The Encounter as the Venue for Truth

Part 8 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.

Throughout this article series the disposition of doubt, as a condition for the primoridal actio, episteme, has fallen under much criticism. However, the narrative would be ignorant to dismiss doubt altogether. After all, doubt is a word which has been given to a collection of real phenomena — phenomena to which each of us can attest. If we consider that experience, the real phenomenological experience of doubt, we should, of course, expect many varying descriptions. However, we can also assume a few common characterizations. An attentive focus, for example — one which is motivated by a desire for relief to mental discomfort. We might say that this discomfort demands for the presence of λογος, such that the phenomena of our experience come into accord with one another — such that a logical consistency presents the world over to us as a whole. In as much, doubt offers an explicit example of an ecstasy of time — a moment which arises from out of the habitual experience of the day-to-day — such that we meet the world in an intellectual encounter. This encounter with the world is the very venue in which a disclosure of the truth is possible.
Now, while doubt proves a good condition of the disclosure of truth, we must also admit that it is merely one. And it does not exhaust the possibilities. Consider even the trivial task of entering a room. After all, while there may be countless operations which are performed without thinking (operating the door latch, operating the door hinges, even bodily breathing and walking) there is also the possibility that in executing this task you discover that the door is, in fact, stuck in a closed position. And, in this case, it is most likely that your behavior would be guided by a physical-mechanistic λογος as resolving the obstruction becomes the task. However, we would be fooling ourselves if we were to believe that physics and a physical description of the world exhausted the possibilities at the encounter. If, for example, the door is in a public space then a variety of social obstructions might appear before the mind’s eye. It could be that someone has intentionally locked the door. Perhaps there is an event happening inside the room which should not be disturbed. The point is that an encounter with the world not only opens a space for the disclosure of the logical-mathematical, but a robust world — whether the moment has been conditioned by the epistemologist’s doubt or by the simple task of passing into a room in a public building. And while we would describe the world as singular — as one’s world — that world is full of a variety of objects. From food and chairs, to feminism and liberty.
Now, it may seem as if some of the language which we have taken up in this article series is in contradiction. For example, when we talk of “the world as a whole” and at the same time criticize any description of a ‘uni-verse’ — an object promising a totality. Yet, this contradiction is only apparently so. In as much as the objects presenced at the encounter may or may not conform to mathematical quantification, these objects resist ordering into a schematic such that a singular totality could ever be made. Contrary to such totalization we may even find that once having drawn our circles we discover one or more phenomena that may be multi-stable. Rubin’s vase becomes two opposing faces with a change of focus. In as much, we must admit that any one description of phenomena could never be more or less ‘universally’ appropriate than another. Lightning, for example, is not tantamount to or merely a type of electromagnet discharge. While the description electromagnetic discharge may be a refinement of lightning, it is neither more or less ‘universally’ appropriate than the other. To think otherwise would be to put the cart before the horse, as the expression goes. The articulation of any object is only possible from out of that pre-intellectual, or pre-cognitive, primordial discourse — that wheeling and dealing with nature. Any object which captures and defines a phenomenal experience is always and forever appropriate to the economy to which it belongs. Indeed, it is the appropriateness which stabilizes the phenomena, such that its adherence can be experienced.
Given the polylogical possibility inherent in the nature of each encounter, we can surmise a certain qualification to our project at hand. If we are to genuinely nurture truth and authenticity we must overcome the monological bias which we have inherited over from modernization. From the Roman Empire to the Catholic Inquisition and the industrialized sciences, the language of Latin has carried with it the monotheistic residue of imperial economy — that economy which seeks a quantified and totaled ‘uni-verse’ — whether that be by way of Immanuel Kant’s noumenon or science’s physicalism. And yet, it really should be no surprise that the romanticized picture of the polytheistic agricultural civilizations calls for our attention. While we could never forgo the expediency which industrial manufacturing has provided to the production of food, housing, transportation, and other goods and services, it is still all-too enjoyable to picture ourselves out of this technological luxury. We imagine every action, from the tiling of the land to the collection of the harvest, as a communication or κοινωνια (koinonia, ‘communion’) with our most supreme idols. For the ancients, labor flattered their idols. Those idols adhered through such flattery. And that flattery was requited through the bounty of the labor. Of course, what should not be overlooked as primitive is the plurality of those gods. After all, primitiveness is exactly its positive characteristic. Primitive points toward the primordial. Plurality itself echoes the multi-stable nature at the encounter. A characteristic of the encounter which was jeopardized already in a Christianization of Rome.
Now, this turn towards labor as an example in this exposition is not accidental. Labor, as the economic expression of the primordial wheeling and dealing with nature points us toward the necessity of this article series — as a further refinement of the tradition invested with the creative  spirit — that tradition which has gone by the name romanticism — a tradition which brings together the intellectual tradition which we have been following. Heidegger, Gadamer, Wittgenstein, Schumacher, and Roy. In fact, returning once again to Small is Beautiful, we recall that Schumacher writes of a harmony with nature as a work which, “brings forth a becoming existence”. Existence becomes — that is, existence is presenced and intellectually refreshed in each moment of articulation. In this moment of articulation the mechanical and social hierarchy of the world is announced. Equally, a history is announced. History unfolds through the succession of mechanical objects which we know as belonging to time. And through such presencing we find ourselves animated — pulled toward — that casual chain of events. Such a feedback loop with nature has been characterized psychologically as a “cognitive flow” (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi) — a process of challenge and resolve. It is with this understanding that we proceed with labor as the economic expression of the conditions for the encounter as the venue for truth.
In as much as this is the case, any prescriptions for nurturing truth requires that we address the conditions for this encounter. And because the encounter is possible anytime and anywhere, we cannot fool ourselves that nurturing truth simply demands venues for truth — scheduled meetings with ‘safe rules’. Prescriptions for nurturing truth would be unbelievably naïve if they simply suggested juried townhalls for deliberation such that, at the end, everyone walked away having possession of the truth. No. Nurturing truth demands that we respect the natural environment in which we find it — that wheeling and dealing which manifests through the labor of the project and can be recalled at the most trivial of places — the airport, the coffee shop, or neighbor’s patio barbeque party.
Of course, there is a contrary understanding, popularly held by the progenitors of industrialization — one which is accepted by both employer and employee — that labor is ultimately something which is to be reduced and preferably obliterated. Labor is expensive, says the employer — and for the employee, labor takes time away from pleasure. He is made to believe he is something of a hedonist — that the natural condition of human existence is pure sensual satisfaction. The hourly worker is paid for his time from such pleasure. Such understanding gives cause for a prophesy — that one day an automatized manufacturing will relieve man from his fetters. This day will constitute some kind of holy day for humanity, and then we can all go on holiday. And yet, standing here in this very moment, in this “time between worlds”, we understand the folly of this understanding. An automatization of labor could mean nothing other than the death of truth. Alternatively, a reunion of that which was separated early in industrial-liberation’s church and state — or rather, belief and action — promises a reunion with the primordial harmony with nature. This redemption promises a re-communion with our idols, such that they may once again bless us with their presence.

Now, having come to understand the encounter as the venue for truth, a moment which is conditioned by a primordial wheeling and dealing — that which we understand through its economic expression as labor — we are prepared to answer the first of our questions posed at the close of the previous article. We are prepared to answer any challengers as to why it must be exactly engagement that constitutes our prescriptions for nurturing truth and authenticity. Yet, what remains is the second of our questions — an understanding of civic as a type of labor. Φρoνησις — that which we have parenthetically translated as ‘practical wisdom’ is the word which Aristotle used to refer to that human comportment which we have been referring to as a practical wheeling and dealing with nature. Φρoνησις is characterized by proximity. The evidence for this is all around us. The craftsman’s workshop is arranged according to ergonomics. The office workers keys on the keyboard. Even the automated assembly line, devoid of any human whatsoever, is arranged under the schematic of proximity. Proximity is the character of φρoνησις. So, when we talk of a type of engagement, a civic engagement, we are talking of a proximity of engagement.
In thinking on the historical economy of truth in the first half of this article series, there is no hiding the pejorative characteristic of episteme. When we critiqued episteme as a primordial actio, one which seeks to ‘over-stand’ the phenomena of experience, we intimated it as a type of comportment — that is, a type of φρoνησις. Yet, our distain toward episteme remained obscure. And it will remain so until we have resolved for ourselves a rubric in which to place episteme and any alternative. The previous article announced αληθευειν (alētheuein, ‘to adhere to the unconcealed disclosive in the saying that lets appear’) as such an alternative. An explication of episteme as a type of comportment, a type of φρoνησις, will prepare us to understand αληθευειν within the rubric of the civic. And then we can proceed to qualify the proximity of civic engagement.
Taking episteme as a type of comportment, we can come to theme certain approaches toward phenomena as epistemological. No doubt, we have come to theme the essence of imperial economy, imperium, as epistemological comportment — including its intellectual expression in the sciences and its political expression in, for example, liberalism. In as much as the epistemological is a type of φρoνησις, we can then ask about the proximity of the epistemological. No doubt, we find an answer to this question in returning to the traditional interpretation of episteme, as knowledge or science. We understand quite simply that knowledge does not include in itself any particular red apple, for example, but instead the description red and apple. Physics, for example, does not include in itself gravity but is instead the discipline which contains the atemporal and aspatial description gravity. Therefore, we can say that the objects of knowledge, of episteme, are universal in character. In as much, the proximity of the epistemological is universal. This universality of the epistemological runs up against the real-world proximity of φρoνησις. We take as our evidence for such “running up against” the very symptoms announced at the inception of this article series: modernization’s alienation, estrangement, and apathy, the products of economic giantism. It is equally evidenced in our distain for imperium, the command. Taken politically, the universality of the epistemological is authoritarian or totalitarian.
In as much as the universality of the epistemological is at odds with proximity, we should not be surprised that appeals for proximity are often encountered as archaic. And often the proponents of proximity are charged with anti-intellectualism. No doubt, throughout the story of later modernization we find the conservative spirit as the whistleblower on infringements to the proximity of φρoνησις. Simply consider the challenger to technological progress and homogenization of the creative expression following globalization. Yet, this conservativism should not be mistaken as belonging exclusively to the political right. After all, a call for proximity can be seen reaching across the political spectrum. Margaret Kohen’s Radical Space, Building the House of the People, for example, offers one of the best examples. In that work, Kohen appeals to challenge the “widespread suspicion that a political appeal to place is conservative, essentialist, or anachronistic”. She explicitly champions for “a political approach to community that mobilizes the resources of locality”. And mirroring Bonnitta Roy’s prescriptions, Kohen calls for civic engagement and a political approach which “involves citizens in governing through participation” a governance which “blurs the line between state and civil society”. She is thoroughly progressive.
Having now explicated the proximity of episteme, we are now prepared for placing αληθευειν in relief. Yet, before we move on, having felt the atomic tremble of conservatism, each for ourselves, we must also admit to an unexpected confession. One which has likely already surfaced in each reader up to this point. We should not be surprise that platforms like Bernie Sanders ‘socialism’ and Donald Trump’s ‘protectionism’ both lean towards a nationalization of economy. Of course, this parring of opposite character-types under the same banner might be quite jarring. And yet, there should be no doubt. Authenticity demands of us a nationalization on both sides of liberalism’s left/right political divide. Inherent in such nationalization is a scoping of proximity. If we wish to nurture truth and authenticity in the emergent project then we must be prepared to champion for an investment into national economics, even if the longer horizon reveals nation and free market to be a dichotomy of a past projection.
The perverse extrapolation here is, of course, we can no longer expect that successful social welfare programs will realize by way of a progressive liberal spirit. And if we could ever one day enjoy the utopia promised of Marx’s communist revolution, then it will be by way of the conservative spirit manifest in state capitalism, arising from the ruins of liberalism’s giantism and global free market. It is today, of course, all but trivial to realize that there can be no socialism without nation. We only need to contrast the confused position of the United States, where an appeal for social welfare has met with resistance, to that of Denmark. It is not accidental that a homogenized and appropriately scaled nation such as Denmark is the icon of social welfare.
Justin Carmien, January 7th, 2021