A Language of Deception
- Word count: 1221
- Category: Language
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“It is a puzzling thing. The truth knocks on the door and you say, ? ”Go away, I’m looking for the truth,’ and so it goes away. Puzzling. ” The irony of Robert Pirsig touches on the strange encounter of self-deception. I know the truth and you do not; I intentionally hide the truth from you? ‘–this is the lie. But with this understanding of deception, how then, is self-deception possible? Does one know the truth about something and then, simultaneously, hide the truth from one’s self? How could this be: what makes it possible for a single person to be both deceived and deceiver?
Nietzsche makes self-deception a reality through the error of truth. Like Pirsig’s puzzling drive for truth, it is Nietzsche’s drive for truth that actually facilitates self-deception. In On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, Nietzsche’s treatment of truth supports this dichotomy of belief and actually breaks down the classical definition of the lie. In doing so, self-deception becomes possible and no longer fits into the guise of lying; error becomes all; self-deception becomes reality. There are two dichotic trends taking place at the same time: a will to ignorance and a will to knowledge.
“There is no drive toward knowledge and truth, but merely a drive toward belief in truth. Pure knowledge has no drive (95). ” This distinction being made is important for the possibility of self-deception, for it undermines the binary of being truthful to one’s self or deceiving one’s self. “? ‘… what they hate is basically not deception itself, but rather the unpleasant, hated consequences of certain sorts of deception. ” It is not truth or deception in itself that is the concern; rather, it is the consequences of truthfulness and deception.
In the case of the liar, he is shunned for the negative consequences of his lies, not the lies themselves; and “it is in a similarly restricted sense that man now wants nothing but truth: he desires the pleasant, life-preserving consequences of truth (81). ” This repositioning of the motives behind man’s drive for truth not only shines a positive light on deception, it makes the idea of self-deception all that more plausible if truth in itself is incomprehensible; Nietzsche examines this concept of truth in language.
For Nietzsche, language is the first level of lies that man tell himself in his strange, unintelligible search for truth. Words themselves are deceptive by their very nature, for the “further inference from the nerve stimulus to a cause outside of us is already the result of a false and unjustifiable application of the principle of sufficient reason (81). ” The very structure of language makes it impossible for it to bequeath truth in itself in words. “The creator only designates the relations of things to men, and for expressing these relations he lays hold of the boldest metaphors (82).
” And here is the first act of self-deception as posited by mankind’s drive to believe in truth: “we believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but the metaphors? ‘… which correspond in no way to the original entities (82-83). ” To call this a lie in the classical sense one would need to presuppose that there is some truth that the self holds and yet, at the same time, hides itself from; perhaps the ironic truth is “? ‘… that [mankind] is eternally condemned to untruth (On the Pathos of Truth, 65). ”
However, the very performance of saying this throws the logic into an endless loophole of negation. It does not appear then, that this form of self-deception can be corralled into being branded as a ? ”lie’ based upon the condition of knowing truth and then being untruthful about it. The question of intention does not quite fit either. The formation of concepts is the unintentional “equation of unequal things (83).
” In order to press the whole of reality into mankind’s service, in order to come to know something, there must be a system of simplification and thereby falsification in the process. This self-deception occurs “by overlooking what is individual and actual (83),” in other words, by claiming that the form is something that it is truly not. However, there is nothing conscious about this activity; it is mankind’s “duty to lie according to fixed convention? ‘… unconsciously and in accordance with habits which are centuries’ old; and precisely by means of his unconscious and forgetfulness he arrives at his sense of truth (84).
” Not only is there a longing to accept canonical untruths, to exist socially, there is a point where deception and self-deception are no longer apparently deceiving. “But when the same image has been generated millions of times and has been handed down for many generations and finally appears on the same occasion every time for all mankind? ‘… (85),” there is a “transformation of the icon into a simulacrum that then passes for the thing itself, ceases to represent it so as to replace it by destroying it? ‘… (Derrida, 65).
” One may argue that the conception of a concept does not follow a lineage of dementia; however, it still does not point to a consciousness. The idea that humans will there to be language and concepts, and that this willing has caused the very creation of these things is erroneous. “The ? ”inner world’ is full of phantoms and false lights: the will is one of them? ‘….. it merely accompanies events, it can also be absent (Twilight of the Idols, 60). ” With every route towards truth destroyed, self-deception becomes an inescapable truth; every effort to thwart this reality, leads to the further deception.
In drama between the conceptual man and the intuitive man? ‘–representing the extreme binaries of life? ‘–neither one escapes self-deception. “But man has an invincible inclination to allow himself to be deceived and is? ‘… enchanted with happiness when the rhapsodist tells him epic fables as if they were true? ‘… So long as it is able to deceive without injuring, that master of deception, the intellect, is free (89-90). ” Although that it appears that the two men live life quite differently, they both deceive themselves without injuring.
The rational man meets his needs through the self-deception of concepts and social conventions; the intuitive man casts off these socially defined, self-deceptions and instead opts to “counting as real only that life which has been disguised as illusion and beauty (90)” in order to enjoy life. If there is to be any truth-in-itself in this two-fold drama of self-deception, it is that both men err, to be sure? ‘–neither of them ever follows the path of truth. Yet, the logic of error is, of course, built upon the concept that there is something beyond the anthropomorphic pathways of convention.
And in this treatment of truth and lies by Nietzsche, life has become a history of the error? ‘–for that is all there is. Our errors, our self-deceptions, cannot always fit into our strange, sometimes arbitrary definitions of language; in this case, our anthologies of self-deception cannot be called lies, they are our reality. Embracing our fundamental creative power and acknowledging the illusion of our own making, like Nietzsche, may be the closest we ever come to achieving an authentic sense of truth.