Πολις as the Proximity of Αληθευειν

Part 9 of a multipart series, “How to Nurture Truth and Authenticity”. 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 prefigurativism.

We have arrived at the ninth article in this series. And we are now a long way from the inception. Despite this, we carry forward our original provocation — a dissatisfactory commitment to truth from within our inherited economy. Our dissatisfaction is underlined by a sense of alienation, estrangement, and apathy — symptoms which have given rise for the want of authenticity. Our aim is an identification of the economic conditions of authenticity. We understand that our discontents can only resolve in a proposal for nurturing such conditions. In previous articles civic engagement was announced as a clue to prescriptions for such a proposal. Yet, this announcement was premature. Does civic engagement simply mean volunteering in food drives or talking lonely elderly for walks? Of course, it may feel overly obvious that civic engagement of this type might resolve our sense of alienation, estrangement, and apathy; yet, is not entirely apparent how civic engagement is to nurture the alternative to imperium, the command, outright — that alternative which we have identified as αληθευειν. Therefore, in this article we will quest for those connections. Here we will both define civic and delineate the πoλις as the radius of αληθευειν.
Firstly, we take civic. Like all other words, civic can be understood by looking at the economy to which it belongs — or more correctly, by looking at the recorded testimony of that economy. In looking at our historical texts, we can trace this word back to Latin. Here we find the word civicus (‘pertaining to a city or citizens’). In civicus is civitas (‘city’) — from the root civis (‘citizen’). Perhaps quite uninterestingly, we can say that the civic belongs to the economy of the citizen. Yet, we should not be too dismissive. What should not be overlooked is that this framing of the citizen is only possible from the ‘exterior’ — that is, from the position of the one who measures and determines the citizen as such. This who is the ruler by which the citizen is to be measured — the king, consul, or emperor. Perhaps in plain English we might say that the citizen is such only for the sake of that which is to be ruled — the city. And while it may feel as though this economy (citizen to king) is archaic, this is not the case.
The red-thread of this relationship (citizen to king) was made clear throughout the first half of this article series. Imperium is recorded into modernization’s Latin foundation. Within the testimony of later history we find that the command undergoes modification by way of the industrialized sciences and, in particular, the philosophy of positivism. In positivism the ruler of the standard was objectified. This objectivized ruler applied not only to nature, physics, but equally to the citizen. In sociology the citizen (whether a phenomenal you or me) is measured against the ruler society. And while this ruler of the standard might be well concealed in intellectual pursuits, when taken up in activism, it becomes strikingly evident. We can make an example of the Body Positive Movement. Here we find that any phenomenal you or me has been measured against a beauty standard held by the object society — yet this object is that on which the ‘subjective’ aesthetic valuation has been projected. A deceptive modification of subjectivity, yes. But more concerning, an obscuring of authenticity. In as much, we have good reason for taking caution with understanding civic engagement through such a relationship (citizen to king). However, this does not mean our investigation into the Latin heritage of civic is fruitless. The first articles of the second half of this article series made use of Ancient Greek texts. These proved useful for transporting our language from out of Latin heritage, that of imperium. Therefore, we should not be surprised to find an elucidation of civic engagement in contrasting Latin and Ancient Greek words.
Now not to be mistaken, this relationship exists in Ancient Greek also. Yet here, the citizen is not measured against the ruler society, but to the δημος (dēmos, ‘public’). The δημιουργρς (dēmiurgos, ‘creator’) is that who presences the ιδεα (idea), that is, the outward appearance of the world within the economy of public uses of things. However, this does not yet make explicit the standard by which we measure the πολιτης (politēs, ‘citizen’). Today it is trivial to remember that for the Ancient Greeks, αγαθος (agathos, ‘the good’) was paramount. But good for who, or what? When looking into the root πoλις (polis, ‘one’s city or country’) we discover our ruler. In Homer’s Iliad we find this ruler referred to as πτόλεΐ. To be sure we can revisit scroll 17, where we find Glaucus, son of Hippolokhos, fiercely rebuking Hector,
φράζεο νῦν ὅππως κε πόλιν καὶ ἄστυ σαώσῃς οἶος σὺν λαοῖς τοὶ Ἰλίῳ ἐγγεγάασιν: | οὐ γάρ τις Λυκίων γε μαχησόμενος Δαναοῖσιν εἶσι περὶ πτόλιος, ἐπεὶ οὐκ ἄρα τις χάρις ἦεν μάρνασθαι δηΐοισιν ἐπ᾽ ἀνδράσι νωλεμὲς αἰεί. | πῶς κε σὺ χείρονα φῶτα σαώσειας μεθ᾽ ὅμιλον σχέτλι᾽, | ἐπεὶ Σαρπηδόν᾽ ἅμα ξεῖνον καὶ ἑταῖρον κάλλιπες Ἀργείοισιν ἕλωρ καὶ κύρμα γενέσθαι, | ὅς τοι πόλλ᾽ ὄφελος γένετο πτόλεΐ τε καὶ αὐτῷ ζωὸς ἐών: νῦν δ᾽ οὔ οἱ ἀλαλκέμεναι κύνας ἔτλης.
We translate as,
You now have to think how to save the city and the castle, all alone, with the people living in Ilion | Because none of the Lycians wish to fight, since this ongoing fight with the enemy had no successful outcome | How could you save a strange and unworthy man, | you unmerciful, since you abandoned your own companion the great Sarpedon in the hands of  the people of Argos | Despite the fact that he (Sarpedon) brought great benefit/advantage to your city and yourself, and you did not guard him, you coward, from the mouth of the dogs (the hands of the enemies).
Here πτόλεΐ is used not to refer to the material substrate of Hector’s city — the soil, stone, and iron of Troy — but instead to its economy. And Glaucus does speak to Hector as he is on behalf of that economy — “your city and yourself”. Hector is Hector as measured against that economy. This picture of Ancient Greek πoλις as the ruler of the standard is consistent with our investigation up to this point. In previous articles we had intuited a Greek world prior to Plato and Aristotle by way of Martin Heidegger’s lectures on Parmenides. By way of these lectures we had preserved the ‘objective’ domain and recovered truth from relativism. In returning truth to nature — to that which shows itself, as it is, of itself — we recovered ομοιωσις (‘the disclosive correspondence expressing the unconcealed’). In doing so we reduced man, animal, and machine to ‘objective’ description. Yet, we had also made a principal claim — that the Western tradition’s understanding of man as something essential distinct from nature has roots in the Ancient Greek priority of the πoλις. In acknowledging this bias throughout the Western tradition we had encouraged a collapse of any definitive boundary of the πoλις. This was done so that the metaphysical subject could take precedent. We further designated that subject as that primordial harmony with nature — that pre-linguistic and pre-cognitive wheeling and dealing discourse from out of which all articulation of the world is possible.
Of course, such a claim may have us wanting proof. Yet, we cannot provide for this want. After all, philosophical claims of this sort are beyond the types of proofs we expect in, for example, the sciences. Philosophical claims can only be ‘proven’ in the soul, so to speak — if their presence pulls us toward activity in the moment of the encounter. If we therefore heed to that resonance and allow for a collapse of man onto both animal and machine, then we find that the proximity of the metaphysical subject (as the location of discourse) comes to fill the hole left by the πoλις. And our need to define the proximity of the πoλις — as either city, nation, or humanity disappears. Instead, we are liberated for defining the radius of what we understand by way of Aristotle as φρoνησις (phronēsis, ‘practical wisdom’) as the πoλις. The radius of φρoνησις conditions αληθευειν. And therefore, the πoλις defines the radius of αληθευειν. Defining the πoλις as such brings αληθευειν within the rubric of the civic. Yet, of course, it seems that in doing so, we have only created a tautology. It seems that any engagement at all within the radius of the πoλις must be civic. However, when we went to qualify the proximity of the civic we were not looking to specify a type of engagement compared to others, but to qualify engagement as what it is. And yet, even with such a qualification, the decisive question still remains. How is this helpful in understanding our prescriptions for economic reform?
To commit ourselves to this question we must, of course, think on the infrastructure which currently governs the economy of the πoλις, as defined. No doubt, we are used to thinking of governance jurisdictions as Russian matryoshka dolls—one jurisdiction within another parent jurisdiction. The person lives in the city, the city within the county, the county within the state, and finally the state within a federation. Yet, this monological succession of governance is an oversimplification. It does not exhaust our entire governance condition. No doubt, corporate marketeers invest in commercial regions which abide to local legislation, but they are not defined by them. And possibly more elucidating is the governance of our tradition—that social governance which is written into the very fabric of our discourse—that which is today only idolized by the word nation. Today, in the liminal here and now of this article series, we find evidence for this idolization of nation in the ‘international’—Black Lives Matter, feminism, even white nationalism, the pride movement, etcetera. Yet, the idolization of nation by way of these epistemic movements only points toward a contention—one which we took as the provocation for this very article series. Alienation. Only now we have a more articulate language for speaking about this provocation. We understand alienation as an obscuring of αληθευειν—that motionless action which pulls us toward action—toward ‘laboring’, as the economic expression of such action—within the πoλις. Yet, before we move on to economic proposals which might come to exhaust the need for any idolization of nation as it manifests today, it might be worth our time to consider exactly that object which we have been neglecting throughout this article series — society. Such a reflection will help us understand that which the current social justice movements seek to achieve, yet can only delay.
Justin Carmien, February 9th, 2021

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