Nietzsche
Even as a painting Friedrich Nietzsche appears ready to undermine our existence.


Much is said about the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900; pictured). However, much is poorly understood. Nietzsche’s work stretches across multiple disciplines. He was scatty, polemic, and arrogant. His philosophy, therefore, was susceptible to being thin on the ground. Nevertheless, he was able to craft some powerful ideas. The ‘Will to Truth’ is one of them.

Truth

From Nietzsche’s early, unpublished works it’s easy to get the impression he was a truth-denier:

'[T]ruths are illusions of which we have forgotten that they are illusions, metaphors which have become worn by frequent use and lost all sensuous vigour.' (On Truth and Lying in a Non-Moral Sense)



But Nietzsche furnished a more-mature notion of truth later in life. He did not claim that there is no such thing. Indeed, this argument is a truth-claim itself! Instead, he claimed that our beliefs do not fully correspond with how the world is.

That being said, Nietzsche was more interested in the psychology of truth than the semantics and epistemology of it.

Impulse

We have a ‘Will to Truth’, we truth-seekers. With it we are driven towards overriding old values and discarding old beliefs in favour of the truth.

But seeking truth does not always pay: it can make us obsessive and deprive us of valuable illusions.

'The falseness of a judgment is for us not necessarily an objection to a judgment; in this respect our new language may sound strangest. The question is to what extent it is life-promoting, life-preserving, species-preserving, perhaps even species-cultivating.' (Beyond Good and Evil)



Society

Nietzsche thought that our current valuing of truth is a holdover from Christianity—an ideology which perpetuated the idea that truth should be sought as a moral imperative. Ironically, he claimed, atheism is ‘one of its last stages of development’.

So let us finish on this thought: the Will to Truth might overcome itself—a paradoxical exercise to unmask our ‘true’ motives, so to speak, which will derail the truth of all that we made.

'[T]he will to truth has come to consciousness of itself as a problem . . . [M]orality will gradually perish.' (On the Genealogy of Morality)