In a haunting story that has always remained with me, Friedrich Nietzsche tells:
Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowing. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of “world history,” but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die.One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened. For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life. Rather, it is human, and only its possessor and begetter takes it so solemnly – as though the world’s axis turned within it…
Has Nietzsche described our fate? What do we really know? How do we come to know it? What knowledge is of the most worth (and for what or for whose purposes)? What are the tensions between the knower, known and the unknown? Where does knowledge reside? To what extent is human knowledge made rather than uncovered? My cluster of questions, and subsequent return to Nietzsche’s story, is provoked by a colleague urging me to read Deleuze’s doctoral thesis, in which I’m struck by/stuck on this passage:
How else can one write but of those things which one doesn’t know, or knows badly? It is precisely there that we imagine having something to say. We write only at the frontiers of our knowledge, at the border which separates our knowledge from our ignorance and transforms the one into the other. Only in this manner are we resolved to write. To satisfy ignorance is to put off writing until tomorrow – or rather, to make it impossible.
Nietzsche’s storyline in “Truth & Lies In a Nonmoral Sense” reveals that “knowing” does not proceed logically in any case, suggesting that all the material within and with which we build our beings, our stories and our truths are derived from what Nietzsche calls “never-never land.” According to Nietzsche, knowledge is most certainly not derived from the essence of things as everything arises “from the equation of unequal things.”
The margins of my mind are blurring as I find myself trapped in a perpetuating purgatory of knowing, but not knowing… with no easy way out of my boundlessly boundaried state of being between “knowing that I don’t know” and “unknowing that which I know.” Proud, promiscuous words are tempting, but not telling… Help!!