Reflections on Aphorisms #66

I had already picked out an aphorism for today when I realized that I had chosen one by Nietzsche yesterday.

So it’s Nietzsche all the way down then.

On a serious note, however, I think it’s worth noting that Nietzsche speaks to our times at least as much as any other philosopher. He’s all about what to do when the collapse of value structures comes rolling around, and you don’t have to look far to see examples of that in the modern day.

Aphorism 104

The lie is a condition of life.

Nietzsche

Interpretation

Now, I think it’s worth noting here that I wonder if there’s a translation issue here. I’m not a tremendous scholar of Nietzsche, but I would appreciate seeing the original German (assuming that Nietzsche said this originally in German) because I figure that the intent may have been more along the lines of “Falsehood is a condition of life.”

Of course, that’s an academic point.

One of the things that Nietzsche is very open about is his cynicism about the nature of people. He has strong contempt for the weak, but the contempt he has is often understood in the wrong way.

Nietzsche views weakness as a predominantly moral phenomena. Of course, there’s a little bit of cross-over here; if you had moral virtue you would be strong, so if you’re not strong then you must lack moral virtue. It is the case in general that all people lack moral virtue, even the saints have their shortcomings.

However, I think that Nietzsche doesn’t want to condemn those who are weak due to circumstances beyond their control.

Rather, what he’s talking about is those who let themselves wallow in weakness.

To talk about this particular statement, I think it’s worth paraphrasing in terms of original sin.

The lie can be understood not only in a literal sense, namely that people lie all the time and lying is often easier than truth-telling from a psychological perspective. It is much easier to avoid pressure than accept it.

The other side of this is a figurative archetypal sense. The unknown isn’t a lie in and of itself, but our perceptions of the world are riddled with falsehood and profligacy.

Any deliberate act to do anything other than fight against the slide toward falsehood, which is itself a parallel for the grand process of entropy, is to embrace both the nature and the doom (fate) of the world. Of course, that seems like it’s totally natural, but it’s also at odds with human purpose.

Nihilism, which Nietzsche decries (despite occasionally being viewed as a nihilist himself due to his statements about the death of God–he was mourning God, not attempting blasphemy), sees nothing wrong with entropy and death. In many ways, it’s the most natural philosophy, in the sense that someone who looks at the world in a strictly rational sense will be struck by meaninglessness.

Values coming from something concrete are worth having. Nietzsche argues that we must create our own, but also presents this as a feat impossible for humans. Jung argues that we’re approaching an age of the individual in which we will need to rethink our senses of value in the same way that major social changes have always required change.

As someone who is traditionally religious, I don’t have this same struggle in my life, though I will admit to have given it a lot of thought because my strength in my religious convictions is nearly matched by the strength of my doubt and weakness.

However, this much is true: Life is full of entropy, and the lie is one of many forms of decay that this can take.

Resolution

Fight entropy where I can.

Always tell the truth.

Never lose sight of what is valuable.

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