In the essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense” (1873), German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche critiques the traditional concept of truth (as an objective descriptor). He explains the moral origins of truth, how language manufactures the illusion of truth, and shows the aesthetic connection between truth and illusion. In the end, Nietzsche argues all concepts are metaphors which do not correspond to reality.
Nietzsche claims the human propensity for deception developed in order to preserve “the weaker individual” because he was denied other natural defenses, and it was strange a drive for truth even appeared under these circumstances. The drive for truth developed from the human need to exist within a social group. This demanded an agreed upon truth, settling conventions to be accepted among all members of the group.
Liars violate this unspoken agreement by twisting conventions to their advantage at the expense of others. So, Nietzsche says, what we hate isn’t deception itself, but the “consequences of certain sorts of deception.” Therefore, the origin of truth is moral, because it regulates certain social behavior.
Language, for Nietzsche, plays a large role in how illusion is mistaken for truth. In the German language, nouns are arbitrarily assigned genders. There is no compelling reason why, for example, der Baum (the tree) was assigned the masculine “der” instead of the feminine “die” or neutral “das.” The gender pronoun is simply a convention and says nothing about the tree itself. This arbitrariness is particularly obvious when the words are translated to English.