Reflections on Becoming “Truths”
Wed. 3-4 – Phil. 184
and “the World” as Becoming
In The Will to Power, an expansive and stylistically convoluted accumulation of Nietzsche’s private reflections, we encounter the following train of thought, symbolically embedded within a passage that is virtually in the eye of the tempestuous text: “The character of the world in a state of becoming as incapable of formulation, as ‘false’, as ‘self-contradictory’. Knowledge and becoming exclude one another”(517).
As soon as this fragmentary and enigmatic claim passes before our eyes, we find ourselves attempting to parse its disjointed prose in an effort to seize its meaning—a universal response that has, within our peculiarly human inclinations, has become instinctual to the point of automatism. Yet this automatism, which expresses itself in both our incessant compulsion to extract meaning where it is perhaps altogether absent and an impulse to subsume all under the scope of our conceptual framework, exposes the very phenomenon which stretches throughout all of Nietzsche’s texts, from The Birth of Tragedy and The Gay Science to his posthumous magnum opus, and which crystallizes in this particular discontinuous and apparently senseless claim, though it is itself only a shiver of The Will to Power: namely, that such an attempt to locate a definite meaning, within even the most fissured of lines, is precisely a thoughtless process, a symptom of the great error, ‘consciousness’, that is in reality a condition of a general unconsciousness. It is a critique of the involuntary automatism through which we apprehending the “truth” behind the words as merely a gesture of “conceptual translation” which only serves to sustain the theoretical dogmatism that places the most well-meaning truth-seeker on the path to nihilism.
Our way of interacting with the world consists in acts of abstraction to essential meanings according to our schemas of representation and of the reduction of multiplicities to unities. Such rationalization now operates involuntarily-- as something unconscious, more as a lurking disease incapacitating possible perspectives on the world, a madness brought about by infatuation with knowledge that has settled into our psychologies and which we can no longer function without. It is a trait, as Nietzsche tells us, that is necessarily a part of our development as cognizant human beings, an inheritance which becomes as essential to our existence as the biological organ of the heart: “In a world of becoming, "reality" is always only a simplification for practical ends, or a deception through the coarseness of organs, or a variation in the tempo of becoming”(580). It is because we “lack any sensitive organs for this inner world” that we come to sense “a thousandfold complexity as a unity”(523). Yet we find ourselves struggling with Nietzsche’s claim, and soon become conscious of this struggle. In our confrontation with the claim’s unfamiliar conceptual combination, we are met with a certain opaqueness that deranges our expectations of transparency in the presence of three central riddles involving contradictory statements: the first riddle, being “the character of the world”, a confusion of ‘character of a person’ and ‘the nature of the world’; the second, being the self-contradicting articulation of that which is “incapable of formulation”; the third, being the jumbled dichotomy of “knowledge and becoming”, when it seems to be the case that it is the pairings of “knowledge and ignorance”, “becoming and being” that exclude one another. However, in its non-sense, it inaugurates a multiplicity of senses. It is meaningless, senseless, without direction, and in defying conventional syntax...
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