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Title: Semblance and Authenticity: Nietzsche on the Use and Misuse of Illusion
Authors: Stoll, Timothy A.
Advisors: Nehamas, Alexander
Contributors: Philosophy Department
Subjects: Philosophy
Issue Date: 2018
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Nietzsche’s works consistently accord profound significance to the illusions of art. The view forms one part of his more general contention that philosophers have consistently and radically overestimated the value of truth. With the aim of illuminating this central aspect of Nietzsche’s philosophy, my dissertation offers a comprehensive analysis of his aesthetic position that is structured around the concept of “aesthetic semblance.” I begin by providing a reading of Schiller and Goethe’s theory of aesthetic semblance. This theory seeks to offer an account of what is distinctive about the semblances of art. Appreciating the significant impact this theory had on the development of Nietzsche’s aesthetic position helps resolve some longstanding problems facing the interpretation of the role of untruth in his philosophy. Though Nietzsche consistently insists on the value untruth or illusion, his own normative ideal incorporates a demand for maximal honesty. I argue a number of tensions that emerge from these apparently diverging commitments can be elegantly resolved once we reject the predominate interpretation according to which Nietzsche holds that the aim of art is to misrepresent and deceive us about the world. By contrast, I show that Nietzsche believes art can positively reshape our evaluative attitudes towards those aspects of life with which we might otherwise be unable to live. In expounding this interpretation, I also illuminate important aspects of Nietzsche’s theories of aesthetic pleasure and genial creation. I then use my interpretation of Nietzsche’s aesthetics to cast light on his epistemology, specifically on his claim that “untruth” is a condition of cognition. I reject the usual interpretation of this claim, which takes it as the radical and implausible denial that any human belief is or could possibly be true, pointing out that untruth in Nietzsche is best understood not as misrepresenting or causing to believe falsely, but as being fake, illusory, or inauthentic. Nietzsche’s view is rather that cognition, in the sense of perceptual experience, inescapably involves certain illusions. Together with the observation that illusions need not deceive us, this interpretation shows that Nietzsche’s view is perfectly consistent with the possibility of true belief.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Philosophy

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