British Journal of Aesthetics 50 (4):427-437 (2010)

Authors
Aaron Ridley
University of Southampton
Abstract
This paper offers an interpretation of Nietzsche’s well known unpublished remark, ‘Truth is ugly. We possess art lest we perish of the truth.’ I argue that it is not helpful to construe this remark as a claim to the effect that art falsifies the truth by, for example, peddling lies or deceptions. Rather, I suggest, the remark should be taken to refer to the various ways in which art can present us with the truth in such a manner that we do not perish of it. And of these ways, I argue, the most interesting is that in which art facilitates awareness of putatively ugly truths while actually abolishing their ugliness: a striking discussion of this possibility is to be found in Nietzsche’s first book, The Birth of Tragedy. I conclude that, overall, Nietzsche is best understood as a conditional cognitivist—as someone who thinks of truth as valuable, but not as valuable no matter what; and I suggest that what makes his position interesting and distinctive is the alethic pessimism that runs through his version of cognitivism.
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DOI 10.1093/aesthj/ayq035
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