On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense

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On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense (German: Über Wahrheit und Lüge im aussermoralischen Sinne, also called On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense[1]) is a philosophical essay by Friedrich Nietzsche. It was written in 1873, one year after The Birth of Tragedy,[2] but was published by his sister Elisabeth in 1896 when Nietzsche was already mentally ill. The work deals largely with epistemological questions about the nature of truth and language, and how they relate to the formation of concepts.


Nietzsche's essay provides an account for (and thereby a critique of) the contemporary considerations of truth and concepts. These considerations, argues Nietzsche, arose from the very establishment of a language:

According to Paul F. Glenn, Nietzsche is arguing that "concepts are metaphors which do not correspond to reality."[4] Although all concepts are metaphors invented by humans (created by common agreement to facilitate ease of communication), writes Nietzsche, human beings forget this fact after inventing them, and come to believe that they are "true" and do correspond to reality.[4] Thus Nietzsche argues that "truth" is actually:

These ideas about truth and its relation to human language have been particularly influential among postmodern theorists,[4] and "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense" is one of the works most responsible for Nietzsche's reputation (albeit a contentious one) as "the godfather of postmodernism."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Walter Kaufmann's translation, appearing in The Portable Nietzsche, 1976 edition. Viking Press.
  2. ^ Portable Nietzsche 42.
  3. ^ Portable Nietzsche 46.
  4. ^ a b c Glenn, Paul F. (December 2004). "The Politics of Truth: Power in Nietzsche's Epistemology". Political Research Quarterly. 57 (4): 576. doi:10.2307/3219819.
  5. ^ Portable Nietzsche 46-47.
  6. ^ Cahoone, Lawrence E. (2003). From modernism to postmodernism: an anthology. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 109.

Further reading[edit]

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