Archive for April, 2012

Cheers!

So, friends and faithful followers, it seems that a website I used to publish my work on has gone bottom up… and not in a good way. ViewsHound.com is no more. I hadn’t published much there before the company went under, but I’d like to preserve it somewhere on the boundless internet, so I’m posting it on my own little chunk of the blogosphere.

In memory of ViewsHound, let me preserve these few articles here:

“Explaining psychologism, considering Husserl.”

“Evaluating empiricism in ethics, considering Hume and Levinas.”

“Aristotle’s syllogism and scientific knowledge.”

Stay tuned for further blog updates over the summer months! In the meantime, feast your minds on these previous hits!

Cheers!
Dave

To say that Aristotle was a prominent philosopher would be an understatement. He studied under Plato’s tutelage, he became the tutor of Alexander the Great, and he sired syllogistic logic. Aristotle was one of the greats. Perhaps the most enduring element of his philosophical meditations has been his syllogistic logic. To facilitate a better understanding of this, it is helpful to contextualize and explain what constitutes the syllogism and scientific knowledge in Aristotle’s epistemology.

Aristotle had loved truth more than the ideas of Plato, and he deviated from those teachings. A significant difference arose as Aristotle disagreed with Plato’s theory of the Forms. While Aristotle sought to discover universals, he did not hold that universals existed separately from their particular cases; he claimed that universals consisted of the collection of particulars and there was no appeal to some abstract Form. In the Posterior Analytics, Aristotle considers the nature of the relationship between universals and particulars. It is here that he discusses the syllogism, demonstration, and scientific knowledge, and here he relates the differences between his own ideas and those of his tutor, Plato.

Aristotle asserts that our knowledge of events comes from demonstration (71b.18). He makes this claim after addressing the dilemma of Plato’s Meno – that is, if knowledge is recollection, “either a man will learn nothing or what he already knows” (71a.29). The problem with this recollection theory of knowledge, as Aristotle points out, is that it renders the notion of learning meaningless: “the strange thing would be… if he were to know [something] in that precise manner in which he was learning it” (71b.8-10). Furthermore, Aristotle will affirm that scientific knowledge is a matter of understanding the cause of an event (71b.9-12), an understanding which need not be derived from some recollective sense of knowledge.

The essence of Aristotle’s view of attaining scientific knowledge is summarized in the following passage:

What I now assert is that all events we do know by demonstration. By demonstration I mean a syllogism productive of scientific knowledge, a syllogism, that is, the grasp of which is eo ipso such knowledge. Assuming then that my thesis as to the nature of scientific knowing is correct, the premises of demonstrated knowledge must be true, primary, immediate, better known than and prior to the conclusion, which is further related to them as effect to a cause. Unless these conditions are satisfied, the basic truths will not be “appropriate” to the conclusion. (71b.18-23)

Unfortunately, this passage may be difficult for some readers to fully and accurately interpret due to the large amount of loaded terminology. Thus, an explanation of the complex terms and their relevance follows.

Aristotle argues here that we uncover scientific knowledge through his logical syllogism (71b.18-20). His syllogism is the “recognition through a middle term of a minor term as subject to a major” (71a.24-25). Accordingly, the following is a logical syllogism:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

The conclusion follows from the truth of the premises where “men/man” is the middle term, “Socrates” is the minor, and “mortal” is the major. The syllogism functions such that the given premises lead us to, presumably, new information in the conclusion by means of the shared middle term in the premises.

However, Aristotle asserts that there are further criteria to be fulfilled before the syllogism will yield scientific knowledge. Before the syllogism can produce scientific knowledge, Aristotle requires that the premises “must be true, primary, immediate, better known than and prior to the conclusion” (71b.21-22). With these qualifications, Aristotle’s empiricist tendencies become evident. That the premises must be true places them as affirmations regarding existence, “for that which is non-existent cannot be known” (71b25-26). The premises must be primary and immediate in so far as they require no further appeal to account for their truth (71b.27-29). This also avoids the chance of infinite regress in founding the premises. When Aristotle requires that the premises be better known than the conclusion, he means there must be a particular in the given premises – that is, particulars are examples known to our senses and this restricts our truth claims to phenomena within the sensible realm (72a.1-5). Furthermore, Aristotle places the premises as prior to the conclusion because he claims that the premises cause the conclusion, and that scientific knowledge is only made clear upon discovery of the cause (71b.29-32). These conditions are meant to empower the syllogism to yield scientific knowledge without committing a fallacy.

As Aristotle asserts that scientific knowledge can only be demonstrated by the account of such a rigorous syllogism (72a.25-26), he effectively restricts scientific knowledge to that which can be observed in experience; he limits our knowledge to the a posteriori. With this theory of knowledge, Aristotle continues to argue against Plato’s a priori recollection theory of knowledge later in the Posterior Analytics. He claims that the a priori recollection of knowledge requires us to have an innate possession of apprehensions more accurate than those that demonstration could provide (99b.26-28). In the light of Aristotle’s argument, this seems counterintuitive.

Aristotle’s account of empirical, scientific knowledge is appealing and appears to be quite legitimate. However, while I agree with the notion that a posteriori sense perception is crucial in scientific accounts of the world and its causes, I do not feel that the syllogism’s premises need to have Aristotle’s degree of immediacy. Arguably, neither scientist nor philosopher has ever accomplished a solid foundation for scientific knowledge. As such, it is doubtful that we could know any premise as an immediate truth. Further, science builds upon its discoveries with a significant degree of accuracy. Surely, if science were to employ the syllogism as Aristotle prescribed it, then they would need to dismiss the immediacy criterion as it would hinder scientific progress. Nevertheless, that may be nitpicking over trivial matters.

The essence of Aristotle’s syllogism and account for scientific knowledge has endured much criticism and the test of time. The ideas he fostered have flourished and evolved throughout the history of philosophy. Aristotle affected philosophy, scientific knowledge, even the way we think about the world around us in a profound manner with his ideas about the nature of knowledge and the role of logic.

The question of distinguishing right from wrong is a question that every individual will face in their lifetime, but some philosophers have taken the question beyond its face value; it has been taken beyond differentiation, and the question has extended to discerning the source of morality and even the validity of morality. Directly tied to this search for morality is epistemology. Within the realm of what can be known, empiricism also asserts itself as a crux for ethical reflection.

Essentially, empiricism holds that all knowledge must be acquired through experience, a posteriori, and cannot be acquired by reason independent of experience, a priori. Philosophers have both asserted and denied empiricism’s tie to ethics, while the consideration itself entails some connection (even if that connection is empiricism’s lack of influence on ethics). Considering this dispute between empiricism and ethics, it is vital to evaluate the claims of both perspectives. The relevance and indispensability of empiricism to ethics become apparent through an analysis of the role of empiricism in the moral philosophies of David Hume and Emmanuel Levinas.

Hume’s moral philosophy strongly appeals to a posteriori methods. In A Treatise of Human Nature Hume asserts that “The understanding exerts itself after two different ways, as it judges from demonstration or probability; as it regards the abstract relations of our ideas, or those relations of objects, of which experience only gives us information” (Hume 413). This is representative of his empiricism. He recognizes that the faculty of reason can deal with concepts through deduction and induction. That is, our reason can consider deductive and inductive validity, but the truth must originate from experience. While reason can encompass the consideration of our experiences, Hume holds that it “never influences any of our actions” (Hume 414).

The philosophical stand Hume takes on epistemology supports empiricism. This empirical perspective shapes Hume’s views on ethics. Convinced that reason cannot by itself conclude a course of action, he insists “Since morals… have an influence on the actions and affections, it follows, that they cannot be deriv’d from reason” (Hume 457). He further presents his logic on the role of reason within morality quite clearly:

Reason is the discovery of truth or falsehood. Truth or falsehood consists in an agreement or disagreement either to the real relations of ideas, or to real existence and matter of fact. Whatever, therefore, is not susceptible of this agreement or disagreement, is incapable of being true or false, and can never be an object of our reason. (Hume 458)

Hume makes a distinction here that while actions may yield praise or blame “they cannot be reasonable or unreasonable” (Hume 458).

After determining the utter impotence of reason in its capacity to move one to act, Hume attributes one’s sentiments or feelings as the motivation for action. Thus, as our sentiments can provoke and prohibit action, it also becomes the source of morality (Hume 457). From this he exposes the source from differentiating right from wrong as “the impression arising from virtue, to be agreeable, and that proceeding from vice to be uneasy” (Hume 470). For Hume, morality is not the dictation of a priori reasoning, rather he holds that morality arises from a posteriori sentiment; the distinction between right and wrong is directly in accordance with the subjects perception of pleasure and displeasure, respectively.

The moral philosophy of Hume is founded on his epistemological explorations that appeal to the a posteriori and empiricism. Hume’s empiricism in ethics is the prototypical representation of modern empiricism in ethics. In severe contrast to this empirical perspective is the post-modern moral philosophy of Levinas. Levinas’ philosophy takes a much different approach and asserts that ethics must actually be first philosophy and is recognized a priori before any experience.

Levinas developed his moral philosophy largely as a response to previous philosophies he found contrary to his own ideas. He clarifies his position on ethics in an interview stating that his philosophy “takes off from the idea that ethics arises in the relation to the other and not straightaway by a reference to the universality of a law” (Robbins 114). It should also be made clear that, even with “the relation to the other,” Levinas is asserting an approach founded in a priori reasoning. This a priori approach he justifies in his work, Totality and Infinity, where he declares that “the notion of face… brings to us a notion of meaning prior to my Sinngebung [meaning] and thus independent of my initiative and my power” (Levinas 51).

Levinas’ understanding of the face of the other person eclipses any social label we could ascribe to the other person (Levinas 50). While the other person can be labelled as father, son, brother, carpenter, and so on, he affirms that even the culmination of all such labels could not define what is the Other. Accordingly, he postulates, “For the presence before a face, my orientation toward the Other, can lose avidity proper to the gaze only by turning into generosity, incapable of approaching the other with empty hands” (Levinas 50). His revelation here is that in order to surpass the limitations of our labels and impositions of our experience we must embrace generosity. It is the transcendence and infinity in the face of the other that requires the subject to be for-the-Other, hence it compels us to act morally.

Levinas’ philosophy is founded upon the notion that the subject is for-the-Other. This notion leads to the subject’s responsibility for the other, and Levinas explains this connection in an interview with Philippe Nemo. There, Levinas affirms that:

…without even having taken on responsibilities in his regard; his responsibility is incumbent on me. It is responsibility that goes beyond what I do. Usually, one is responsible for what one does oneself. I say, in Otherwise than Being, that responsibility is initially a for the Other. This means that I am responsible for his very responsibility. (Nemo 96)

From the infinity encountered in the face of the other, a responsibility is commanded onto the subject to act morally.

This command for morality from the face of the other does not entirely conflict with Hume’s views on sympathy. In effect, both views lead to moral action. However, the Humean account of sympathy is likely where Levinasian philosophers would strongly object. While the effects of both sympathy and responsibility lead to moral action, their foundations are quite incompatible. Towards Humean sympathy, the Levinasian would likely object on the account that “Responsibility in fact is not a simple attribute of subjectivity, as if the latter already existed in itself, before the ethical relationship” (Nemo 96). Humean sympathy arises from the subject’s experience of the other as resembling himself (Hume 318), and this reduces the other to a limitation of inaccurate labels. To derive morality from this Humean sympathy is to embrace the other as a means to an end, as something that can either be pleasurable or anti-pleasurable. The Humean would likely concede that the ethical relationship as a social interaction between individuals is very important. Hume has remarked in the Treatise that “No enjoyment equals the satisfaction we receive from the company of those we love and esteem; as the greatest of all punishments is to be oblig’d to pass our lives with those we hate or contemn” (Hume 470). The Levinasian would be foolish to let this concession pass, as here lies a justification for immorality in Hume’s moral philosophy.

It is conceivable that the sentiments of one might regard the other with displeasure, as someone hated. As here the subject views the other as the embodiment of vice, then the subject has no inclination to act towards the other in a moral manner. In Humean sympathy, if the pleasurable sentiments toward the other are minimal or nonexistent, then there is no compelling force that would require moral behaviour. That is unacceptable. That sense of morality from the sentiments is founded in a posteriori elements. It is experience that causes sentiments to arise, and trusting the sentiments to determine morality equally allows the acceptance of immorality. With the responsibility for the other resulting a priori from an encounter with the face, morality is always incumbent on me (Nemo 96). The Levinasian philosopher would argue that furthermore, “The “relation” to the other man as unique – and in this way, precisely, as absolutely other – would be, here, the first significance of the meaningful” (Robbins 114). The ethical relationship is more than the social interaction of individuals; it is the foundation for further philosophical reflection.

With that, the Humean must begin the defence of empiricism. Hume had delved into the nature and capacity of reason quite thoroughly. His epistemology precedes his ethics, and his moral philosophy is based upon empiricism. A challenge of this nature cannot pass without severe retort.

The Humean, by questioning Levinas’ ethics, effectively questions Levinas’ entire philosophical perspective. To justify the importance of empiricism in ethics the foundation of Levinas moral theory must be refuted. One of Hume’s more recognized sayings is that “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” (Hume 415), and it will be shown that Levinas’ moral philosophy is, in fact, reducible to a matter of sentiment.

In Hume’s Treatise, he makes an observation regarding other moral philosophies that he had encountered. Hume remarks that:

I am surpriz’d to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is, however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ‘tis necessary that it shou’d be observ’d and explain’d; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. (Hume 469)

This observation is what has come to be known as the naturalistic fallacy, and there is much consensus regarding its validity. Essentially, it means that descriptive statements about existence, or what is the case, cannot lead to a prescriptive conclusion. For instance, consider this deductive example:

I am standing in the middle of the street.
There is a bus speeding towards me along the street.
If the bus hits me, then it will kill me.
I must move out of the path of the bus.

While it is obviously sensible to move out of the way of a speeding bus, the conclusion necessarily contains a value judgement, and value judgements are based upon our sentiments, they are not an object of reason.

The Humean response to the legitimacy of his morality incites the questioning of Levinasian morals. So the Humean applies Levinas’ supposed a priori justification for morality to the deductive test of the naturalistic fallacy. Levinas holds that “For the presence before a face, my orientation toward the Other, can lose avidity proper to the gaze only by turning into generosity, incapable of approaching the other with empty hands” (Levinas 50). This statement can be equally represented in this logically deductive structure:

The face of the other is infinite and transcendent.
To encounter the face of the other is a priori.
I encounter the face of the other.
I am obliged to be generous towards the other.

What can be said of the conclusion based on these premises? The truth of the premises themselves is questionable. Can the face of the other actually contain something infinite or transcendent? While it is unlikely that someone could generate an exhaustive description of the other, it is not contrary to conceivability. Would an encounter with the face actually be a priori? It seems self-contradictory that an encounter could occur independent of experience. Could an individual encounter anything truly infinite? Any infinite object or material seems absolutely absurd, yet we can conceive infinity as an idea. However, whether one can truly experience the idea contained in another or not, seems the territory of belief rather than reason. Regardless of the consideration of these questions, even if the premises are accepted as true, it would not entail that the sentiments of the subject would be generosity towards the other. As much as that conclusion is justifiable, on those same grounds animosity towards the infinite, transcendent other is plausible as well. Levinas commits the naturalistic fallacy at the foundation of his philosophy, and that trickles down to taint the remainder of his philosophy.

In fact, the Humean would expose that what Levinas has done at the basis of responsibility-for-the-other is place a value judgement upon his “a priori” reasoning. Values are not formed from reason alone. No, they are dependent upon our sentiments derived through our experience, through empiricism, a posteriori. Levinas’ kind sentiment obligated him to feel generous when encountering the face of the other. If his sentiment were fearful of the infinite and transcendent, then his reaction to such an encounter would consist of aversion or hostility. Further, if the infinite face of the other could be encountered by the subject a priori and devoid of sentiment, it would follow, not that the subject be obligated to generosity or responsibility but, that the subject consider the other with indifference, objectivism. To have an a priori impression of the other as indifferent would then present the other as no more than a means to an end, devoid of intrinsic value.

The role of empiricism in ethics is very significant. It is from empiricism that ethical consideration becomes possible. The a priori offers nothing to moral philosophy as it is necessarily emotionally empty. Hume said it best with “’Tis not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger” (Hume 416). Empiricism may lead us to moral relativism, but that is still more than reason alone can offer.

WORKS CITED

Hume, David. A Treatise of Human Nature – 2nd Edition. Ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge.
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978.

Levinas, Emmanuel. Totality and Infinity. Trans. Alphonso Lingis. Duquesne
Studies Philosophical Series. Ed. Andrew G. van Melsen & Henry J. Koren.
Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press, 1969.

Nemo, Philippe. Ethics and Infinity: Conversations with Emmanuel Levinas.
Trans. Richard A. Cohen. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press 1985.

Ed. Robbins, Jill. Is it righteous to be?: Interviews with Emmanuel Levinas.
California: Stanford University Press, 2001.

The term psychologism brings with it certain connotations. While it certainly regards the functioning of the mind, do not presume that all psychology is psychologistic. Rather, psychologism is a philosophical school of thought that may be practically appealing, but it also carries with it significant consequences to the way we perceive our own freedom. To facilitate an understanding of psychologism, a brief explanation of the ideology, and Edmund Husserl’s objections to it, is required.

Psychologism is a naturalistic school of thought; as such, it holds the mind as an element within nature. As the theories and principles of science prove to be practical and applicable, we rely on the universality of certain natural laws, i.e. causation. That every effect has a cause is a logically necessary truth. Further, without even thinking of causal principles, we apply this principle in our everyday lives in order to make sense of our surroundings. Yet, by placing the mind as something within nature, it also falls subject to the natural laws.
Psychologism asserts that the mind is subject to functioning according to such determinable laws. While every psychologist may not ascribe to psychologism per se, the science of psychology, its applicability and practicality, does much to support pyschologism’s appeal to common sense. Nevertheless, if the mind is to obey determinable laws, such as causation, then the notion of a human’s free will must be abolished. If the science of psychology can be so finely tuned as to determine all of the laws that govern thought and behaviour, then there can be no room for choice, and all that is left is stimulus A entails response B.

Husserl’s objections to psychologism are numerous, but most center around the notions of psychology and logic. One appealing argument is that the laws of psychology are vague, while the laws of logic are precise, and psychologism attempts to have the vague entail the precise, which is intuitively abhorrent. Nevertheless, Husserl’s most convincing argument is not merely an objection to pychologism, but rather an attack against any theory that attempts to assert the foundation of logic.

Husserl’s revolution is formed as such: any theory is a set of principles and what can be deduced from those principles; any theory must, itself, be logically structured and founded on logic; psychology is a theory and founded on logic; hence, to found logic on psychology would become a circular argument. Psychologism’s faith in the determinable laws of the mind (psychology) seems ill founded, and, along these lines, Husserl criticizes psychologism for begging the question. Furthermore, the implications of this objection usurp the position of any theory’s claim to the foundation of logic!

Husserl’s claim is bold, and it is this revolution which leads him to develop phenomenology. However, any conception of knowledge without an appeal to logic seems near impossible. Perhaps, while logic may be irreducible, it is not the singular foundation for knowledge.

It seems apparent that the average person, if asked, would uphold history as true and myth as simply false. This, however, is an unfortunate oversimplification of the matter at hand. For instance, when one questions the truth in history and myth, what is in doubt – the facts concerning the event or the motivations of those involved which cause the event? Perhaps, what really comes into question is the significance of the values at play in a particular event. Here, I briefly examine how truth operates in both history and myth with recourse to both Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche. Through this examination it is apparent that factual truth is of minor significance in understanding a culture’s values and, furthermore, that the mythic narrative offers a stronger expression of a culture’s values than the historical narrative.

In order to interrogate the value of truth in history and myth, first one must establish the context within which these terms are employed. History is traditionally taken either as the accumulation of past events or the study of past events. Here, a distinction is helpful, and throughout this essay, history shall denote the study of past events, while the actual reality of the past will be simply termed the past or past events. On the other hand, myth is commonly taken to mean simply falsehood. Such is the case in countless medical awareness pamphlets denouncing the myths of birth control, sexually transmitted diseases, and narcotics. However, myth also refers to narrative tales which “function to express social values, norms of behaviour, and/or the consequences of deviating from them” (Harris & Platzner 13). Although many ancient myths are set in an even more remote past, this is not necessary for a narrative to function as a significant myth, hence the tales of the Christian New Testament are myths and so superhero tales of the past hundred years could be seen as myths, as well. The most significant difference between historical narratives relating past events and mythical narratives is that history is held to a high standard of factual truth, while myth requires little to no foundation in facts.

Having established the context in which history and myth will be employed, truth must now come into question. In interrogating the meaning of truth, belief is inexorably caught up in the issue. I propose that there are varying contexts in which truth is used, and, typically, this is the source of much confusion concerning truth. Firstly, assuming that there is a mind-independent, external world which constitutes reality, truth can denote what is actual in the world. The accumulation of all facts of truth in this context would only be accessible to an omniscient being. For the purpose of this essay, this form of truth shall be termed absolute truth. One could argue that any other set of beliefs are true if and only if they correspond to the absolute truth. However, verifying one’s beliefs against the absolute truth is a task which is inaccessible to human perception. Secondly, truth can be taken from the perspective of the individual. In this sense, truth and belief tend to blend together. Schopenhauer argues that truth is only guaranteed in a form of solipsism. He holds that “only the events of our inner life, in so far as they concern the will, have true reality and are actual occurrences, since the will alone is the thing in-itself” (Schopenhauer 143). However, this position comes across as too extreme to have any practicality at all. Instead, I argue that what appears to a person through experience holds truth insofar as those experiential beliefs intersect and correspond to the absolute truth. In other words, a person’s beliefs about their experiences are true when those beliefs correspond to reality, or absolute truth. Here, truth takes on a personal role and it is bound up with belief. Thirdly, this personal form of truth can be expanded from an individual level to reflect a social dynamic. In this case, the common belief of the group is taken to be true on the basis of consensus, authority, or sheer power. This is the meaning of truth which is assumed when people speak of facts. Since people cannot access the absolute truth, we are forced to defer knowledge of facts to authorities on the subject. This is the attitude that Schopenhauer expresses when he claims that “what history relates is… the long, heavy, and confused dream of mankind” (Schopenhauer 143). When Nietzsche shares his strong sense of cynicism towards truth (Nietzsche 150-151), it appears that it must be this public form of truth that he condemns, as well. Hence, public belief determines truth in a similar manner as personal belief, except that public belief has a greater force since it is believed by many to be true, regardless of its corresponding to any fact in absolute truth.

When history and myth are compared under the light of these three interpretations of truth, it is apparent that determining factual histories is much more a pipedream than analyzing values. With regards to determining the value of truth in history and myth, only the third of these interpretations of truth is significant. Firstly, any attempt to depict an exhaustive account of absolute history would be futile. No historian is omniscient nor devoid of bias; thus, an exhaustive and objective account of the past is not forthcoming. Secondly, an individual’s personal experience cannot lend itself to provide an account of history outside of that individual’s experience. Thus, personal truth is limited greatly by the experiences of the individual. Furthermore, a person’s testimony of past events need not be sincere nor need it be taken as true by a larger social group. Hence, it is the third interpretation of truth which concerns both history and myth. Nietzsche phrases it as follows, “Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions” (Nietzsche 151). Hugh Rayment-Pickard explains in Philosophies of History that Nietzsche is primarily concerned with the values expressed through histories and myths because he takes facts to be value judgements (Rayment-Pickard 139). Since it is the group’s collective beliefs which determine what is taken to be true in a culture, then both history and myth share a strong similarity in that they are both propagated by a culture’s values.

Considering Nietzsche’s arguments, determining the factual truth in history and myth is less important than understanding the cultural values that they express. Rayment-Pickard claims that Nietzsche recognized three distinct styles of historical writing: Monumental, which celebrates great persons and achievements; Antiquarian, which focuses on uncovering facts and artefacts of the past; and Critical, which provides analyses of past events (Rayment-Pickard 137). However, Rayment-Pickard notes that, for Nietzsche, the most important aspect for each of these historians is that they write histories that must serve life (Rayment-Pickard 137). As such, Nietzsche asserts that the analysis of values is what is most significant in history. Accordingly, it comes as no surprise then that Nietzsche would uphold myth as more important than history or the description of factual past events, since myths are narratives tailored to express social values. Furthermore, Nietzsche holds myth as the “concentrated image of the world” or as “an abbreviation for phenomena” (Nietzsche 150). He also writes that “the state itself has no unwritten laws more powerful than the mythical foundation that guarantees… its growth out of mythical representations” (Nietzsche 150). Nietzsche places the most significance in studying the past and myth with analyzing the values represented in those narratives. As such, in an interrogation of a culture’s values, mythic narratives are a greater resource to study than historical narratives.

Following from this examination of the values and truth in history and myth, it would seem that the common assumption is misguided in asserting that since history is more factual than myth and, therefore, it is more worthwhile. Discerning factual truth in history is no easy task if one hopes to assert that truth is more than popular, public belief. In light of this issue, Nietzsche proposes that scholars focus their attention towards the values expressed in history and, also, myth. As such, scholarly analysis should aim to provide insight on a culture’s values, rather than disputing or attempting to uncover facts.

Works Cited

Harris, Stephen L. & Platzner, Gloria. Classical Mythology: Images & Insights 4th Ed.
Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “Myth is Higher than History.” Philosophies of History: From
Enlightenment to Postmodernity. Eds. Robert M. Burns & Hugh Rayment-
Pickard. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 150.

—–. “On Truth.” Philosophies of History: From Enlightenment to Postmodernity. Eds.
Robert M. Burns & Hugh Rayment-Pickard. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.
150-151.

Rayment-Pickard, Hugh. “Suprahistory.” Philosophies of History: From Enlightenment
to Postmodernity. Eds. Robert M. Burns & Hugh Rayment-Pickard. Oxford:
Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 131-140.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. “The Long, Heavy and Confused Dream of Mankind.”
Philosophies of History: From Enlightenment to Postmodernity. Eds. Robert M.
Burns & Hugh Rayment-Pickard. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. 142-143.