Nietzsche’s essay On Truth and Lies in the Non-Moral Sense was written in 1873. In his philosophical writing the author argues that metaphorical use of concepts does not reveal true essence of the things, thus cannot be perceived as “truth”. To emphasize the surrealism of this concert, the author starts his essay as a fiction story about beautiful intellectual creatures that lived on the start. However, the story ends rather abruptly – the star cools odd and the animals die. Such is the metaphor of the human living within society: being born as beautiful intellectual and creative, his inner self dies as his world cools off and gives way to a “rational” reality.
Humans are inherently intellectual creatures; however, the main purpose of the intellect is to provide the physically weakest living creatures with the chance of survival. Although human intellect does not last without man’s existence, it is because of the intellect the man think of himself as the center of the universe, even though his existence is not greater than and just as fleeting as that of a mosquito. This arrogance leads to deception. It is considered one of the manifestations of the simulation along with flattering, lying and cheating, acting and pretending, which provides a mean of preservation for man. However, a man is in the perpetual state of lying and being lied to, allowing himself being deceived even in the dreams. Where could the urging for the truth come from then? Man is constantly engaged in the struggle for peace of mind and seizure from the “war of all against all”. In order to have this peace and to exist socially, “a regularly valid and obligatory designation of things is invented”. This is the “first step toward attainment of this enigmatic urge for truth”. Respectively, the lie is defined as well.
As was determined earlier, man used different kinds of deceptions and, depending on how the truth is being manipulated, the harm can be caused. However, humans fear not the lie and the deception itself; it is the “hostile consequences” that one is apprehensive about. Similarly, men strive for the conveniences the “truth” brings rather than the “pure knowledge” itself, which gives his no benefits per se. Therefore, from the position of “truth” the language adequacy is discussed.
The words are merely reflections of the nerve stimulus and are metaphors that cannot adequately communicate the essence of things, but only concerts and “subjective stimulation”. They only show “the relations of things to man” and are suggestive. Thus, the language itself does not bear the truth and there cannot be a designation for the “thing in itself”, which is also evidenced by existence of different languages, where the same concept can be communicated differently.
Upon hearing the word, a mental image is created according to the concept learned earlier. The world is built on concepts; however, each concept created by the word can differ from the truth. Thus, the language cannot represent the truth. However, there is a paradox, because if the language would not exist, the truth would not exist either. The truth is “a sum of human relations …truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are”.
The society imposes obligations of using customary metaphors and, despite its inadequacy and inaccuracy, man is forced to be “rational” and to continue lying to be accepted by the society. If improper metaphors are used, the individual may be called “liar” and expelled from the society. These obligations stifle the urge for creativity. Although the quest for new is squelched by pragmatism in choosing correct metaphor, the society at large benefits from people thinking alike and using related concepts. This brings a measure of stability.
However, the quest for knowledge is essential, even if only to benefit and enhance comfort of man. Nietzsche is sarcastic about the claims that a man only seeks “convenient” truth rather than “pure knowledge”. The philosopher insists that the truth seeker is only interested to discover “metamorphosis of the world into man” and to “understand the world as something analogous to man”. And, as he argues in the beginning of the essay, man cannot “perceive himself completely”.
There is no “correct perception” for creating metaphors for discoveries. The subject and the object are habitants of different realities that are not related, and there is hardly a chance to make a “proper translation”. The metaphors created are rather abstract and conceptual. Thus, it is impossible to communicate the essence of things.
In an attempt to redefine the reality, a man is reaching into something that is akin to a dream – an art. Man has an inherent “drive toward the formation of the metaphors”. An art provides a medium for creating concepts that are not necessary true, but are intuitive way of alternative expression. Therefore, art present humans with the possibility of following intuition rather than rationality, thus have a happier and more colorful life. Rational man has better chances of protecting himself, but the intuitive man has more joy in life.