Nietzsche’s philosophy is not as complicated as it appears to be. The reason it appears complicated is that people try to read some absolute meaning in it, which obviously it does not offer. People try to see his philosophy as a positivistic fat or reality, which obviously it isn’t. Like everything else it is open to interpretation.
So how should we approach Nietzsche? The answer is we should approach Nietzsche in a manner that allows us to interpret his philosophy in a certain paradigm of meaning. A paradigm that befits our own individual situations.
What I am proposing here is an interpretation of Nietzsche’s philosophy from my perspective.
Nietzsche’s Theory of Language
In the Semitic religious tradition, the most praised intellectual quality of humans is termed as the ability to name things. This ability to name things places humans above angels and the rest of the creation.
“And He taught Adam the names—all of them. And then He showed them to angels and asked, “Inform me of the names of these, if you are truthful.”
The angels couldn’t name the animals, but when the Lord asked Adam, he successfully named everything before him.
This ability to name things is the very basis of the human cognitive abilities. Man knows his world, and the objects in it through their names.
What is a name? In the world of linguistics, a name is called a sign, and it is a combination of two things. A sound, or a word, and a concept. The sound or the word we use in a name joins with a concept to form a name.
It is said that the sound or the word we choose for a concept in a name is arbitrary, means there may or may not be a reason behind its choice.
The other part of a name or a sign, the concept, is formed through a long social process. This process is very much like the process of qualitative research.
The process of research starts with something that we want to study. We gather data about that entity, analyze it and then formulate a theory about that entity, after careful sifting and reductions.
The same process is used in the formation of concepts. People of a community interact with an entity or a situation. They share their experience with each other through mutual discussions, and then, after a process of reduction, in which everything non-essential is removed from different experiences, a general concept is formed.
This concept is assigned a sound image, and the way this sound image is chosen isn’t based on any resemblance with the object it names. Like the word lion that we use for the concept of lion doesn’t bear any resemblance with the being it designates.
However, once a sound image is chosen for a concept, no one is allowed to use it for any concept other than the one for which it was chosen.
This regularity in the use of a certain sound image for a certain image is ensured and guaranteed by a strict tradition or convention.
Hence, we cannot use the word poor to designate a rich man, and if someone does so, use the designation rich for the poor, he will be called a liar.
A liar is the one who defies the conventional use of a sign, and uses it to designate a being for which it is not conventionally used. A fox can’t be called a wolf, and a wolf a fox.
This then is the sense in which we use the designations truth and lie. Truth means to stick to the convention, and lie mean to defy the tradition.
This sense of truth and lie has a great consequence for the societies where certain concepts become debatable.