Galileo, The Bible, and Friedrich Nietzsche

I’m not intending to have this blog post come to a coherent conclusion because what I’m currently typing is really just a stream of consciousness…

After reading Kurt’s essay on Galileo, it got me thinking about how objective is the Bible if it were considered a gateway to understanding the knowledge of truth, as well as how one interpretation of scripture could be considered right and while another interpretation could be labeled as false, and also, what even is the value of truth?? So, for some odd reason, those questions immediately got me thinking about the tiniest bit of stuff I learnt in high school about Friedrich Nietzsche.

The Bible – well, it’s pretty ‘abstruse’ (Galileo used that word a couple of times in his letter to the Grand Duchess). It can be interpreted numerous ways. I remember reading Kurt’s essay about how the Bible doesn’t explicitly translate God’s thoughts word for word so we’re left to interpret and assume as much as we can. And we all know that humans are innately flawed, we come up with metaphors and concepts to adjust to what we currently understand in order to comprehend as much as we can of the world.¬†And yet we consider the Bible as a way to understanding the knowledge of truth. But to understand the Bible, we apply what we know and perceive to understand this piece of truth….Do you see the problem? I hope this makes sense.

In Nietzsche’s essay called “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” which was written in 1873, he states that truth is “A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms – in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seen firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins”. Dang, Nietzsche. That’s quite something right there. In Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil”, he writes that “The text has disappeared under the interpretation”, which I’ve gotta say, totally does apply with people understanding scripture. One’s version of truth is really subjective. Your truth is different to mine. I suppose it all depends on how you’ve been brought up, what you believe in (spiritually, politically etc), and so much more. With Nietzsche, he doesn’t believe in absolute truth. There can only be a variety of perspectives from which one can see a situation/matter. With truth (in this case, the Bible), it demands a specific point of view in claiming that THAT is the truth. This totally falsifies the bigger picture.

Anyway, I feel like the more I think about it, the more existential it gets… After all, Nietzsche is one of the pioneers of existentialism and is also considered the father of Nihilism.

One thought on “Galileo, The Bible, and Friedrich Nietzsche

  1. Chrisitina Hendricks

    Yes, I think Nietzsche’s view of truth is quite relevant to some of what Galileo is saying, insofar as Galileo argues that some commentators’ view of the Bible is based largely on their own, skewed, interpretations. Of course, Galileo did not think *all* truth was relative, a matter of interpretation, given his arguments about the validity of empirical science when combined with logic and mathematics (what he talks about in his Letter to the Grand Duchess as sense experience plus necessary demonstration).

    Sometimes in Arts One we read Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality, in which he argues that there is no objectivity in the sense of an eye that sees from no particular perspective. There are only perspectives, interpretations of the world. But this can easily get one into quandries such as: well, is that pronouncement itself a perspective, or is he arguing that it’s objectively true that there are no objective truths? To be consistent he would have to say that his claim is coming from his own interpretation/perspective, and then the response might be: then maybe there is objective truth after all. The Nietzschean response to that might be that that very claim suggests we can have a perspectiveless view, as if we could know what objectively is the case. So things quickly get complex!

    I do think there is something to be said for paying attention to how often our own interpretations can seem like they are the objective truth, though, and to ask when/if that might be happening. But I worry sometimes that if we take that too far and say there just is no real “truth” at all, then we kind of put ourselves in a position to be nihilists, to say that there’s no point to trying to say something is more true than something else, and then it gets hard to argue that things like genocide are wrong…and then I get worried! Still, this is very, very interesting stuff to consider!

    On another note, can you activate a plugin that allows those who make comments to check a box to get an email if anyone responds to their comments? Otherwise, the commentator would have to remember to check back to your blog to see if you or anyone else responded (and most of us aren’t going to remember to do that!). When you’re logged into your site, go to the dashboard and find “plugins” on the left menu. Then find one called something like “subscribe to comments,” click “activate,” and you should be good to go!


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