The Sense of the Past: Essays in the History of Philosophy

By Bernard Williams; Myles Burnyeat | Go to book overview

TWENTY-TWO
“There are many kinds of eyes”

“There are many kinds of eyes”, he says in the Nachlass [WP (The Will to Power)540](1885); “Even the sphinx has eyes—and consequently there are many kinds of 'truths', and consequently there is no truth.” Here “there is no truth” can mean that there is no one truth, and that is one thing that he means. But in another, and significant, remark from the Nachlass [WP 616](1885/6), the same phrase reappears in the company of what seems to be an uneasy suggestion that there both is and is not something that is being falsified by all these views of it:

That the value of the world lies in our interpretation (that inter-
pretations other than merely human ones are perhaps somewhere
possible—); that previous interpretations have been perspectival val-
uations by virtue of which we can survive in life, i.e. in the will to
power, for the growth of power; that every elevation of man brings
with it the overcoming of narrower interpretations; that every strength-
ening and increase of power opens up new perspectives and means
believing in new horizons—this idea permeates my writings. The
world with which we are concerned is false, i.e. is not a fact but a
fable and approximation on the basis of a meagre sum of observa-
tions; it is 'in flux', as something in a state of becoming, as a falsehood
always changing but never getting near the truth—for there is no
'truth'.

“The world with which we are concerned”: there is a question of quite what this means, a question that can come up as a question of translation. Cf BGE (Beyond Good and Evil) 34: “Why couldn't the world that concerns us be a fiction?”—(“die Welt, die uns etwas angeht”), which is near to “so far as we have anything to do with it” or “it is our business.”

There is, once again, certainly something awkward in putting together the idea that all these interpretations are false, that the world which they variously construct is a fable or, again, an approximation, with the idea that there is nothing for them to falsify or to approximate to. But we should read these words in the light of what comes before them. It is clear, first, that we should hold on to the first implication of the idea of a perspective that I mentioned before, that we can recognize that there are many perspectives, and know what some of them are. Nietzsche's idea of

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