Problematizing truth is a methodological problem. Philosophy always asks the question: what is truth. Socrates used to play with truth, by probing his students with an endless play of questions and answers and finally shedding of the ritual of the question itself in sheer sophistry. But again the question remains: what is truth: is this the truth: what ought to be the truth. Instead of posing truth as a discourse, I would like to dialogue with truth.
Religions amalgamate truth into a cauldron of value, a relation to the supernatural. They make it out that truth is essential for salvation, eternal life, and all the metaphysical attributes, that separate the divine from the human. Now what can this type of truth be defined? Truth is separated from reason and undergoes the ritual, an enigma of the supernatural. For a non believer truth makes no sense. Theistic truth can’t be defined but only experienced as proclaimed by the mystics. Such a concept of truth can be delusional. Truth in the religious sense can be described as theistic-mania. However religious truth has been dismantled by structuralism and postmodernism. Truth for them is a play of signs, a playful connection between the signifier and the signified. Theology from a metaphysical frame work has been deconstructed, that is the Logos of Presence is an empty sign. But still believers of theism regard it as something fundamental.
How can we portray truth in the scientific realm? There are conjectural truths. For example the idea of the Big Bang is conjectural. But the concept of DNA is verifiable through the experimental. So also is the existence of subatomic particles. There are also other types of scientific truths, the inductive and the deductive. The inductive truth stems from premises that are true and leading to conclusions. For example: All men are mortal. Socrates is a Man. Therefore Socrates is mortal. This is an inductive truth. For deductive truth: the premises can be true or false. If they are true, they lead to the right conclusions. For example sugar dissolves in water and metal does not dissolve in water.
Next I would like to take the Hegelian concept of truth and that being, arriving at a thesis, then an antithesis and finally a synthesis. The problem of Hegel’s truth is that there might not be a synthesis. Let’s take communism as an example. The domination, corruption and violence attached to communism shifted its crux from the synthesis that Communism is right to an antithesis. The synthesis today at the level of political praxis is leanings of political philosophy to the dialectics of production and profit. Dialectical materialism has grown in its stature to opportunistic capitalism. The ideological apparatuses of the state control and monitor the individual secretly. Capitalism has shed its tentacles and has united societies into global corporations. Global corporations go even to the extent of funding democratic elections and bringing to victory candidates of their choice. Here truth becomes a choice of being a value as an economic entity. Truth becomes manipulated for affluent economic consumption.
Next I would like to explain truth from an ontological, phenomenological, psychoanalytic perspective. I am also going to incorporate postmodernism into my narrative. Ontology explains the structure of being, the presence of making the meaning of being. Postmodern philosophy has challenged the existence of presence of being. What I would like to say is that meaning is always being made. The processing of meaning through contents consciousness (phenomenology) is a dialectical process. We can call the making of meaning as processual ontology. Let’s take the concept of meaning psychoanalytically. The Philosopher Sartre has given the status of being as unlimited freedom. But psychoanalytically meaning of being remains conditioned to the ID, EGO and Super Ego. Raw passions are controlled by the EGO, family moorings, and the Super EGO, the laws of the society, what Lacan calls as: In the Name of the Law of the Father. A being has to tight rope walk on these three psychological attributes the ID, EGO and the Super Ego. A Nietzsche’s follower would in post-modern sense would say: sublimate the ID, transcend the Ego and the Subvert the Super Ego. By doing so, man can become the Übermensch or the over-man. Truth in the post modern sense depends on how well, you can sublimate the ID, transcend the Ego and subvert the Super Ego.
I happened to read the story since I had to teach it to eight graders. The story belongs to the genre of the Gothic Vintage. The protagonist of the story becomes obsessed with the killing of an old man. The whole story revolves around his pathological mania for killing. The reason for killing is psycho-analytically revealed in the story. The old man has an eye that resembles that of a vulture. The evil eye is haunting the protagonist. The wealth or possessions of the man like Gold does not interest the protagonist. He visits the old man’s house several times in the night and goes through the ecstasy of the thought of butchery. And finally one night he accomplishes the mission. He decapitates the body and buries it in the wooden planks that make the floor of the house. Then Poe brings in the cops who come to house on the pretext of having heard a shriek. The protagonist at first manages to maintain his composure but in the end looses it and spills the beans to the cops that he has liquidated the old man. It’s true that Poe has been characterized as a mad genius and as a tormented artist. The protagonist is suffering from narcissistic, psychotic melancholia. The narcissism is an obsession directed with quirk of violence that shifts the mind from reason to that of passion. The protagonist is going through an intense psychotic phase of psychosis where he is not able to distinguish murder as something diabolic and goes against the Super Ego, the laws of the society. Melancholia is pining for an object that cannot be obtained. Here it becomes a phantasmagoria, the vulture-eye of the old man. The psychotic character is unable to distinguish between fiction and reality. He does not want to take responsibility of the crime and willingly surrenders himself to the police. The psychological build up of psychotic anxiety is a super rendition of art.
Blue at Noon by Georges Bataille is a fascinating avant garde novel. In this essay I would like to deconstruct the way in which women are portrayed. Most of the Women except his wife and Desire are sluts. The prominent whores featured in his novel are dirty (Dorothea) and Xenia. The entanglements of the protagonist with these women are symptomatically pathological. The protagonist betrays devastating hidden oedipal fantasies. The relationships with these women are more intricate and denser than remuneration for occupying the pleasures of the bed. The protagonist takes great pleasure in the disgusting and the revolting. For example: Dirty is drunk and puking and at the same time she exposes herself nude. Sometimes the protagonist becomes an archetypal feminine. For example he sobs: when he gets a letter from his wife. All his relationships with sluts are erotic a melancholia, a fantasy of longing which ceases to be fulfilled. He portrays whores as tender, loving oedipal objects on which he can gratify his emptiness, his angst. The novel takes places in three places, England, France and Spain. In France he encounters Xenia. He is very ill at that time. Xenia though a whore goes to a great extent of nursing him back. The amazing thing is that he does not feel grateful but treats her with intense repulsion. In Spain he encounters Desire. The Spanish revolution is going on there and she has intense communist views. Though he becomes close to Desire, he treats her like a wretch. He has no interest in her intellectual proclivities. There are no scenes in the novel which are sexually graphic. Drunkenness, puking and nudeness become orgies for the mind of the protagonist. Though the novel is experimental, the narrative is straight forward and goes on from the beginning to the end. The protagonist is an erotic Sisyphus who is tormented by the weight of his sexual entanglements and finds release of his emotion through sheer repugnance. The pleasure of the bed has become a narcotic stone which is rolled down by him in mental stupor. The protagonist is always in state of psychological fornication. As a work of Art he is Picasso’s bull who is limpid and strangulated by his own emotions. The author creates whores who are fond of him. The creation represents a maternal, oedipal reaching out. Is it a kind of oedipal narcissism that the author suffers from? There is no political consciousness for the protagonist. He maintains a stormy silence when Desire discusses ideas about communism. The creation of the psychology for the whores in his novel is a dystopian archetype. The women are his ideal and yet they are repugnant to him. Eroticism for the narrator is one of morbid loathing and ironically a state of ecstatic pleasure. I as a reader, I am totally ignorant how whores interact or behave. Of course I have had my chances but I have failed to follow upon them. Yes in the end, I feel whores are humane and can have genuine feelings.
I have read Camus’ book ‘Myth of the Sisyphus’. And I started my introspection on Nihilism. The senseless, the absurd, the chaotic, have to be transformed by living a life of creative authentication. One way of overcoming Nihilism is through language. I adopt Nietzsche’s dictum: the will to power. Everyday experiences are transformed into metaphoric nuances. Nihilism for Nietzsche is the affirmation of the Dionysian. Ecstasy and rhythms are vibratory metaphors to transform life to a higher plane of existence. A nihilist would also like to experience altered states of consciousness. What are emotive characteristics of Nihilism? Affirmation, Negation, Possession, are various states where the individual exerts through creative anarchy. For a Nihilist democratic dialogism is a process through which inter-personal harmony is experienced. A nihilist has to transform life by overcoming suicide. What is affirmation? Affirmation is a cathartic-yes-ness of experience. Negation is an existential mantra, a nihiliation whereby an individual exorcises an intentional object or emotion from the core to the periphery of existence. The very root of possession is passion. The human body is built on the roots to appropriate. A nihilist does not believe in after life. He or she has to live the life to fullest while inhabiting the earth.
Though you rest peacefully near the roaring sea…your life’s journey has not ended with me. Yes you visit me nocturnally in my dreams. You tend to talk of the good –old-days…sometimes, you are very silent. It’s a joy to see you in my dreams. Apart from being a teacher, you were teaching life to me. I am filled with gratitude for you for introducing me to Hellenic culture. Without you, I would have been a culture-illiterate, boorish Syrian Christian. I never in my life at that point of time had even the slightest inclination that I wanted to be a writer. Now I realize that writing is my destiny and all along you were laying its roots. When I fell in love in my teens, you were so liberally permissive. You took the trouble of visiting my lover’s family and fixing our marriage, sad to say ended like fragments of broken glass. I did not know the value of your immense collection of books then. But now I realize, how valuable books are and I am adding on to your collection as and when my budget permits me. Ideologically speaking, you appear strange to me. You were a Capitalist, Christian and a Communist with a liberal philosophy. You practiced Capitalism in the institution you run and at the same time you were a member of the Communist party. As a Christian, you were secular and emphasized the secular and cultural values of Christianity. Your students loved and respected you. I had a bag of mixed feelings for you, of love, respect, of fear. After all these years, I realize how much I miss you. We could have had a jovial tête à tête with a good drink. Even when you were you very sick, you predicted the day you would die and it happened as you said on Christmas day. I was thankful that I could satisfy you last wish that you wanted to be buried with your mother. Yes, your mother died when you were only a boy. Your strange wish always puzzled me. And then finally light dawned on me, when a colleague of yours said: ‘my mother gave my body and at death, I want to give it to her’.
In this article I would like to focus on how we try to discern a metaphor. I would like to focus on the cognitional faculty associated with metaphors. Discerning a metaphor can be aesthetic, religious, secular, cultural-historical and philosophical.
A metaphor in common day language is an adornment of words where there occurs a comparison between things. For example: His thoughts are a flying saucer. It means that his thoughts are fanciful and unrealistic. This metaphor has only one effect on the reader which is a pure aesthetic one, one of pleasure.
Let’s look at another example: He is a shady night. Here the metaphor embodies a semantic concept, meaning that he is not a straight forward person. This semantic attribute is related to a particular emotional quality and there by casting its roots into the soil of judging human qualities.
But some metaphors go beyond the aesthetic. Let’s take a Biblical metaphor which is also simile: ‘You should have faith as a mustard seed’. A simile is also related to the metaphor and uses like or as. Here mustard seed takes a meaning of the supra-sensible realm, beyond the aesthetic. Faith becomes dichotomized into smallness and reliance on the super-natural. We can utilize its meaning in the secular sense as the tininess of faith for obtainment of a thing or with a religious tinge, having faith as small as a mustard seed and relying faith on a transcendental power. The hermeneutic meaning is left to the discernment of the reader.
Next I would like to take an example of a metaphor having political and historical connotations. For example: Fascism and Nazism have become religious entities of fanatic Islam in the contemporary geo-political world. Here the meaning becomes a thesis (far- right dictatorships), an antithesis (unfair barbarism and cruelty and the holocaust) and synthesis (the aim of fanatic Islam to create terrorism and also dominate the world). I am using Hegelian Philosophy here. The meaning of this metaphor bifurcates into cultural, political and historic roots and brings up a daunting similarity with the contemporary comparison.
Next I would like to analyze a metaphor from feminist philosophy. For example: We or they are gender twins. This refers to woman who does not like to be labeled as she or he. Being gender neutral and the same time having a gender is an accepted norm of conceptual democratic post-modern philosophy.
Thus in my readings of the metaphor, I have left its discernment as aesthetics, as the religious, as the semantic, as the secular, as the historical, cultural and the political and also the philosophical.
Sartre starts his philosophy by assuming states of consciousness. He starts his discourse by contradicting Descartes Philosophy of thought: Cogito Ergo Sum: I think therefore I exist. Sartre says that the consciousness of Descartes which thinks is a secondary consciousness or in Sartre’s Words: the consciousness of the for-Itself. For Sartre there’s a consciousness, a primary one which is an empty one called in-Itself. This Sartre calls as Pre-reflective Cogito. Now here lies the problem: the consciousness that Sartre posits as the in-itself is not really an empty vehicle, when we consider it in Freudian terms.
Now let’s take the theories of Freud relating to the mind. Freud is famous for his derivation of the Unconscious, ID, EGO and the Super Ego. The ID composes of primeval energies which according to Freud are libidinal. The Ego develops through the social environment and culture which an individual experiences. The Super Ego or in psychoanalyst Lacan’s words: in the name of the Father are the laws of the society which prohibits and restrains the individual from committing unlawful acts. Transgressing these laws would entail punishment. The unconscious according to Freud is a realm where the repressed exists.
In this article, I would like to synthesize the Consciousness of Sartre with theories of Freud. The consciousness which Sartre names as the primary consciousness or the in-itself is not really empty. It consists of the Freudian unconscious and also the Freudian Id or the libidinal energies. The unconscious manifests in Sartre’s for-itself consciousness as tongue slips and dreams. The libidinal energies too are experienced in the for-itself as sexual acts, as art. But when they are expressed they become subject to the democratic norms of the society. Art can be a medium through which the repressed can be given free reign. However the Super Ego present in the consciousness of the for-itself has certain taboos attached to it. Some taboos may be broken without punishment; for example adultery is not punishable by law and democracy allows consensual sex. But there are other taboos which cannot be violated. They are incest and murder. During times of their violation the Super Ego intervenes to punish the accused.
Sartre goes to an incredible extent with his existential philosophy to say that there are no inherent values or morals and it’s permissive for the individual to direct the consciousness of the for-itself permissively. Sartre claims that all acts of the for-itself are authentic responsibilities for the individual. Yes Sartre is right when he says we are condemned to be free. The Freudian Super Ego controls our Ego and the ID by imposing norms which are conducive for democracy. Unethical behavior can be democratically expressed through art. Violence, murder, incest all these are universal taboos which are not to be violated in an ethical democracy. There are exceptional individuals who have attained philosophical notoriety by their writings and life. For example let’s take Marquis De Sade who was fascinated with murder and eroticism. But his writings and life violate the democratic norm but can be discussed philosophically.
For Sartre, Ego was a state, but for Freud it’s an inbuilt mechanism housing the unconscious, ID, Ego and the Super Ego.
In conclusion I reiterate that the primary consciousness of Sartre, the in-itself comprises of the Freudian unconscious and the ID and Sartre’s consciousness of the for-itself is not entirely free but socially conditioned by the Ego and lawfully controlled by the Super Ego. The self has to balance the consciousness the in-itself with the for-itself. An imbalance would give rise to psychosis or neurosis.