form of analysis is more likely than suggesting that humans have overcome their nature.
If you predefine someone to always lie, then you are left with someone who will never say the truth. A simple exercise I propose: Try reaching pure altruism from a purely selfish starting point. The immediate issue you will have is that you can appear altruistic, while having secret selfish motivations. It is really impossible to determine the intentions from an action.
I will try out the exercise right now. A man takes care of his family, gives to his church, and participates in his community. Does he take care of his family because he overcame his selfish nature or has a second altruistic nature? Well, you can appeal to evolutionary arguments and the fact that your children are an extension of you. How about the church? I mean have you ever been to a church? In college, I had visited some churches at request of friends and had a glimpse into something magical. Is it really less material than the experience of spending hundreds of dollars a week clubbing, partying, and drugging? When it comes to your community, let us consider the alternative. Are you really sure you would prefer to live an atomized and isolated existence? Is this really the superior state of humanity?Given these reasonings, it is very plausible that these have explanations which originate in our selfish desires.
It is this realization which leads one to question if all of the higher moral ends are even distinct from your mere lower nature. But also significantly, where does the moral value of these higher and more noble ends come from?
As far as we can say we value the truth, because it is useful. This begs the question? Useful for what? Well useful to yourself and the flourishing of your life. This is a selfish end, this is part of your lower and biological urges. Is this the real ultimate source of morality? If the real standard has always been preservation of life, then truth, altruism, and all of the more noble ends might just be instinctual approximations. It might ultimately be more fruitful to go to the source and see if delusions, lies, selfishness help us.
Imagine we have a man who makes videos on the internet, Simpman Reviews. Now one day he switches his political views around after watching the beautiful Counterpussy. I mean is it not a stretch that he switched because he wanted the beautiful e-girl to notice him. No one really thinks that he was actually convinced. He might have arguments and defenses for his conversion, but we imagine it was motivated by other urges.
A researcher could do a study on whether lesbians are more attractive than heterosexual women. Well this truth is dependent on the attractiveness subjective to the researcher. Maybe this truth seeking was motivated by his desire to “study” women. He assigned attractiveness in his carefully composed and seemingly objective scales and such, but it secretly communicated his sexual fantasies.
What impacts has homosexuality had on modern economics and computer science? I mean their early contributors and often called fathers, John Maynard Keynes and Alan Turing were known homosexuals. Careful pondering and scholarship has gone into trying to understand how they generated their unique contributions. Social alienation, oppression, and lack of family life must have informed something of their thinking. Maybe their experience lives on in how we are taught to think about these subjects.
But there is a question here, if we recognize that the start of our intellectual journey may be built on motivations which do not serve the truth, then do we reject them? Well probably not. The issue is still whether they serve life. Is it fair to reject determinism and accept free will, because a belief in determinism restrains our lives and the possibilities? All the foundational assumptions people carry around about ideas they believe might be started in a falsehood.
Even then it is a well recognized fallacy that you can’t derive an ought from an is. The core beliefs about how we ought to live in this world are only guided by how the world is. We can’t use facts to justify our desires and motivations, they are simply innate to who we are as people.
If we recognize that as beings we have an independence from truth, altruism, and all the higher ideals; then, we are beyond good and evil.