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
— 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
— 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 — ius — iubeo — 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 beautiful, the 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.