[Unfinished] Being as a Logos, the Normativity of Truth, on Circularity and Other Loose Ends, and a Response to My Critics
Is not to write, once more, to confuse ontology and grammar?
— Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, p. 78
The problem of the value of truth confronted us — or was it we who confronted it? Which of us here is Oedipus? Which the Sphinx?
— Friedrich Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 70
Within metaphysics, there has almost always been an “unpenetrated certainty that Being is a Grammar” as Jacques Derrida puts it and that “the world is in all its parts a cryptogram” to be “decipher[ed]” through logical reasoning (Derrida, Writing and Difference, p. 76). Derrida, here, is totally going beyond any Cartesian skepticism of the past, because, whereas the problem of the Cartesian demon can be easy dismissed in regards to “foundational logic” as we will call it, Derrida’s suggestion that there is a possibility that “the universe just does not conform to our rationality in any respect” cannot as easily if at all be diffused prima facie (Burgess, Transcendent Apriorism, p. 179). My suggestions in this essay are, first, that Derridian skepticism is stronger than Cartesian skepticism, second, this Derridian skepticism is similar to the Nietzschean skepticism found throughout the 1880s, and, third, that both Derridian and Nietzschean skepticism can be gotten past.
Friedrich Nietzsche has proposed many perplexing questions and awe-inspiring notions that have captured my mind, body, and soul. His most brave question was a simple one but absolutely devastating to any dogmatic non-skeptic: “Why not rather untruth?” (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 70). Furthermore, his provoking commentary on the ontology of logic in The Will to Power forces us to question any dogmatism that might exist within our theories regarding logic’s truth conduciveness and its supposed intimate relation to Being.
Let us first clarify that when we speak of Being we only mean to indicate “the bare fact of existence” not “being alive” or “being a particular substance” (Burgess, Transcendent Apriorism, p. 226). Second, let us realize while Derrida’s propositions only deal with metaphysics, Nietzsche’s deal not only with metaphysics but also with epistemology and ethics. Nietzche not only questions logic’s epistemic validity and its connection to reality but also questions truth’s normative value. “Why ought I value truth over untruth?” the Nietzschean skeptic asks.
Let us deal with Nietzsche on logic first since it is, or at least a part of it is, the easiest to deal with and refute or, at least, respond to. We must turn to Book III of The Will to Power, “Principle of a New Determination of Values,” specifically section five of Part I, “The Will to Power as Knowledge,” titled “The Origin of Reason and Logic.” For Nietzsche, logic is a result of “utilitarian considerations” which result from our “practical needs” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 299). Logic and reason only serve to colonize the world and the chaos it abounds. What Nietzsche is doing here is making the argument from evolution against logic. He is holding that logic, reason, and various a priori rules all “may be nothing more than the expression of what serves the purposes of a particular race or species, their utility alone constituting their ‘truth’” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 299). Such an argument is only presented as a defeater by way of the use of reasoning, a priori inferences, and logic. Such an argument is of the same type as all other forms of a priori skepticism about very, very fundamental and “basic” logic: self-defeating.
Later on, Nietzsche proposes that the principle of non-contradiction (hereinafter referred to as the PNC) as Aristotle formulated it has presuppositions. For Nietzsche, it is not clear whether Aristotle put the PNC forward as a descriptive or normative principle: “Was Aristotle claiming something with it [the PNC] concerning reality and being, as if he already knew … contradictory predicates could not be ascribed to it [reality]; or does the principle [of non-contradiction] mean that contradictory predicates should not be ascribed to it?” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). Nietzsche’s argument goes on to say that if the latter is the case, “logic would be an imperative, not to know the truth, but to establish and arrange a world which we are obliged to call true” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). The obvious issue here is that Nietzsche is supposing only the former or the latter possibilities can be the case, but he is wrong. Contrary to Nietzsche, we can propose that one ought to believe the truth and that logic is a part of the truth, thus logic here is both normative and descriptive in that it is a part of the normative world of truth but is a descriptive law about the world of truth.
Now, Nietzsche holds that the PNC cannot be descriptive because “in order to affirm” that such an account of logic is the case “we must already have a knowledge of being which is emphatically not the case,” “therefore [the PNC] is no criterion of truth, but rather an imperative as to what shall be deemed true” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). Obviously, Nietzsche is making inferences here, he is making conclusions that exist in the world that “shall be deemed true” by the standards of reason, thus Nietzsche has not escaped reason here (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). Sadly for Nietzsche, he is making an argument and he is making such an argument using reason. He thinks it results in reason defeating itself, but like all other forms of a priori skepticism, that is simply not the case, for, just like with the Cartesian skepticism that speaks of the evil demon, one defeats their own defeater when they try to defeat those laws under which their defeater comes to gain its validity. So, not only is Nietzsche mistaken on the supposed bind regarding the normativity vs. descriptivity of logic but he is also in a position of self-defeat even if we accept his premises.
Nietzsche then goes on to speak of a key presupposition of “every principle of logic (and mathematics): “self-identi[ty]” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). Having the principle of identity (hereinafter referred to as the POI), A is A, in mind, Nietzsche argues that if “A were already an illusion, then logic would have a merely illusory world as its presupposition” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). Let us think of what Nietzsche could mean by this. If by this latter quotation Nietzsche means that Being must be for logic to have something to apply to, then there is not necessarily any disagreement between us and Nietzsche on a metaphysical level. But, if this is what Nietzsche is saying, he isn’t really demonstrating that logic isn’t truth conducive and is therefore not at all leveling a critique. I offer a steelman of Nietzsche’s argument here. Let us say that Nietzsche is arguing that if self-identity was a principle Being operated under and that contradictions could abound, then the laws of logic that have behind them the POI would be false. But this is not at all an argument because all it is stating is that if the POI was false then it would be false — nothing more than a vacuous tautology. But, this is not what Nietzsche is arguing. Nietzsche is arguing that “our belief in things is the presupposition of all belief in logic” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). Nietzsche, again, is wrong. Whether or not there are “substance[s], attribute[s], object[s], subject[s], action[s], etc.” is not all that is within logic’s domain (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). We can have chains of inferences that talk only of epistemic notions, with no mention of action, substance, subject, attribute, and/or object, no mention of the world, or metaphysics. Let us strengthen his argument and say that there can be no subject in the sense of the subject of the sentence. What Nietzsche must hold is that there is nothing, but even this is a contradiction in the sense that it holds that nothing is. It is like this: just because logic has no-thing to rule over, does not mean it is in turn nothing, or is not. If nothing is not logocentrically “structured,” then does it not possibly contain something for logic to preside over?
Nietzsche continues and speaks of a supposed “faith in the possibility of knowledge” and a supposed “faith in our judgements’ capacity for truth” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 300). But where is such faith in Jackianism? Never has it existed within my theories! No presuppositions in regards to our judgment or the possibility of knowledge were ever made. Rather, Jackian epistemology went five months, January to May, without ever holding it could know a thing! There was nothing until the retreat to epistemic privacy was made, then there was knowledge! It seems Nietzsche believes we’ve had more faiths: “a faith that we are able to form concepts, a faith that concepts not only indicate but also capture the essence of a thing” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 301). But, where were these faiths? Again, nowhere! I’ve said in the past that whether or not a word, term, or concept can exactly represent what it is attempting to represent in itself is of no matter as long as what it is attempting to represent is communicated and/or understood.
Nietzsche goes on to speak of the proposition that “I cannot have two contradictory sensations at the same time” as “quite vulgar and false,” but is it (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 301)? Hot and cold are not contradictory sensations, for example. One may feel so cold it is hot, and it stings. Two contradictory sensations would be p and not-p, so not hot and cold, but hot and not-hot at the same time. Nietzsche gives no example of feeling hot and not-hot at the same time in the same place, in the same percept, etc. In other words, percepts and the world may be so complex and our minds simple, so simple in fact we have no conception of the chaos outside us (in a sense, does Nietzsche not propose we stupefy reality?), and in this chaos outside of us, hot and not-hold may abound, but to our bodies, it is impossible for such to coincide. Nietzsche obviously falls to what I’m speaking of because his example of a contradiction is something being “both hard and soft at the same time” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 301). It seems that not even Nietzsche was brave enough to suggest that something being both hard and not-hard at the same time.
It seems that Nietzsche’s main proposition is this: “Knowledge and becoming are mutually exclusive” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 301). Is this the case though? If it is, then if we have knowledge, can we not say that Nietzsche’s whole claim to becoming “being the case” to be false? Certainly, to the latter question, to the former, we must investigate! Is it the case that knowledge and becoming are mutually exclusive? Is it true that “knowledge is only possible on the basis of a prior belief in being?” as Nietzsche suggests (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 302)?
It seems that Nietzsche is returning to Heraclitus and the position so many post-Socratic Greeks held, the position that the doctrine of flux prevented any acquisition of knowledge (or at least empirical knowledge). Nietzsche, however, is taking the wrong advice from Heraclitus… He should have listened when Heraclitus said, “Stupidity is better kept a secret than displayed” (Heraclitus, Fragments, p. 73). Or, maybe, Nietzsche should have gone and become a cook, for “Goat cheese melted in warm wine congeals if not well stirred” (Heraclitus, Fragments, p. 53). Jokes regarding Heraclitus aside, let us understand that Nietzsche held that if things were in flux then knowledge was impossible. But why is this the case? Why would something being transitory make it to where knowledge would be impossible? We may not be able to say something about an entity in the future because it could change, but how are we barred from making judgments regarding its past states? If I see a crow fly by and then let us say it lands in front of me an hour later, could I not make the judgment that in the past this particular crow was flying, or, at the very least, was in a different state as before, at least, as the crow appeared to me. The fact of the matter that Nietzsche seems to ignore is this: even if our perceptual reports are not relliable, even if they are not truth conducive, can we still not note some facts about appearance? Even if the crow was not flying and it was actually doing something else within the ontological chaos that abounds all about can we still not note that as the crow appeared to us that it appeared to be flying? Would we not know this? Furthermore, why need there even be external observation? Can we not know of what goes on in our minds? The non-inferential process of internal reflection is certaintly apt for private justification. I know that I have been thinking of a crow in my mind for quite awhile now. Whether or not these beings are fictions, can we not have real knowledge of these fictions, or, to put it in better words, can we not argue that if entities are this way, then xyz things can be known? Would that not count as knowledge, true and justified? It certainly would… Nietzsche’s arguments against logic in The Will to Power have thus been defeated. Let us finally note that even Nietzsche admits that rational thought is something “which we cannot discard” (Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p. 304). Now, let us turn to the skepticism of Nietzsche that regards truth instead of logic, for it is that Nietzsche who questions truth that presents a greater problem to us.
I must first speak on the subject of language. Nietzsche has such a great skepticism regarding language, as does Derrida, but I feel Nietzsche’s is probably greater. There is a question which comes first in linguistics and it is a question of if language is even truth conducive. The obvious issue with answering such a question is that if one uses any propositional reason, then they would be supposing that language is truth conducive or at least possibly truth conducive. There isn’t much of a threat in this question for Jackian epistemology, though. For Jackian epistemology, non-propositionality is key to any epistemic foundation, thus the whole issue of language can be evaded. A theory of linguistics is not at this time needed, but what is needed is a theory of truth!
Truth is the object of many of Nietzsche’s critical attacks and I don’t believe anyone has doubted truth more than Nietzsche. Nietzsche looks at the will to truth and questions “the value of this will,” for “[w]hy not rather untruth? And uncertainty? Even ignorance?” (Nietzshce, On Truth and Untruth, p. 70). What has finally contronted us is “[t]he problem of the value of truth” (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 70). We, Jackians, have largely beaten the skeptic within epistemology. Justification, belief, etc. have all been conquered and reclaimed from the skeptics, but the always allusive land of truth continues to escape us, but no longer! It is time to raise our armies against the skeptics one final time within the lands of epistemology! Let us reach the truth! Nietzsche speaks of “[t]he martyrdom of the philosopher,” of the philosopher’s “sacrifice to truth” (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 76). LET US BE MARTYRS!
When we have beaten the skeptic to near death, they will, as a final resort, plea with us for their life. But, the skeptic, always being a trickster, is readying themselves for the final dialectical exchange. They begin: “Why not nonknowledge?!” We look at them startled. They continue, “Why knowledge at all?” (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 84). We respond, “Becuase knowledge is justified and true!” They scream, “Why care for what is justified?” We respond once more, “Because only once we have justification are entitled to say we have a right to believe — once we have justification, we realize we are in the right!” They wail at us, “But why truth!? Why not rather untruth?” How do we answer them? How do behead the skeptic crying to us on their knees? How do we claim the entitlement to execute philosophical confusion once and for all?
I believe that Nietzsche is right when he says that the stand against the skeptic that will result in the skeptics execution will be a “stand on moral ground” (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 90). Standing on this moral ground, waiting to give elaboration by way of the sword, we hear the skeptic say their saying, “There is, strictly speaking, no such thing as ‘presuppositionless’ science — the very idea is unthinkable, paralogical: a philosophy, a ‘faith’ must always be there first, so that from it science can acquire a direction, a sense, a limit, a method, a right to exist” (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 108). The skeptic continues, “You have a faith, executioner!” “What faith?” We ask them. “[A] faith in a metaphysical value, the value in itself of truth” (Nietzshce, On Truth and Untruth, p. 108).
Is Nietzsche right about Jackianism? Is Nietzsche right that “to put philosophy ‘on a rigorous scientific foundation,’ first has to stand ont only philosophy but truth on its head” (Nietzshce, On Truth and Untruth, p. 109)? I’d say no, but I’d say that Nietzsche is right that “the will to truth stands in need of justification” (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 110). Once such justification is provided, let us understand that Nietzsche is wrong about the proposition that “there is a gap here in every philosophy” and that he is even more wrong about the proposition that the ascetic ideal is only a dogma that can never accrue justification (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, p. 110). Now that “the value of truth [has been] experimentally called into question,” how are we to deal with it (Nietzsche, On Truth and Untruth, pp. 110–111)?
The truth bind created by Erik and I about a year ago must first be dealt with. Our argument went as follows:
P1) A truth theory sets forth the sufficient grounds to determine whether or not a certain proposition is true.
C1) If one says “X theory of truth is true,” they are presupposing a theory of truth.
P3) If a proposition as to whether or not a certain theory of truth is true is determined in virtue of that same theory of truth, then the argument is circular.
P4) If the sufficient grounds for establishing a theory of truth is through another theory of truth, then the argument would be self-defeating.
C2) Truth-theories are either self-defeating or circular. (Jack and Schulz, EvanJackDebate Medium, “On Truth Theory”)
Let us go over each premise and conclusion. Premise four is obviously the case, but if we can deny premise three and conclusion one then premise for matters not. Looking toward conclusion one, let us understand that if we suppose a theory of truth, that does not mean it is without justification. If I say, “I know xyz theory of truth to be true.” I am not supposing it to be true if I have a warrant. The issue comes with assuming a theory of truth to be the case, then trying provide proof for such. If I have no assumptions regarding a theory of truth, or, in other words, if I have no faith, but the knowledge just intuitively comes to me, then what fallacy have I committed? None! Do we not suppose that intuition can lead us to the truth, however? Not at all! We just know such a thing. By way of what do we know such a thing? If I responded intuition, would circularity now come upon us? Let us ponder this.
If I say that I know intuition can lead me to the truth by way of an intuition, am I supposing that intuitions can lead me to truth? Not at all! For, it is only once they have led me to truth that I hold such a thing to be the case. Well, how will I know that intuition led me to the truth? Obviously, by way of an a priori process of reflection, but is that process not in a sense intuitive? Is reasoning not an intuitive process? Reasoning is an a priori process, at the very least. BonJour speaks of the“[t]he conection between premises and conclusion” to be “intellectualy visible” by way of rational insight (BonJour, In Defense of Pure Reason, p. 203). Reasoning may be discursive in the sense that there is an “internal monologue” so to speak. But, any process of inference making certaintly is made up of deductive intuitions. As Mark Burgess explains it, “Deductive intuition is the rational intuition of the secondary propositions that result from the process of deduction” (Burgess, Transcendent Apriorism, p. 65). The point I am trying to make here is more that the idea that some intuitions are truth conducive is only the result of my having of intuitions that led me to the truth. No supposition regarding the truth conduciveness of intuition was made, I can only recognize such a fact. Furthermore, the point I’m trying to illustrate is that intuition being truth conducive cannot be critiqued, for all argumentation that uses inferences (i.e., all discursive/non-intuitive, arguments) has some deductive intuition underpinning it. One could make an argument by way of an intuition that intuition is not truth conducive, but we obviously can see how this is self-defeating. The recognition of a connection between premises and a conclusion which has been seen as that which we call an “inference” is intuitive.
That our theory of truth is foundational, is necessary, for if we have no idea of truth, and truth is a key part of knowledge, then no inference toward a truth theory could be made. Thus, our theory of truth must be non-inferential, for no inferential movement toward the truth can be made without having a theory of truth as described in premise one of Erik and I’s old argument. What is illuminated here is that truth can be determined by way of certain intuitions. Thus, we have an intuitionist theory of truth. If inferential movements are intuitive as well, then let us understand that there is no other way to reach the truth than by way of intuition. As Richard A. Cohen says in The Theory of Intuition in Husserl’s Phenomenology, “Intuition is the key to validity, the key to sifting genuine meaning from illusory meaning,” i.e., the key to sifting truth from untruth (Cohen, The Theory of Intuition in Husserl’s Phenomenology, p. xviii). But, what is truth?
This may not be enlightening at all, but truth is simply an epistemic property of a proposition that denotes that whatever it is a property of is the case. To put it more simply, what is true is the case. So, when Nietzscheans scoff at the idea of the true world, by our understanding of truth, they are scoffing at the world that is the case, they are scoffing at what is the case. The term truth is a lot like Heidegger’s understanding of Being.
Looking at the first conclusion, we have demonstrated its felicity, for we had no faith in our theory of truth before we knew it was the case, we had no proclamation of it being the case, rather we waited until we actually found the truth and then described it. Justification for our theory of truth has been provided by way of our intuition of the truth. Thus, we can also reject premise three for our theory of truth was not determined by anything other than the truth and is thus true. In other words, we are only describing what is the case, what is true, never do we suppose such a conception and then go on to assert such a supposed theory as the case. We are not dogmatists! We do not force suppositions on reality!
How can we prove the normativity of truth without being caught up in a supposition? How can I tell the skeptic who is skeptical of truth to value the truth? It seems that the reason cannot be true, but if the reason compels us to take true beliefs to be the case and untrue beliefs to not be the case, then the reason cannot be untrue. If the reason is outside truth then I would say that is a very odd reason. How could we even consider it? What would it look like? If we consider the division between propositionality and non-propositionality to be a capacity for truth-aptness, then could we not say that we have a non-propositional reason for our belief in truth? Could we not have a non-propositional reason that justifies the normativity of truth, i.e., why we ought to believe in truth? Since a reason, as Erik and I define it, is nothing more than “something that points in favor or against a belief,” there is no reason why something that is non-propositional could not be a reason. Questions do not have propositional content but can help us break out of dogmas, e.g., rhetorical questions, and thus can be a reason. The ultimate question is if non-propositional reasons have assertive content, for if they don’t, then it would be hard to see how they point in favor of the normativity of truth being the case.
First, let us understand that the reason for our belief in the normativity of truth must be non-inferential, for the status of inferential reasons is dependent on its premises and thus it will have a truth status (basic truth tables demonstrate what I’m talking about). Our reason must be not necessarily outside of truth in the sense that it isn’t the case, but it must be prior to what is the case in the sense that underlies what is the case. In a certain sense, this reason is to be the substratum of truth. The belief that results from this reason will be that we ought to believe in the truth, and this belief will certainly be true, but circularity is avoided because when it regresses, it doesn’t regress to another belief within the domain of truth but rather it regress to a non-inferential and non-propositional reason, outside the domain of truth-aptness, a reason neither untrue nor true, but a reason nonetheless!
Second, let us understand what our reason could be. If we understand that it must be non-inferential, then it could be the result of a posteriori or a priori intuition (i.e., perception and rational insight respectively) or self-knowledge. Understanding this leads us to take a pause of a moment and turn to a criticism of my solution to the logocentric predicament as it exists within epistemology.
Recently, Erik and I have debated this moral anti-realist named Danny. While debating him, he asked why the justification for logic had to come by way of intuition and not self-knowledge since both are non-inferential.
: Being’s Grammar is supposed to be logocentric to clarify.