Publication Details

Simpson, D. I. (2007). Truth, truthfulness and philosophy in Plato and Nietzsche. British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 15 (2), 339-360.


Even those aware of Nietzsches ambivalent (rather than purely negative) attitude to Plato, tend to accept Nietzsches account of Plato and himself as occupying the poles of philosophy. Much that Nietzsche says supports this view, but we need not take him at his word. I consider Nietzsche and Plato on three planes: their view of truth, their view of philosophy, and their use of certain emblematic figures (the New Philosopher, the Philosopher King) as the bearers of philosophys future. On these planes Nietzsche and Plato can be seen to be remarkably close, and to stand together outside much of the tradition that separates them. In defence of these claims, (1) I draw a distinction in Plato between an absolutist theory of truth and one that treats truth as situated and partial; (2) I interpret Nietzsches perspectivism as an ethical theory of truth (a theory which is, like Platos situated theory, both non-substantive and not equivalent to pragmatism); (3) I claim that both the Philosopher-King and the New Philosopher are given the task of balancing between absolutism and nihilism; (4) and I draw from these tensions an image of philosophy as an inherently unstable process.



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