Tag Archives: Nietzsche

Nietzche’s Truth-Loving Test

In this blog, I have kept a running list of tests for telling whether you love the truth, including:

Today, let’s add one from Friedrich Nietzche:

Something might be true, even if it were also harmful and dangerous in the highest degree; indeed, it might be part of the essential nature of existence that to understand it completely would lead to our own destruction. The strength of a person’s spirit would then be measured by how much ‘truth’ he could tolerate, or more precisely, to what extent he needs to have it diluted, disguised, sweetened, muted, falsified.

Friedrich Nietzche, Beyond Good and Evil, paragraph 39, translation by Marion Faber

I credit Jordan Peterson for bringing this to my attention. Riffing on Nietzche’s idea, Peterson said, “The pathway to who you could be if you were completely who you [are] is through the truth. …And so the truth does set you free but the problem is that it destroys everything that isn’t worthy in you as it sets you free” and that is often painful.

I can attest to the truth of what these gentlemen have said. It took me four decades of growing up before I was finally ready to squarely face some difficult questions about my own beliefs, and then it took four more years of study and critical thinking before I was ready to abandon those beliefs. It was very painful but it did set me free.

In my experience, Nietzche’s description of the weak-spirited person as one who needs to have the truth “diluted, disguised, sweetened, muted, [and] falsified” does not so much refer to the outer truth being examined (i.e., a belief system) as to inner the truth about the person himself: the fact that he harbors confirmation bias, and why he does; his willingness to go along to get along; his fear of life falling apart if he allows his beliefs to change; his attachment to the positive outcomes of his belief system; his need for life to make perfect sense; and many other counter-productive traits.

Until those character defects are exposed and rectified, the project of correcting the outer falsehoods is hopeless.

Are you facing the unpleasant truths about yourself? Take this handy homemade quiz and find out! Every “Yes” answer says you are on the right track.

  • When someone corrects your behavior, or an argument you are making, are you grateful rather than defensive?
  • Do you help your ideological opponents fashion the strongest possible argument for their position before you attempt a rebuttal?
  • Do you refrain from attributing bad motives to others unless you have incontrovertible evidence?
  • Have you given as much thought to your method of arriving at truth as to whatever you have concluded is the truth?
  • Do you often catch yourself believing what someone says because they are good-looking, or of your race? (We all do this, so if you’re at least catching yourself, that’s a good thing.)
  • Do you often catch yourself reflexively believing someone is “bad” because they disagree with your political or religious convictions? (Also something we all do, so the more you catch yourself, the better.)
  • And one more for these days of COVID-19: Do you respect the conclusions of acknowledged experts more than the opinions of your friends or conspiracy theorists?

Overcoming Blackness and Gravity

The universe is on its way to a slow, cold death.

In the meantime, global warming is causing record levels of wildfires.

Worst of all, Donald Trump is still at the top of the polls.

How can a serious-minded beagle keep his head up?

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Dancing on the Feet of Chance

When my daughters were small, we used to dance with one of them standing on my feet: I would dance and she would go along for the ride. Our course was up to me, but she enjoyed wherever I would take her. Sometimes, there wasn’t even any music — no external justification for the dance, if you will — just a light-hearted communion between father and daughter.

That’s what came to my mind when I read this passage from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The wise man, Zarathustra, is speaking to the pre-dawn sky.

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“You Had Not Yet Sought Yourselves…”

Are you a parent whose children have chosen a path far from yours? Are you a pastor, rabbi or imam who is frustrated at your flock’s seeming lack of interest? Are you a disciple of a particular religion who is having a hard time conforming? Here is a passage from Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra that may either encourage or challenge you.

Zarathustra is speaking to his disciples:

Now I go alone, my disciples. You too go now, alone. Thus I want it. Verily, I counsel you: go away from me and resist Zarathustra! And even better: be ashamed of him! Perhaps he deceived you.

The man of knowledge must not only love his enemies, he must also be able to hate his friends.

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When Has a Dragon Ever Died of the Poison of a Snake?

It has been a very public week for victims of horrible crimes. Dzhjokhar Tsarnaev’s victims spoke at his formal death sentencing, and the families of the Charletson Massacre’s victims have been in the national media.

Most noted among the Charleston families was Nadine Collier, who said to killer Dylann Roof, “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgives you and I forgive you.”

Rebekah Gregory, who lost a leg to Boston Marathon bomber Tsarnaev, struck a very different tone. Looking defiantly at the murderer, she said, “While your intention was to destroy America, what you have really accomplished is actually quite the opposite – you’ve unified us. We are Boston strong, we are America strong, and choosing to mess with us was a terrible idea. So how’s that for your VICTIM impact statement?”

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