My thesis in one sentence

Skepticism is not a dead end but a portal that opens only to those who have laid down their hopes for truth, and picked up the hope for fiction.

Fragment 572, The Will to Power (Nietzsche)

An artist cannot endure reality, he looks away from it, back: he seriously believes that the value of a thing resides in that shadowy residue one derives from colors, form, sound, ideas, he believes that the more subtilized, attenuated, transient a thing or a man is, the more valuable he becomes; the less real, the more valuable. This is Platonism, which, however, involved yet another bold reversal: Plato measured the degree of reality by the degree of value and said: The more “Idea”, the more being. He reversed the concept “reality” and said: “What you take for real is an error, and the nearer we approach the ‘Idea’, the nearer we approach ‘truth’.” — Is this understood? It was the greatest of rebaptisms; and because it has been adopted by Christianity we do not recognize how astonishing it is. Fundamentally, Plato, as the artist he was, preferred appearance to being! lie and invention to truth! the unreal to the actual! But he was so convinced of the value of appearance that he gave it the attributes “being”, “causality” and “goodness”, and “truth”, in short everything men value.

The concept of value itself considered as a cause: first insight.

The ideal granted all honorific attributes: second insight.

This commentary is absolutely brilliant, even though the involved interpretation of Plato is unfair. It seems to me that Nietzsche simply attempted to set fire to the degenerated intellectual culture in effigie, with Plato as the straw man casualty.

A better or more useful interpretation of Plato is, in my view, one supposing that he was a special kind of mythologian, one working with logical form as well as the usual tools of the trade (drama, symbolism etc). At least in this fictionalist light he becomes palatable. Whether or not it is more historically accurate is, I think, irrelevant, as all I’m interested in here is how to gain access to as much of the wisdom contained in his work as possible. Fictionalism is perfectly suited for this.

Correspondence theory of truth, but no correspondence

“The objection that may well have been the most effective in causing discontent with the correspondence theory is based on an epistemological concern. In a nutshell, the objection is that a correspondence theory of truth must inevitably lead into skepticism about the external world because the required correspondence between our thoughts and reality is not ascertainable. Ever since Berkeley’s attack on the representational theory of the mind, objections of this sort have enjoyed considerable popularity. It is typically pointed out that we cannot step outside our own minds to compare our thoughts with mind-independent reality. Yet—so the objection continues—on the correspondence theory of truth, this is precisely what we would have to do to gain knowledge. We would have to access reality as it is in itself, independently of our cognition of it, and determine whether our thoughts correspond to it. Since this is impossible, since all our access to the world is mediated by our cognition, the correspondence theory makes knowledge impossible (cf. Kant 1800, intro vii). Assuming that the resulting skepticism is unacceptable, the correspondence theory has to be rejected.” [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Correspondence Theory of Truth]

I adhere to correspondence theory, and I accept the ensuing skepticism. As I’ve explained before, skepticism is not nihilistic, just agnostic. The above argument is absolutely brilliant, but not in the way intended (as a refutation of correspondence theory). Instead, it should be used in favor of the fictionalist response to skepticism.

In case anyone recalls the contradicting things I’ve said about correspondence theory in the past, I have a confession to make: I discovered only this past autumn that I’ve held an embarrasingly misunderstood version of it ever since I first learned about it. I thought it always implied the positive assertion that reality in fact does correspond to (some of) our thoughts in some sense. But of course, it doesn’t. One can adhere to correspondence theory and deny the possibility of actually achieving correspondence. This is my position. It’s good that I finally got this cleared up, because relating to correspondence theory makes my position a lot easier to communicate.


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