Pardon me if this post ends up being obvious to everyone but me, but I’m trying to work out the relation between Nz’s perspectivism and truth, and I need to go back and retrace some steps.
Let’s start with a Kantian/Schopenhauerian division between the phenomenal and the noumenal. In other words, there is the apparent world — what we all take to be real when we’re not engaged in philosophy or religion — and the TRUE world, the real world, the ultimate reality that someone like God would know. Generally, there is a failure of correspondence between our beliefs and TRUTH. Perhaps we get some glimpse now and then, through the logic of pure concepts or through magnificent works of art or genuine moral insights. But on the whole, our beliefs are only metaphors for the TRUTH.
It shouldn’t take long (and historically, didn’t) before we begin to question just how sure we are that there is any TRUTH in this sense. After all, “TRUTH” could be just a concept we have invented, right? It could be a term we came up with in order (for whatever reason) to denigrate our own knowledge, our own experience, and the things we ordinarily value. It also could be a kind of security blanket, since it suggests that the things we love which change and die in our world are not significant in the Big Scheme of Things, and Better Things await when we shuffle off this mortal coil. And so, in this skeptical mode, we may well reject TRUTH.
But what are we left with? We are left with our own experience, and our own values and desires and fears. We may still desire truth, but now this means the kind of truth that we can see confirmed in our experience. And if we delve inward, into truths about the kinds of beings we are, we enter into psychology. Psychology delivers perspectivism. We discover that we, being the creatures we are, orient our beliefs and attitudes around the states we naturally crave — feelings of power, especially. Different people, with different backgrounds and prejudices, will cultivate different perspectives which promote in us the feelings we want to have. “Reason is slave to the passions,” as Hume said. And none of us, not even the scientists, is immune from this condition.
Perspectives are malleable. We can discover that a perspective doesn’t work for us, or no longer works, which means that we are not getting out of it what we want (subconsciously, in nearly every case). We can change perspectives, compare perspectives, and argue over them. As a rule, we take them very seriously, and not merely as perspectives, but as truth or even TRUTH.
But perhaps there are some values in us that are completely intersubjective, meaning all humans have them and try to accommodate them through their perspectives. Nz suggests that we all value truth, and we all value health. The first value, he thinks, leads to perspectives which in the end do not do sufficient service to the value of health. Truth leads to the ideal of asceticism, which both religion and science worship. So, in his revaluation of all values, he proposes that we give the value of health pre-eminent status, and we start building perspectives that encourage us to affirm existence and seek out the means for increasing our own power.
This does not mean there is no such thing as truth, or that truth is not valuable. After all, there are truths about what really is healthy for us and what is not. But it does mean that our intentions and focus needs to shift to something like, “What will this do for us? What effect will this human pursuit have upon our larger pursuit of health?” The result is a radical psychological pragmatism, grounded in a concern for psychological strength. It is rather like urging a new perspective on a suicidal patient, in hopes of giving the patient a reason to live. (And biographically that must have been exactly what Nz himself needed.)
So Nz sees philosophers more as clinicians than as theoreticians. We have seen what valuing truth yields: nihilism and despair. As organic beings, it goes against our nature to want that. So, to serve our nature, we should try out valuing health over truth, and possibly even invent some ideas (like the will to power and the eternal recurrence) with the aim of encouraging in us the great health which says Yes to all things.
But what is the status of Nz’s insights into us as organic beings? It seems like he is broadly accepting a naturalistic, Darwinian account of us, coupled with his own pre-Freudian human psychology, all of which must be regarded as empirical. Are these beliefs merely perspectival? And if so, is there room for an alternative perspective? And if so, does Nz have any reason for preferring his own perspective to another?
My guess is that Nz does not really provide any such reasons. In part 5 of TI (“Morality as AntiNature”), he argues that we cannot ever be in a position to question the value of life/health. We would have to be able to adopt a perspective outside that of being a live animal in order to compare it with our perspective, and we can’t do that. But this all presumes that he has got “the perspective of being a live animal” right. If some one objects that we aren’t live animals, but something else (like incorporeal inhabitants of a body), or that live animals in fact do not value life/health, then it seems to me all he can do is blankly stare at the objector and say, “What peculiar psychological malady is prompting you to say this?” In other words, he can only try to pull them back into his perspective of what human beings are. I’m not sure this puts him in a bad position, since I myself think he’s got our nature right.