Research Paper on Truth:
In this research paper we are going to study the notion of truth as presented in the works of the famous philosopher – Friedrich Nietzsche, its relation to knowledge and philosophy and will try to compare and contrast his main ideas to those of Kant. The philosophy of Nietzsche was the root for a lot of interpretations of his ideas, at the moment it is still not so easy to speak about single agreed meaning of his works; it is only possible to split several major concepts and ideas, but still without identifying the meaning of each. Really important is, that Nietzsche seemed to present his moral opinions, not relating them to their truth; according to him, there was no need to neglect some statement only because it is false, falsehood he considered an absolutely essential life component. Thus, for Nietzsche truth should have rooted from ethics, from morality.
Nietzsche started his research of truth from the will to truth, asking several major questions – “What in us really wants ‘truth’?” he asks. “Why not rather untruth? and uncertainty? even ignorance?” (Nietzsche, 13). Further he concluded, that truth can not serve as solution of the problem, but as the problem itself. In its turn, Kant paid attention to the definition of truth, splitting nominal definition of truth from the real definition of it, which he also called the “criterion” of truth. This criterion presented, according to Kant, the regulation for determining whether the judgment is true or false. Kant underlined the absence of absolutely general criterion of truth, the reflection of this idea can be also found in the views of Nietzsche, but still their final outcomes were different.
Nietzsche could not agree with the statement of earlier philosophers, that “drive to knowledge” was the “father of philosophy”, thus philosophy should not be reduced to only search for truth or will to truth. “Philosophers — “wily spokesman for their prejudices which they baptize ‘truths’” (Nietzsche, 29). He argued, that before the philosophers were admired by their own truths and were not interested in truth as such; he even called the truth “the weakest form of knowledge” (Berkowitz, 34).
Kant referred to truth as to a property of statement, as a statement according to him, could be considered to be true if it corresponded to the facts. Thus, there is no real need for people to define what is true and what is not, as the truth, as well as facts, exists independently from people’s knowledge about them. However here seems to be a week point in Kant’s theory, as people can not always be sure about their perception of facts, thus their beliefs and statements can be different, even if the facts remain the same, and there is still no mechanism for defining the exact perception, reflecting the real truth of the fact.
Nietzsche expressed doubts, that people in general are able to live with truth, as they are rather prepared for the opposite. A person needs to be strong in order to live without truth and at the same time his struggle for truth would make him weak.
Ideas appear all the time in the minds of people; they have to conduct the endless research and examination of these ideas in order to transform them, if possible, into clear absolute knowledge. This is evident, that truth starts from mistakes, as it is always possible that the ideas even of the wisest men with the flow of time can turn out to be errors. Nietzsche wrote: “A conviction, always has its history – its previous forms, its tentative forms, its states of error.
It becomes a conviction, indeed, only after having been not a conviction, and then hardly a conviction” (Berkowitz, 82). Generations of people give place to other generations and the ideas of the past can be rejected or accepted by the coming generations; those, which are accepted, can be considered to be truths, which we can not deny. Speaking about experience and knowledge absorbed from the past, it is necessary to agree with Kant, stating, that this kind of knowledge and experience can not be limited only to truths, as well as there can not be knowledge separated from senses or vice verse the sensation can not be the only source of knowledge (Michalson, 142).
One of the main mistakes, made by people is discussed by Nietzsche in his book Menschliches allzu Menschliches, namely taking for truths all the things that were beneficial for them at the moment; they transformed them into permanent codes and rules, not taking into consideration, that they can be of great use and importance today, but absolutely not appropriate tomorrow. Nietzsche always underlined, that the current truth should be considered unique and true forever (Berkowitz, 111). Only starting from the times of Socrates, as Nietzsche stated, there appeared the concrete difference between the notions of “imminent truth” and “eternal truth”. Based on this Nietzsche built the link between the instinctive will to power and truth searching. Every person of a so-called higher type, as only such people were considered by the philosopher to be worth studying, should have an instinct for distinguishing false from true; thanks to this the growth of knowledge store was possible. Later in his writings, Nietzsche expressed an idea, that all people would like to “pit their feelings against the laws of majority”, as only the conflict of views can result in truth (Mazzino, 79). At the same time, Nietzsche considered fixed truths to be dangerous if existing for a long time.
Certainly Nietzsche opposed the theoretical doctrine of free will, as he believed, that acts of people were pure reactions against environment and results of their will to power, leaving now place for volition or responsibility (Berkowitz, 113). “A man, he argued, was not an object in vacuo and his acts, thoughts, impulses and motives could not be imagined without imagining some cause for them. If this cause came from without, it was clearly beyond his control, and if it came from within it was no less so, for his whole attitude of mind, his instinctive habits of thoughts, his very soul, so-called, were merely attributes that had been handed down to him, like the shape of his nose and the color of his eyes, from his ancestors” (Mazzino, 213).
Overall, we have discussed the main views and positions of Nietzsche and Kant regarding the nature of truth and its relation to ethical issues. There are some subtle common notes in the statements of the both philosophers; however their approaches to the notion and position of the truth in the societies were different.
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