Week 3: Sources – Nietzsche’s “On Truth and Lies” and Surrealism


Nietzsche young
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

Thank you for your Metamorphosis Papers! This week we’re exploring some of the sources that influenced the development of Magic Realism. Tuesday we’re reading a short by the philosopher Nietzsche (whom Kafka LOVED). This essay is called “On Truth and Lies in the Extra-Moral Sense” (“extra-moral” meaning beyond ‘it’s good to tell the truth and it’s bad to lie’; Nietzsche was into going beyond…). His language is dense, but read through it and we’ll talk about it on Tuesday- it’s pretty fascinating once you get down to what he is saying.

You can access it here:

Nietzsche_Truth and Lies PDF

nietzsche_truth-and-lies_a Docx. (here I underlined the points I want to focus on)

“The Treachery of Images” Rene Magritte, 1928-9

Some ideas to remember from Nietzsche:

  1. Brute Reality is different from the realities we create with language. We are “hanging in dreams…on the back of a tiger” (2).
  2. Language is a social construction – we agree on meanings, but it is not the same as the Real.
  3. We tend to believe in the constructions we make with language and forget that they are illusions/constructions.
  4. Language is a metaphor, just a sound or a word – it will always be separate from the Real thing/ there is a GAP between language and reality [Literature exists in that gap!]
  5. Language cannot be Real because it is based on human concepts and abstractions – the word “leaf” does not apply to all the leaves in the world. The word “justice” does not relate to a Real Solid thing, it is a human idea and can change.
  6. Example – “It’s raining on the map, not the territory!” (David Foster Wallace).

Some Nietzsche quotes:

“No ‘leaf’ ever wholly equals another, and the concept “leaf” is formed through an arbitrary abstraction from these individual differences” (4).

“What then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms–in short, a sum of human relations” (4).

“Everything which distinguishes man from the animals depends on this ability…to dissolve an image into a concept….the construction of a pyramidal order according to castes and degrees, the creation of a new world of laws, privileges, subordinations, and clearly marked boundaries  a new world” (5).

“He forgets that the original perceptual metaphors are metaphors and takes them to be the things themselves” (6).

More on Nietzsche:





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