Nietzsche thinks that language is permeated with errors. This is a mistake, not because the beliefs he claims are embedded in language are really true, but because there are no beliefs embedded in language at all.


10 comments on “Errors

  1. Jay says:

    Is language made up of words or of concepts? Are these the same thing? Can we make errors in our translating percepts to concepts (or words)? It seems to me that there is some wiggle room in there. Please disabuse me of this notion because it is awfully uncomfortable.

  2. joe says:

    The Apollian/Dionysian distinction tells us that language itself (unless it is aesthetic, for the aesthetic recognizes illusion) is the production of the Apollian will to life and illusory by nature, the purpose of which is to protect us from an unbearable reality. It is for this reason that I have a hard time seeing the truth of your first claim. But perhaps you don’t read the Apollian/Dionysian distinction like this in the first place.

  3. joe says:

    BT or not, the distinction defines his views on language even after BT.

    • poseidonian says:

      What I meant was, the claim I was discussing has nothing to do with the Apollinian/Dionysian distinction, whether it is important outside BT or not (which is doubtful). The claim has to do with whether a sentence, by virtue of its syntax alone, makes cognitive (i.e., truth-apt) claims, and whether those claims are false. Nietzsche thought that sentences by virtue of having a certain syntax make metaphysical claims independent of their specific content, and that the metaphysical claims that our language makes are false. But the syntax of a language makes no cognitive claims at all, so it can’t make any false ones. That may be wrong, but that’s what I was saying. If you re-state the claim using this lingo, it doesn’t get us anywhere. “The reason why Nietzsche is right is because syntax, insofar as it is Apollinian, makes claims, which are false, because reality is Dionysian, i.e., non-Apollinian” is simply to restate what I denied, which is that syntaxes make claims at all. Furthermore, no matter what the “motive” we might have for making syntax (also a doubtful notion) the logical point would be untouched.

  4. If humans were to disappear tomorrow, all archived human language would become nothing but a meaningless distribution of matter. Truth and error exist in the sapient brain, not in the encoding of language. If one is speaking of language as encoded within the mind of a sapient, it is then one and the same with the state of the concepts within the mind. Then, and only then, can we speak of language as containing truth or error.

  5. Language-as-protocol, or language-as-thought? Which was Nietzsche yapping on about?

  6. poseidonian says:

    What Nietzsche thought was that the structure of syntax makes implicit metaphysical assertions, entirely apart from the ordinary assertions we make when we speak, and that these implicit assertions are false. But since all sentences have a syntactical structure, he infers from that that all sentences are false. I think that the idea that syntax commits you to implicit assertions is silly.

    • Maybe he was struggling with what George Lakoff and Mark Johnson later ended up calling “conceptual metaphors”,

      We’ve learned a lot about human psychology and cognition since Nietzsche, and his assertion now seems obviously false to anyone the least bit familiar with modern knowledge. Of course, there are always the young who might hang on every word Nietzsche ever wrote as if a god and new religion were discovered. I feel sorry for those poor fools.

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