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Philology and hermeneutics
Friedrich Nietzsche was a talented classical philologist, and some of his philological works are still considered essential, to mention here only his research on Laertius Diogenes. One cannot forget his educational background, because his specific, philological attitude is important for understanding his philosophy.1
What is philology? Nietzsche himself answers this question in Antichrist (A, 52).2 Philology is `the art of reading well — of reading facts without falsifying them with interpretation,’ it works as `ephexis in interpretation’ (ephexis in Greek means `checking, stopping’).3 Most readers fail in interpretation; they even lack decency and jump to conclusions. Only the few can see the proper meaning, because they are interested in knowledge, not in morality.
Let us consider the fact that in the quoted passage Nietzsche distinguishes reading the facts from falsifying them with interpretation. Nowadays, it is almost ritual to quote Nietzsche’s saying that there are no facts, only interpretations. It seems that these two views on interpretation and facts are contradictory. However, if we read them carefully, we will see that this apparent
contradiction is only apparent. The famous saying about nonexistence of facts can be paraphrased as following: `there is no fact without interpretation; there are no raw facts.’ Nietzsche is close to Quine: we cannot distinguish observational terms from theoretical ones. If we reject observational/theoretical distinction (facts/interpretation distinction) as useless, then we still need not accept all theories, even absurd ones. It is hardly Vaihinger’s version of fictionalism; the most similar theory to Nietzsche’s is Goodman’s irrealism.