Tone of Voice

house on fire


Nietzsche wrote,

“We often contradict an opinion for no other reason than we do not like the tone in which it is expressed.”

Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, Trans. Hollingdale,(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), #303.


So also: an opinion gives happiness, therefore it is the true one, its effect is good, therefore it is itself good and true. Here is predicated of the effect that it gives happiness, that it is good in the sense of utility, and there is likewise predicated of the cause that it is good, but good in the sense of logical validity. Conversely, the proposition would run: a thing cannot attain success, cannot maintain itself, therefore it is evil: a belief troubles [the believer], occasions pain, therefore it is false. The free spirit, who is sensible of the defect in this method of reaching conclusions and has had to suffer its consequences, often succumbs to the temptation to come to the very opposite conclusions (which, in general, are, of course, equally erroneous): a thing cannot maintain itself: therefore it is good; a belief is troublesome, therefore it is true.

Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1908), #30. 

He also said:

The Testimony of Pleasure.—The agreeable opinion is accepted as true. This is the testimony of pleasure (or as the church says, the evidence of strength) of which all religions are so proud, although they should all be ashamed of it. If a belief did not make blessed it would not be believed. How little it would be worth, then!

Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human: A Book for Free Spirits, (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Co., 1908), #120. 

Essentially, Nietzsche is charging the average human with compromising truth for personal affirmation. I don’t think he was wrong about that. In fact, I think that ignoble human trait has reached alarming proportions in twenty-first century western culture. 

People in western culture and the United States in particular seem to be more concerned with tone of voice than they are truth and content. 

A House on Fire!

Imagine someone’s house is on fire and a stranger, who happen to be driving by, stops and, having run to the front door of the house, begins banging on the door. When the door is answered the stranger starts screaming passionately, “Get out of the house it is on fire! Come on hurry up!” The owner of the house, not knowing the stranger and unaware of the fire, gets offended by the attitude of the stranger. “Okay, okay! We’re coming! You don’t have to be so rude!” 

Outlandish, maybe. But it happens all the time in more subtle yet still urgent situations. We watch reality television, sports, and movies and we revel in the passion, the fighting, the battling. But let someone passionately debate us and tell us we are wrong and we get offended at their tone of voice.

I was at a meeting once and someone in the room was passing judgment on another person based on his tone of voice when he defended himself. This person actually upon the other man’s guilt based on tone of voice! I am tired of people with no passion defining passionate people as though they lack restraint.

If our houses are on fire do we want to know about it? What about other aspects of our lives? 

Categories: Tone of Voice

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