Αληθεια, Verum, Truth

This article series is for economic reformers and political activists interested in the metamodern political movement. This series will undoubtedly find appeal with those who have come to understand that the current values which drive global economy, those which we call liberal, are obstructing solutions to contemporary political challenges — in as much, those values are unable to guide a common activity beyond. Admittedly, the prescriptions herein are likely a mere articulation of what is intuitively felt across a large demographic — certainly those who have found themselves gravitating toward contemporary nationalist solutions. Undoubtedly a bit of political agnosticism is required for digesting this series. Already now, the final recommendation can be teased. If we wish to nurture truth and authenticity then we require an economy championed under the banner of democratic nationalism.
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Our project, as per the title of this article series, is to nurture truth and authenticity. In order to do so, we must discover the economy in which truth is in service to today. Only with such an identification can we understand our original provocation — an unsatisfactory commitment to the disclosure of truth. And only then will we be prepared for making a reform proposal. While we have identified truth as the positive fact, we have yet to identify the essence of the economy to which the positive fact belongs. Of course, in asking for the essential economy, we are not looking for an answer such as capitalism or market economics. We should remain confident that answers such as these would prove to be unsatisfactory. We are here doing first economics. As such, we seek identification of a common characteristic in both capitalism and market economics, or any other dealing which makes use of the positive fact. This essence cannot be reducible to either physiological or psychological motivations such as profit, prestige, or political influence. Though, the essence could be used to explain such motivations. And, to be sure, the essence which we seek is obscured by such explanations. Therefore, in order to identify what is essential in the economy of the positive fact, we must reach further back into history. While this may seem like a roundabout way to arrive at economic reform prescriptions today, we should remain confident and steadfast in our methodology. It is self-evident that capitalism and market economy did not spring into existence themselves. By transporting ourselves through history, we will find ourselves more and more estranged from these labels, to the point where we can be delivered over to an understanding of their essence.
We begin by following the etymology of ꞅōþ, a process which we began in the previous article. While ꞅōþ has fallen out of parlance, another word (one with a different etymological heritage) triewþ (‘truth’) remains in use all the way up to and including the Modern English we now use. But this was not before ꞅōþ had found a home in another dealing — one which remains preserved in the word soothsayer. A soothsayer is one who speaks fantastically and without justification, insofar as divination is an ill-respected profession today. Therefore, we can say that ꞅōþ did not become obsolete; rather, it has switched meanings. So for the time being, let us forget ꞅōþ and direct ourselves to the Middle English origins of our object truth. Here we find very similar words such as trouthe, truthe, trewthe, and treowthe. Furthermore, this family of words can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon words trēowþ and trīewþ. Despite the appearance of obsolete characters in these words, the Modern English truth is still recognizable. And while there is not a single definition to contain the meaning, we can say that the context of the Anglo-Saxon’s text directs us towards associations with Modern English words such as veracity, faith, fidelity, loyalty, honor, pledge, and covenant. We can follow this etymology further back to the Proto-Germanic triwwiþō (‘promise, covenant, contract’). From here, we find the Proto-Indo-European *drū- (‘tree’) and *deru- (‘firm, solid’). Additionally, we find modern truth cognate with Norwegian trygd (‘trustworthiness, security, insurance’), Icelandic tryggð (‘loyalty, fidelity’). All of this can be researched on Wiktionary.com in greater detail than is worth repeating in this article. However, a particular absence becomes strikingly apparent with only this shallow etymological interrogation — an absence which tells us that this might be the wrong place for investigation into the essential economy in which truth is employed today.

What is spoken today in the word truth is only in a very narrow sense fidelity, loyalty, or promise. Today, what we mean by the word truth, as the positive fact, undoubtedly refers to something much more concrete. It is the realthe one and only. This is the sense in which truth can refer us to the material substrate of physics. What should not be overlooked is that this essence of truth has meaning in relation to the false — and in looking at the Anglo-Germanic etymology of truth, this relationship is explicitly absent. Inasmuch, we can conclude that the essence of our Modern English word truth is of very un-Germanic origins. Instead, this dichotomic paradigm of the true/false can be traced to the socio-political revolution preceding the medium aevum — the Christianization of Europe. Of course, we might ask ourselves, could Christianization have had enough force to transform the very conception of truth among a people? Undoubtedly, we should answer ‘yes’. And, after all, we should expect nothing less from a transformation of pagan culture. In order to understand this transformation, we must look towards the authority of the Holy Roman Empire and the language of the Church. In Latin, we discover the dichotomic essence — verum (‘true’) and falsum (‘false’).  Interrogating this origin of truth further is paramount for understanding the service which truth, as the positive fact, came to fulfill.
We translate the Latin verum into Modern English as the true. The stem of verum is ver. In tracing the history of ver, etymologists have identified the Indo-European root per. Even in mouthing these two sounds we notice a correspondence. Now, understanding per in English is actually quite easy. These three letters most likely come forward to an English speaker as a prefix. Looking at words such as pervertpervade, and perfect, the prefix directs us to associations with throughthoroughly, or throughout. However, we also find per leading the word percent. Here, per not only parses a whole, but also serves to establish something of a spatial or temporal boundary. Only by means of both through and boundary can the essential economy preserved within this root come forward. In English, per is preserved in the word experience. We can think of experience as that which is the boundary of a person’s day-to-day life, their village, their tribe, and so on. However, experience not only parses a boundary in order to simply have that designation. My experience and your experience present themselves when that boundary is at issue — only when I am present with experience as an obstacle, one which must be transcended. The word experience owes itself to an encounter with a boundary such that there can be movement not only throughout, but also through and beyond it. Therefore, we can come to think of per as belonging to the economy of parse to transcend. Perhaps we might say, divide and conquer.

With the essential economy of per explicated, the domain to which the Roman Christian verum belongs also presents itself. The proclamation “verum” draws definition in the phenomenal experience. The phenomena bound by that definition we know as true, but this designation does not come forward for the sake of merely obtaining in knowledge. The utility of verum presents itself only when looking to transcend the definition. Quite figuratively, we might say that verum is a building block. The thorough, throughout, and throughness of verum reveals a project concerned with the construction of an empire of knowledge. Therefore, in verum, we read an implicit approach towards phenomena in general — an approach towards phenomena for the sake of appropriation into knowledge.
Now, we can bring ourselves into a moment of profound elucidation if we follow the utility of verum through the economy of the empire. Yet, this moment can only be fully realized if we understand the dichotomy in which verum belongs. After all, only in understanding the two components can the whole be brought into meaning. In falsum we find fallo. Etymologists have traced Latin fallo to the reconstructed language of Proto-Indo-European. Here we find *(s)gʷʰh₂el-, meaning to stumble. The second-person singular future-passive indicative of fallo is fallere — to bring to a fall. However, where is this falsum, this bringing to a fall, essential within the economy of the empire? What realm of experience is normative here? This question is not particularly novel, although it seems to have failed to produce much excitement within academia. Inasmuch, it has remained obscure to a popular, mainstream audience. Despite this, it is high time that we repeat this question. After all, we are operating today from within larger empires than any other which we might find in our history books and other such sources. Understanding the essential economy of verum and falsum — the essential economy of the true and the false — is of paramount importance for diagnosing the symptoms of modernization. Therefore, in going back to the origin, we find the question delivered over to us by way of its pronouncement by Martin Heidegger. Of course, the question already contains an answer in itself, and Heidegger himself answers his own question by reference to the colonial history of the post-Iron Age Mediterranean. His narrative follows,

“Command as the essential ground of domination, includes being-superior, which is only possible as the constant surmounting of others, who are thereby the inferiors. In this surmounting there resides again the constant ability to oversee. We say where to ‘oversee’ something means to ‘dominate’ it. This overseeing includes the surmounting, involves a constant ‘being-on-the-watch’. That is the form of acting which oversees everything but still keeps to itself: in Latin the actio of the actus…The essence of the imperium resides in the actus of constant ‘action’. The imperial action of the constant surmounting of others includes the sense that the others, should they rise to the same or even to a neighboring level of command will be brought down — in Latin fallere (participle: falsum)…The properly great feature of the imperial resides not in war but in the fallere of subterfuge as round-about action and in the pressing-into-service for domination…the falsum is treachery and deception, ‘the false’.”

Heidegger’s narrative comes to us by way of André Schuwer and Richard Rojcewicz’s translation of Gesamtausgabe, volume 54. This volume is comprised of material taken from a series of hour-long lectures which Heidegger conducted during the winter term of 1942–1943 at the University of Freiburg. While the narrative goes unexemplified in the lecture course material, the interpretation of falsum still resonates today. We can find supporting narratives running through Theodor Mommsen’s multiple book-length magnum opus, History of Rome. According to the Greek way of thinking, it was a polite method of acquiring influence over powerful barbarians who would not submit to imperium (‘command’), to treat them as if they were of Greek extraction. This was not only an admirable refinement to flattery, but also a deceptive kind of political trickery. The myths of Roman settlements trace their heritage to a Trojan colony. Therefore, for the Romans themselves, subterfuge would have been a social substrate which laid the foundations of their very city. Following Julius and Augustus Caesar, ius Latii (‘Roman Rights’) were used in a similar way — as a political instrument that aimed at the integration of provincial communities. We should not be surprised, then, if the falsum took its essence from the realm of Roman imperium in the form of the fallere — the false, that which is a deception — of subterfuge.
Now, we may be tempted to judge this etymology as merely material suitable for trivial pursuits — a narrative only useful for entertaining afternoon coffee partners; hardly material for making economic reform prescriptions. And at this juncture, we might find ourselves inquiring into not only Heidegger’s ambition, but also the relevance of his project to the one which we are undertaking here. After all, what kind of imperialism bothers us here? Aren’t we talking about knowledge? And isn’t the project of a certain epistemic imperialism healthy? More confusedly we might ask, what other projects could we expect truth to serve? And make no mistake, these are all good questions. They will inform the investigation through the last few pages, as well as the next two articles, concluding the first half of this series.
Heidegger’s lecture course in question was called Parmenides and Heraclitus, but in light of the nearly exclusive occupation with Parmenides’s didactic poem on the goddess Aληθεια, the editors modified the title of the volume to Parmenides in publication. From the very first pages of this volume, we find Heidegger eager to transport his student’s thinking from any modern prejudices. His ambition is to wrench Ancient Greek αληθεια of any associations which our translation into truth provokes. This is in order to redeem Parmenides’ goddess from the Latinization which dominates our interpretation today.
The next three passages from the lecture course material will give us three words to work with in understanding Heidegger’s project: αληθευειν (alētheuein, ‘to adhere to the unconcealed disclosive in the saying that lets appear’), ομοιωσις (homoiosis, ‘the disclosive correspondence expressing the unconcealed’), and οιεσθαι (iesthē, ‘to take something as something’).
“Since Plato, and above all by means of Aristotle’s thinking, a transformation was accomplished within the Greek essence of αληθεια, one which in a certain respect αληθεια itself encouraged.”
Aληθεια is the unconcealed and disclosing.”
“The unconcealed can be disclosed by humans and for humans only if their comportment adheres to the unconcealed and is in agreement with it. Aristotle uses the word αληθευειν for this comportment…This adherence to and agreement with the unconcealed is in Greek ομοιωσις. This correspondence takes and holds the unconcealed for what it is. To take something for something is in Greek οιεσθαι…”
While it has become trivial to acknowledge that the ‘subjective’ was a concept foreign to the Ancient Greeks, it nonetheless requires a special attunement to experience ourselves out of this very modern conception. In the above three passages, we find Heidegger’s ομοιωσις (‘the disclosive correspondence expressing the unconcealed’) as an ‘event’ which occurs outside the ‘subjective’ realm. It may be helpful to imagine this event by way of the so-called ‘theory of forms’ and Plato’s ιδεα (idea). Taking an example of a chair, we could say that ομοιωσις (or ‘a making like’) presences the ιδεα ‘chair’ as the particular chair that it is. Ομοιωσις is ecstatic. Either the phenomena presents itself as what it is, or it presents itself in the form of a guise, or ψευδης (pseudōs). Nature is here understood as that which shows itself, as it is, of itself. There is no ‘subject’ mediating ομοιωσις. Now, while this return to the ancients in order to collapse the subject/object dichotomy may seem backwards to scientific ways of thinking, Heidegger is interested in qualifying the scientific investigation as a type of human project, one which has obscured the more robust human experiences of the ancients. Therefore, Heidegger is concerned with the Latinization of Greek culture and language. And more importantly, the obscuration of Parmenides’ αληθεια by way of a Latinization which then set the course for history — a course which has displaced truth from its home in the ‘objective’ domain — or, in remaining consistent with a pre-modern way of thinking, simply what we call nature.
Imperium is commandment, command. The Roman Law — iusiubeo — is rooted in the same essential domain of the imperial, command, and obedience. Command is the ground of the essence of domination…But now because verum is counter to falsum, and because the essential domain of the imperium is decisive for verum and falsum and their opposites, the sense of ver, becomes maintaining…verum becomes forthwith ‘being-above’, directive of what is right; veritas is then rectitudo, ‘correctness’.”
“…But because the Greek ομοιωσις turned into rectitudo, the realm of αληθεια, disclosure, still present for Plato and Aristotle in ομοιωσις, disappeared.”
The Latin rectitudo (‘rightness, correctness’) was understood by Heidegger as “the self-adjusting to”. Today, after many centuries of refinement, we have the object the human subject to contain this event. This self-adjusting, or correction, or, perhaps more interestingly, being correct is explicitly apparent in the scientific method, for example. Of course, what should be noted is that Heidegger is not criticizing the sciences outright. However, αληθεια, as pure and primordial unconcealment, as that which is immediately present (specifically as the beautifulthe good, and the just) is uprooted. What we would know today as the truth, as an aesthetic description towards the good, is wrenched from its original domain in nature. And what we find preserved in the historical record of the Latinization of Ancient Greek culture, presented to us here by way of Heidegger’s lecture course material, is a preparation such that truth could be studied by means of anthropology and sociology — that is, relative from the position of the omniscient world observer. There can be no doubt, then, that the ground had been laid for a kind of historical nihilism, announced by Friedrich Nietzsche many centuries following.
Returning now to our historical economy of truth: although we began with the Holy Roman Empire and the Christian transformation of the Anglo-Germanic conception of truth, it is now only a matter of enumeration to complete the history of truth and its use within the economy of imperium’s domination. We can trace the dichotomic essence of truth as the positive fact from the various scientific industries back to Rene Descartes, the father of the metaphysical foundations of modern science. Undoubtedly, Descartes’ metaphysics not only laid the foundations for modern science, but it also transported verum’s utility within imperial economy. Imperium, the command, was transported from the Pope, who commanded the truth through, for example, the Spanish Inquisition, over to the authorities within the scientific industries. Since we have already admitted that language articulates the world, we should not be surprised to find the language of Latin — constructed during the establishment and maintenance of imperial economy — as that which contains within it the essential economy of modernization. Truth exists, even today, as the positive fact, as that which parses to transcend, within the same essential economy. This economy seeks to build an empire by way of the one and only domain of the true and the false. And although we might be proud to have wrested the I command the truth from the hands of the priests of Catholicism, we should not be surprised over the abuse of truth in later times — in the form of fake news or alternative facts. Our infrastructure is built to maintain this essential economy. Truth is in service to command. Therefore, there can be no doubt that, as a consequence, we have developed a perverse relationship towards disclosure, generally.
Justin Carmien, July 6th, 2020
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