Nietzsche Versus Descartes: And Some Notes on Knowledge and Morality (2155 words)

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Topic 1: Nietzsche’s Epistemology
Descartes is the first philosopher to precisely describe the gap between subjective experience and the reality of material objects that is always more than what appears in our subjective experiences. His task in Meditations on First Philosophy is to find some way of getting from our subjective experiences to the objective qualities material things have in their own right separate and apart from our experience of them. Science ultimately will be understood as that human activity which transcends our subjectivity and allows us to know things in the material world as they really are in themselves.
In “Truth and Lies in an Extra-Moral Sense” Nietzsche exams the very concept of “truth” and “honesty” and traces the origin of the imperative to tell the truth back to systems of power and conformity. In contrast to this imperative to tell the truth the human being’s most organic impulse is to create images and concepts of the world according to a “double metaphor”. For Nietzsche all perception, thought and language is a creative act and hence a fiction and lie. According to Nietzsche we never get outside of human fictions, we can only get outside of our own individual fictions and engage with those images and concepts created by other human beings (language, mathematics, religious systems, etc.). And we are disciplined by society to consider these other ways of describing the world “truth”.
Essay Prompt 1: Nietzsche’s Epistemology
Compare and contrast Nietzsche’s epistemological theory as put forward in “Truth and Lies…” with Descartes’ epistemological theory put forward in Meditations on First Philosophy. What would Nietzsche say to Descartes insistence that science is the best way of understanding the world? Which of these two thinkers to do you most agree with and why?

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In this paper, I try to make sense of the tussle of thought between Nietzsche and Descartes. If there ever was an opposite of epistemological views, it would be between Descartes’ “indubitable certainty” vested in the Cogito and Nietzsche’s claim that truth is nothing more than the fabrication of lies we weave. Although both thinkers seem to provide contrasting views of morality, an account of truth, and an opposing view on the nature of the self, their two philosophies, while not the same, share a common strand of suspicion.
The suspicion to be found in Descartes is the worry he has about the use of our senses to obtain knowledge. According to Descartes in Meditations On First Philosophy if our senses deceive even once, they should not be trusted (14). Although, Descartes’ logic makes sense, he seems to use suspicion of sensory knowledge to evade the intimate feeling that seems to come by being in a body. An example of what I am referring to is the sense that someone is behind you even though you cannot for sure. Or, the sense of taste, even though it can deceive you when you’re sick (since you cannot taste like you can when you are healthy) does not seem to downplay the familiarity we feel by being in a body. Nietzsche, I think, hints at this suspicion and offers another suspicion in its place. Senses may deceive us -- while for Nietzsche human beings are at heart deceivers. Nietzsche’s philosophy is targeted at those philosophers, like Descartes, who do not enjoy the body enough.
For Descartes, the indubitable nature of the Cogito -- the “I think” -- vouchsafes knowledge (18). For Nietzsche “Clever animals invented knowledge” (Nietzsche Portable Nietzsche 42). It’s not so much that we have reason; it’s that we’re clever enough to invent it! From this line of thinking, Nietzsche contends “to be truthful means using the customary metaphors” (Nietzsche 47). By contrast...
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