Orgasmic. Sensual. Ecstatic. This is the experience of truth. For our ancestors, the phenomena which produced such sensual experience was appreciated. Ultimately our progenitors felt indebted. In reflection they flattered the sensual experience — they drew temporal and spatial definition, capturing it in name: the beautiful
, the good
, and the just
. The human soul could hardly be felt as responsible for such creation. And in these times the meditations of kings led to expressions of 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 Marcus Aurelius’ diarylike meditations by Martin Hammond.
But let us stop up for just a moment. With all fairness to yourself and for and the Roman emperor, 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 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 poets and kings, along with the ancient philosophers are 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. Such sensual experience, it is said, is the least likely thing that could be called ‘objective’. Today, we are of such a maturity that we admit suspicion toward flattering these experiences. Each of us are kings — or perhaps if you prefer, none of us. And actually, neither an elevation or a degradation of our position matters; the consequence here 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 sensual 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 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 here those cases which you bring to this work. Despite this, we can say that 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. This distrust is evidenced in the appeal which populist rhetoric entertained on both sides of the political spectrum. Both left and right. However, we should not be too quick to point fingers. After all, 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 description (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. Alternative infrastructure manifested to cope with symptoms resulting from the existing democratic platforms. No doubt, pronounced for us today is the understanding that the democracy ideal is not merely satisfied by the vote, but by the larger civic engagement which precludes the vote — whether that be engagement at the family dinner table or the publicness of the internet news journal. Of course, it goes without saying, the disclosure of the good, the just, and the true are of primary importance to satisfying this ideal. Therefore, we conclude. It is that we harbor the democracy ideal, today, that we suffer from a dissatisfaction with the disclosure of truth.
Now, while the family dinner table may be a very relatable example, it is perhaps our virtue of privacy which best exemplifies the encouragement of self-concealment. After all, while privacy is self-evidently ‘healthy’ we must also admit that is a symptom — one which is highly encouraged within a commodification of information. Yet, while this may be true, all the same, raising such a self-evident virtue into question provokes suspicion of our agenda — or at the very least, what conclusions a project concerning itself with nurturing truth and authenticity might reach. We want to ask, what exactly are we committing ourselves to in interrogating our dissatisfaction with the disclosure of truth? This is a question not to be shunt aside. It is required of us already now, here at the outset of this article series.
No doubt, the first hesitation which presents itself might be called death from exposure. After all, if we were to act upon our dissatisfaction with the disclosure of truth, and thereby nurture conditions for more disclosure, 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 encounters. Quite to the contrary. If we chose to investigate our dissatisfaction further, then it is only for the sake of a liberation for disclosure.
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 neither can anything interesting come in faulting 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. Of course, both shame and virtue signaling have been employed in appeals to the modern ideal of society. The persistence of woke narrative throughout the early third millennium indicates the popularity of the armchair sociologist. And today, offerings are still made to appease this god, Society ( — such that it demands a capital ‘S’!) Yet, if we wish to take up a project interested in nurturing the disclosure of truth, we must admit that nothing interesting can come from such a domestication of the human animal. Nurturing the disclosure of truth means precisely the opposite — a liberation for disclosure. In as much, “domestication” 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, we understand the form which any conclusion must take. We are here not interested in self-help, or social conditioning, 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 given moment. 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?
We have already identified the ideal of democracy as the source of our dissatisfaction. And we have already admitted that democracy, for us today, cannot merely maintain through the institutions of value measurement. And in a perfect democracy, no vote would be necessary, anyway — we would simply follow our government administrators, who would, after all, be each and every one of us. Democracy, as a rule of the people, is the form of governance which is produced of the national ideal. However, in as much as we are far from this democracy, we do assume each mark on the ballot as a token of truth; yet, we also acknowledge that democracy is maintained by the larger economy which precludes such value measurement. The word democracy refers us to that which produces a sense of the truth, such that, only subsequently, value can be measured and maintained by way of democratic institutions. However, in animating “that which produces a sense of truth” we are not, thereby, also interested in the mob rule of social domestication; we have already made this much clear. Therefore, when investigating our dissatisfaction with the disclosure of truth, as it presents itself today, as an obstacle to the ideal of democracy, such defined, as that which is a product of the national ideal, then the conditions for authenticity are that which draw forward as our fundamental aim. Those conditions announce themselves negatively, in moments when authenticity has been barred. We find testament to such barring by looking into the history of later modernization.
In looking through the story of industrial-liberation 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 the sensual experience 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 period — 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 — an apathy which we find pronounced in that cool aloof or sarcastic cynicism of twentieth century popular culture.
Of course, alienation and apathy do not exhaust the consequences of an industrialized economy — yet they do get us closer to understanding the obstruction of authenticity, as it manifests today. From the vantage which we are afforded, 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 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 with the disclosure of truth and obstruction of authenticity. No doubt the want for authenticity proves itself in the failure of the democratic institution of independent news media — when “post-truth!” announces itself. Perhaps the want for authenticity proves itself less explicitly in the “utilitarian state” (Étienne Balibar) subjected to market demands — but even so, it proves itself once again, more pronounced, in the mob contagion of social justice which produces content for abuse by marketeers. This is no light matter. After all, we can ask ourselves: how can any one of us retain genuine authenticity when the socio-material condition calls for unprecedented unity? Estrangement is direly pronounced in the revenge of the post-colonial narratives and political activity; it is equally pronounced in the reactionary masculine movements (Jack Donovan) and the calls for ethnos states. We are pit against each other — neighbor against neighbor. Can there be any doubt that such a state of affairs obscures the possibility for genuine authenticity?
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? Authenticity was, after all, championed during the twentieth century — in the works of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger and psychologist Karl Jaspers. The search for authenticity has been attributed to what has been called the existentialist period of Western philosophy. And yet that body of work fell to critique by way of Theodor Adorno, who argued that the material economy of the human animal precludes “the divine right of the soul”. That is, the material condition of the human body is that which conditions the movements of the human soul. Material first. Soul second. Therefore, Adorno suggests, we must prioritize the material condition.
In as much, it seems that our task at hand amounts to is this: are we able to do today what was not possible in the post-war liberal witch-hunt? — during the time of the Frankfort School’s Critical Theory. Can we bring authenticity to meet economic reform? Of course, to do this it appears we must make a decision about what is more foundational — the soul of man or the body. Adorno is clear: the “state of affairs” is that which “precludes the divine rights of the soul”. But, in making such a decision about Adorno’s “man”, we must remember that when Marx stood Hegel on his head in order to announce dialectical materialism, we were delivered over to a certain truth — but this was not that the movement of the human soul is conditioned by a material substrate. Instead, the human soul is moved by an appeal to our material conditioning. Soul first. Material second. Let us remember even Marx’s own primordial movement of the soul: the pains of alienation and the divorce of man from nature. In as much, we return to Marx’s soul, not his words, But in doing so, we realize that a starting point in material economies is exactly that which has prevented an overcoming of alienation, estrangement, and apathy. Certainly, economics as a dialectic — that is, between classes, races, genders, or whatever other identities have followed from material dialectics — is narrow.
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. We must operate in within the sphere of a more “primordial economics” — one which operates parallel to Aristotle’s metaphysics, τὰ περὶ τῆς πρώτης φιλοσοφίας (that is, ‘the [writings] concerning first philosophy’). The French philosopher Rene Descartes offers a more English friendly word for this realm of thought, Prima Philosophia. And so, following the Latin, we might say we are here doing prima economics. rime economics. However, for ease in English, let us simple call the realm in which this series operates, first economics.
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 work 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 work. 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. 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 work 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 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 us to frame the utility which truth assumed in the project of later modernization, in service to an economy of imperium (Latin, ‘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. In the second half of this article series, the reader should expect the delineation of a more robust understanding of truth. This delineation will be accomplished by way of an architectonic of first economics. This architectonic will be used for identifying the economic conditions for the phenomenological encounter with truth — that which is itself, the condition for authenticity. From there we can proceed to material economic reform prescriptions.
While this work has been constructed under the presumption that enlightenment values will continue to guide every 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. We will overcome the relativism of liberalism and return truth to its rightful place in nature. 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 engagement — 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, the prescriptions herein offer better solutions for liberty than what liberalism can offer to us today.
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 article series 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 article 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 proximal discourse which provides the conditions for authenticity, such that truth may be encountered. 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.