Part 1 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.
***Note: some devices may not read special characters which appear throughout this article***
Orgasmic. Sensual. Ecstatic. This is the experience of truth. And for our ancestors, the phenomena which produced this sensual experience was appreciated. Ultimately our progenitors felt indebted to their experience. In reflection they flattered them — they called them by the name the beautiful, the good, and the just. These experiences were so sublime that they could hardly be felt as a creation of the human soul. And in these times the meditations of kings led to expressions of sublime humility. In reading these meditations today, we transport ourselves by way of a silent profundity — we listen to the words as a deaf man who experiences the power of the trumpet’s blast,
“Beautiful things are beautiful in themselves and sufficient to themselves. Praise is extraneous.”
“Does anything genuinely beautiful need supplementing? No more than justice does — or truth, or kindness, or humility. Are any of those improved by being praised? Or damaged by contempt?”
“Is an emerald suddenly flawed if no one admires it?”
These passages come to us by way of a translation of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius’s diarylike meditations by Martin Hammond.
But let us stop up for just a moment. With all fairness to yourself and for Aurelius’s work, try asking yourself — how uncanny did these reflections strike you? In all honesty, wasn’t a certain degree of disassociation required for appreciating their profundity? I mean, wouldn’t you be embarrassed to express the sentiments of the Roman Emperor as your own, today? Imagine if a friend was standing right in front of you. Right now. How do you anticipate this friend’s reaction? Would you not expect laughter? Would you not be taken as speaking of absurdity? “…beautiful things are beautiful in themselves…” — seriously?
Today, the king along with the philosopher is understood as harboring a self-absorbed naivety toward the world. There is nothing novel in admitting that long ago we lost the privilege to express such praise for the world. Aesthetic judgement, it is said, is the least likely thing that could be called universal. Today, we are of such a maturity that we admit suspicion toward flattering such experiences. Each of us are kings — or if you prefer it, none of us. And actually, neither an elevation or a degradation of our position matters; the consequence is the same. The experience which calls us to proclaim the beautiful, the good, and the just have fallen to doubt. Today, we feel that the Roman emperor’s primordial experience wants to burst forth from us — we want to say that which is beautiful to me is beautiful in itself, but our conscience prevents us from expressing it — at least outside of art museum ‘safe spaces’. No doubt, we are all too wise. After all, who today could comfort themselves with the thought of having possession of something like my truths. The very expression feels like a contradiction. Either my experience is true for everyone, or it is nothing even to myself.
Looking within our history we can theme a narrative of our socio-material inheritance — a project which we have called modernization. Within this story we find a demand for institutions where the truth of matters could be decided. Beyond the courtroom this project demanded that the decision be given over to investigators — the physicians and journalists. In as much, the judgement over the truth was industrialized. We were pursuing a compendium of knowledge for the sake of human liberation — and only those procedures which facilitated this industrial-liberation project enjoyed our praise as the good. And yet, for those of you who hold this work before you, one thing must be certain — that you have felt an unsatisfactory commitment toward truth. Only on account of this dissatisfaction can a work which is titled How to Nurture Truth and Authenticity spark any interest. Therefore, this work assumes an atomic dissonance. A feeling that, in some way, we have not done a satisfactory job of nurturing the disclosure of truth within this economy. Of course, our dissonance is founded upon real examples. Yet, we cannot surmise those cases which you, the reader, bring to this article series. Therefore, we can only repeat here the most international, global. And, after all, during the period of later modernization we seem to have harbored an almost universal suspicion toward governmental officials and those lobbying on behalf of capital interests. Our distrust is evident in the appeal which populist rhetoric entertained on both sides of the classical political spectrum. Both left and right. However, an example can also be made of our equally pervasive encouragement of self-concealment. In as much as truth not only contains industrial information, factual data, but also reports on our ‘subjective’ states (for example, pain, hoping, or grieving) and those of aesthetic judgement (beautiful, good, just, exotic, uncanny) we can say that we have encouraged something of a reservation toward disclosure, generally. No doubt, we have all heard the disclaimer, we don’t talk politics or religion at the dinner table. Of course, when looking at family economy during this period of later modernization, we can understand this disclaimer as necessary. However, we assume this necessity as mere evidence of an unsatisfactory interpersonal economy. After all, wouldn’t any professional psychologist warn against such reservation? Such lonesome suffering with your truth? It shouldn’t be any surprise that many had found utility in the solace of the internet echo-chamber. No doubt, alternative infrastructure manifested to cope with symptoms resulting from the existing platforms. In as much, we must admit that our dissatisfaction toward truth is not merely reflected in the politician who is subject to corruption. It is equally apparent in our dissatisfaction toward anyone’s civic participation — whether that be within the intimacy of the family home or the publicness of the internet news journal.
Now, while the family dinner table may be a very relatable example for most, it is our virtue of privacy which perhaps best exemplifies our encouragement of self-concealment — even if it is less comfortable to admit. After all, in looking back to the story of later modernization, privacy had been made so self-evidently ‘healthy’ that we have likely forgotten that it is a symptom — one which was encouraged as good from within a commodification of information which exploited the personal. Of course, this is not to say that privacy is absolutely unhealthy, but that our economy does, after all, discourage disclosure. Of course, the want for privacy is nothing new to the human experience. It is not exclusive to the development of the commodification of information. Therefore, we should also admit that when thinking on our dissatisfaction with the disclosure of truth and, in particular, acting upon that dissatisfaction, we may have healthy hesitations.
Firstly, it might be good to remind ourselves of that condition which we know as death from exposure. After all, if we were to act upon our dissatisfaction, we might end up on the edge of a slippery slope. What if we find ourselves butt-naked, exposed, and without even leaves to cover ourselves back up? Of course, here we should also remind ourselves that conditions do exist in which something like a ‘healthy lie’ has value. No doubt, we must remember that there are times in which concealment is appropriate. Therefore, if we chose to investigate our dissatisfaction, and thereby advance toward prescriptions for nurturing the disclosure of truth, we should not fear that we are likewise interested in depriving the individual their right to discretion in their day-to-day human encounters. Quite to the contrary. If we chose to investigate our dissatisfaction further, then it is only on account of a liberation for authenticity.
Secondly, we can be sure that any prescriptions for nurturing the disclosure of truth could not take the form of self-help. Obviously, nurturing a readiness for disclosure in any particular you or me would surely be disadvantageous for anyone whose environment did not mutually support such disclosure. And, on the flipside, we could never fault any individual for the discouragement of disclosure, anyway. Consider that there is nothing particularly novel in critiquing capitalism on the basis of greed or selfishness. Likewise, nothing interesting can come from looking at dissimulation, deception, and concealment as deviations from normal behavior from within our inherited infrastructure. In as much, we understand that any deception, dissimulation, or concealment of the truth has only surfaced as a by-product of our economy. We should beware of becoming preoccupied with policing deviant cases and domesticating the human animal. This can only derail us from the more fruitful tasks which come from understanding that our infrastructure is currently providing for operations well in accordance with its principals. In other words, we understand that truth is doing what it should be doing. Therefore, already here at the outset, we understand the form which any conclusion must take. We are here not interested in self-help, but economic reform.
Should we be convinced, then, that these preliminary precautions have prepared us for initiating an investigation into our dissatisfaction of the disclosure of truth? Hardly. We can also admit, already now, a third hesitation. After all, there is a serious question of practicality. Obviously, we have a limited number of resources at hand, at any moment of time. And pursuing economic reform of this type may mean sacrificing other projects. Therefore, a requirement for such a project is the estimation of its value. Of course, understanding its value means understanding both the challenge and the outcome which might be feasible. Therefore, in thinking on such an estimation, we must ask, in all honesty, why do we harbor such dissatisfaction toward the disclosure of truth? Is truth healthy in itself? Or would our aim be at something more fundamental? While the answers to these questions will undoubtedly be as diverse as the number of persons polled, we do find testimony suggesting a profound deprivation of truth and of authenticity in industrialized economy — though, perhaps not where we might first expect it.
In looking through the story of later modernization we find reference to what has been called alienation. This is apparent, at least as far back as the Bohemian novelist Franz Kafka. But looking further backward, the Scottish economist Adam Smith had already recognized an alienation of the worker from his labor in a “division of labor”. Of course, today we are tempted to judge this conclusion as myopic. Today, in looking backward to this period of later modernization, we surmise that our alienation mustn’t have been merely an illness for those employed on the assembly line. Instead, this symptom must have been conditioned by something much more pervasive. A condition which points toward our dissatisfaction toward the disclosure of truth.
Taking up a higher vantage, we understand industrialization as referring to specialization and compartmentalization of operations, generally. If we consider the ‘operation’ of an individual’s perpetual interpretation of phenomena then the very digestion of the world had undergone an alienating industrialization. It should be no surprise that we found this as cause for dissonance. Consider the thousands of years of conditioning which the human animal must have adjusted for during the polytheistic agricultural times — a time we imagine characterized by a harmonious feedback loop between labor and the very phenomena of our experience. No doubt, this romanticized picture of the ancients still resonates with us today. The very product of modernization — the super-sized modern empire — had marginalized not only the indigenous cultures, but also the majority individual. This seems most evident in the democratic conversation. Once again, we can call to the testimony. If we read the work of American social critic Walter Lippmann as testimony from this period (that which has been said to introduce the world to modern journalism) we don’t find despise for the democratic ideal, but rather a forfeit attitude — a feeling that anyone’s contribution had simply become ineffective. Today we might say that human affectivity had been handed over to algorithm some time ago. We should not be surprised of the apathy which follows.
Of course, this alienation and apathy do not exhaust the consequences of an industrialized economy — yet they do get us closer to understanding our dissatisfaction. From the vantage which we are afforded today, it is undeniable that industrialization had discouraged sincere and meaningful encounters between ‘our people’. Within the writing of both Lippmann and the contemporaneous American philosopher John Dewey we find contentions with an impersonal public — an object which voiced a compendium of specialized industries. This public was a you and a me, yet, at the same time it was a no one. And what should not be contested is the consequence of such an impersonal identity — a coddled people. It seems that the liberated had become, quite perversely, sheltered from one another. Without forums for sincere and meaningful encounters, truth had been stripped from the human mouth. The legislative state was a nation without a campfire, so-to-speak. And if we consider the effect of this void — if we are truly honest with ourselves — then we must admit that the state had encouraged a harmful appeal to the distances and differences between its people — a “pathos of distance” (Friedrich Nietzsche). Undoubtedly, the liberated had come to enjoy the fiction of the misguided stranger — that individual who is responsible for electing the corrupted politicians and the self-defeating legislation. However, today we are too mature for such a characterization. Instead, we must admit that any failure of democracy can only be an indication of an unhealthy human economy — an indication of an unhealthy democracy of strangers. It is only from these long-told stories that we understand the direness of our dissatisfaction. A sense of alienation, estrangement, and apathy describe the conditions for our want for truth and authenticity. While the industrial-liberation project demands truth and authenticity, it requires that we take them as granted. But when those conditions are absent, the whole project comes into question.
But what signals that today we have a position adequate for going beyond these long-told symptoms? Why this article series? Why exactly today? No doubt, alienation, estrangement, and apathy are nothing new to industrialized economy. So, what is it that we have now, which previous economists lacked? No doubt, at least since the time of the German philosopher Karl Marx, we find that modernization had been pursuing under a bias — a bias toward the material conditions of man. It had been thought that the material condition of the human body is that which drives the human soul. Material first. Soul second. Yet, this is a bit presumptuous. After all, when Marx flipped Hegel on his head in order to announce dialectical materialism, we were delivered over to certain empirical evidence — but this was not that the movement of the human soul is conditioned by a material substrate — but instead, that the human soul is moved by an appeal to our material conditioning. In as much, it must be clear, economics as a material economics is a myopic departure. Certainly, economics as a dialectic — that is, between classes, races, genders, or whatever other identities have followed from material dialectics — is narrow. It is possible, after all, that this departure might be exactly that which has prevented an overcoming of alienation, estrangement, and apathy. What an investigation into our dissatisfaction requires is a new position from which to view economics. Let us make this much clear — this article series, if it is to be satisfactory, cannot deliver a mere material economic proposal, but something which renders an appeal to material economics possible.
While this work has been constructed under the presumption that enlightenment values will continue to guide every human project in our futural continuum, this work will also diagnose a perversion of those values — namely that approach to governance which has gone by the name liberalism. No doubt, this claim may be shocking to those who champion for the universal ideal of Human Rights. However, we can also be sure that liberal values (even those of which Marx made appeal) have not delivered us over to a satisfactory commitment to truth. And unless we are interested in a domestication of the human animal — a quite unliberal project — these values must come under interrogation. For those who are acquainted with the metamodern discussion, we must deflate concern for what has been called the problematizing of critique from within the liberal paradigm. In deflating this concern, our prescriptions will have addressed the challenges of later modernization — namely, alienation, estrangement, and apathy. Of course, it should be innately intuitive that a people who are attuned to a liberation of authenticity are one who is actively nurturing the conditions for healthy civic participation — that which can satisfy our ideal of democracy. We understand that a liberation of authenticity can only be achieved by way of intimacy and listening, safety and security, sympathy and understanding. In as much, we must believe that the prescriptions herein offer better solutions for liberty than what liberalism can offer to us today.
On account of our position, one which is ready to make real prescriptions for nurturing truth and authenticity and for going beyond the illnesses of industrial economy, we also acknowledge that today we are living in a “time between worlds” — a phrase which has become popular through American education philosopher Zak Stein. Of course, it is yet to be known whether the liminal today and now referenced throughout this series will span decades or centuries. However, and despite this uncertainty, there is one thought which should inspire confidence in our future. Consider that you are already here with this article. Together, we are actively seeking a vision which can align our activity. In as much, we are already building something of a coalition — as we press ahead with fresh wide-eyes into the next world-defining project of human history. If we look at both truth and authenticity as something of a seed, then their future is alone in our hands. If we wish to nurture them, then we must provide the conditions for them to grow — such that one day we can enjoy their blossom.
This work, How to Nurture Truth and Authenticity, will be delivered in two halves. The first seeks to disclose the historical economy of truth. This is in order to discover the cause in a deprivation of the phenomenal experience of truth. In recounting this narrative backward through the western historical continuum we will lay bare an understanding of Ancient Greek αληθεια (alētheia, ‘truth’) and the appropriation which overcame αληθεια through Latinization (into verum). In doing so, we anticipate the discovery of a moment of pronounced expediency in the project of modernization. This series will make clear the wholesale expediency of modernization by way of the esteem of Latin ratio (reason). This narrative will also provide us with the language for thematizing a specific human comportment which made use of that expedient. In order that we may operate with this comportment as an object, this work will name this comportment in a word — episteme. The identification of episteme will itself allow for an understanding of the reification of the metaphysical object power. The identification of these twofold complimentary objects will allow this work to frame the utility which truth assumed in the project of later modernization, in service to an economy of imperium (Latin, ‘I command’). This utility will make bare the deprivation of truth in later modernization. This deprivation will then affirm the necessity of a work concerning itself with truth and authenticity.
Despite the dramatic claims contained within this introduction, it should be remarked that this article series does not harbor the spirit of revolutionary destruction. This series is not a piece of futurism in which its own history has been erased. Of course, philosophers and social critics are often criticized for wanting to start over — for wanting to scrap the perverted infrastructure which we have inherited and begin afresh. After all, without the baggage it is easy to visualize a utopia. However, this is likely a misconception. Certainly, this book would be fooling its reader if it entertained such material devastation. And anyway, there is no need for the identification of any crisis here, such that the divination of an apocalypse is necessary. No need for distasteful fear mongering either. The clarity and confidence of our position already makes a claim to what follows — that no creation of a savior will be necessary. While the economic critique within the first half of this series is built upon the ruins of industrialization, the proposal of the second is something of a compliment to a vision of the future — one which each of us carry with us. We understand this vision as a harmonious discourse between man and the very phenomena of his experience. It is this relationship which provides for the conditions for encountering the truth such that authenticity may be liberated. Together, the words and the visualizations of the proposal go up to embody a robust aesthetic — one which we can use as an idol as we press ahead into our future.
Note on design and appearance
Despite how it may seem, this article series is intended to be read by a general audience. Therefore, it should be understood that I have intended a certain obstruction into the design of this work — in the form of words from foreign languages. Be warned. Some words appearing throughout the historical economy of truth are not only foreign, but also from long deceased languages. This seeming unnecessary difficulty affords me, as the author of this work, one security. That my reader may be unburdened by any modern prejudices which could undermined the intended experience of this work.
Of course, a translation of the Anglo-Saxon ꞅōþ (sooth) or Ancient Greek αληθεια into the modern English truth would expedite the digestion of the text. However, this expediency carries with it the potential to cloud the exercise of interpretation. And, in this case, the foreign word will do better. My reader should acknowledge, as I do, that the ancient texts which appear through the historical narrative are taken up for one purpose — clearing a space for philosophical reflection. Perhaps it is all-too easy to overlook the genuine philosophizing which occurs in translation of the exotic. Consider the exercise of importing even a ‘living’ object such as the Korean han into the Anglo-American world. In as much, it should be obvious that any ‘dead’ object from ancient texts is material for rich reflection. Of course, I would be deceiving you if I promised to transport your way of thinking over to the ancients altogether. However, I have already forfeit myself to the understanding that the human economy in which those objects originated is long deceased. Therefore, I understand that the thought surrounding those objects is likewise impossible to reach. And, in any case, there is no benchmark which could decide, once and for all, a successful attempt here. In as much as the value of this exercise falls outside the domain of falsifiability, I am not concerned if later evidence surfaces which disproves the content of the history.
On this account, I can prepare you for one task already now. Expect that throughout the historical narrative of the economy of truth, you will be required to relearn words may seem overly familiar. Therefore, it must be said, despite my seeming disregard for your time and energy, I hope that you can enjoy, as I do, an estrangement from the overly familiar. Of course, it is undoubtable, today we favor works of art which are easily digestible. There is an expectation that all products conform to the standard demanded of the American commodities economy. However, if anyone does not find themselves in a position which favors the digestion of this work, then I maintain that it is not the work which is to be critiqued. Instead, I proceed with this work on the presumption that it is our condition which should fall to interrogation. No doubt, an animation of the global exacerbates our anxieties for both readymade answers and action — certainly within the field of political activism and economic reform. However, this anxiety is exactly what will come into question throughout this series. In as much, I can only hope that this work finds its way into the hands of those who can appreciate the reward which follows difficulty. This article series will undoubtedly resonate with those who understand that discovery is not only reserved to frontier exploration — and that elucidation is often more fertile ground than that of conquering the unknown.
However, this intended difficulty does raise one considerable alarm. I expect the tempo of this series to depend entirely on the understanding which you, the reader, bring into this series. And so, unlike the nightclub DJ or stand-up comedian who can respond to his audience’s mood with appropriate changes in tempo, I have forfeit such artistic control. I can only hope that digestion comes at an enjoyable pace.
One last note. I have been careful not to say too much from out of those fields of research which I am not an expert. While I fashion myself as something of a metaphysician (having found myself invested in the discipline for over ten years now) the novelty of this work remains within what we know as aesthetics. In announcing this, I make no presumption to the originality of this work’s etymological datum or metaphysical foundations. To this, I am in debt to the rich enlightenment from thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bonnitta Roy, and Michael Michailidis. Let this enumeration satisfy the gratitude which I owe to those thinkers. Instead, this work should be read as a work of aesthetics. Its primary object is the metamodern aesthetic, which manifests through all activities of life and climaxes most jarringly within the political realm.
—Justin Carmien, March 23rd, 2020