Monday, May 19, 2008

Philosophy Hour: Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil

I tried reading through my copy of Beyond Good And Evil, but it was also beyond comprehension; for me anyways. The text is just full of aphorisms and thoughts separated into multiple chapters. Each highlighting a different facet of Nietzsche's perspective. I might not have been able to read it because of what is lost in translation as the original work was in German. Instead, I used good ol' Sparknotes as my guide and referred to the book to verify the arguments.

This is a philosophy piece and thus prompts you to think. It provokes very different thought than usual philosophers. Nietzche tries to prod the reader to consider what he reads from philosophers; as they are inclined to force you to think how they do, or convince you that how they, the philosopher, thinks is the "right" way. In fact, by doing this, Nietzsche openly subjects his own work to judgment.

Perspectivism. This is what I think is the strongest argument from his work. He challenges the thought of "absolute truth." He posits that any truth is subjective. The same observation could result in different interpretations based on who is seeing it, and similarly some "truths" or rather opinions change over time. That is why he has an aversion to writings or language. They are fixed in time, and are only relevant at that time. Languages grow, but the words are unable to change with it. These words are forms of thought that someone has affixed to a word and will no longer be accurate as the words change meaning over time. In my opinion, this is especially true in religious teachings and texts as certain ideas made sense in the time they were written, but no longer correlate with modern society as it has not evolved with civilization. This creates conflict between those who follow the written word literally as to those who take it as interpretation.

Truth is such an interesting concept. There are so many concepts of how truth is no longer truth, and as I have said above, only relevant at the time. Such ideas in science such as Newton and Einstein on space/time, Ptolemy and Copernicus on the geocentric/heliocentric, and all those other "truths" that have been shattered. The same problems viewed from different perspectives can yield any multitude of "right" observations. In all fairness, no one can really claim the truth. They can only claim what they think is true, and only at that time. What Nietzsche tries to champion is the idea of taking everyone's opinion and going from there rather than just believing in one and ignoring the rest.

We must rather ignore "truths". If someone believes in a "truth", then it means that they have chosen their perspective and chooses to regard other opinions as false. We must move to a higher level and rather believe that truth is fluid, and changes as people need it to. We must ignore assumptions, and base our beliefs on knowledge instead. Facts that can be proven, and hold no perspective, and only give information without an opinion. If we can use this knowledge and listen to opinions, be open-minded, and then we may start looking for truth by being open to possibilities.

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