OVERCOMING OUR AGE OF NIHILISM: METAPHYSICS & SCIENCE

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Nietzsche said that nihilism is reached when “all one has left are the values that pass judgment – nothing else.” A Nihilistic Age is, therefore, an age when everyone is held accountable for their actions without taking any higher purposes into consideration, because there are no common higher purposes. It is a tragic age. It is our age.

The Nihilistic Age needs to be overcome if humanity is going to progress and any Superman-leap over the Last Man that is blocking our way[1] must be via an injection into values: a vaccination which will see clear, irrefutable purposeful-values that cannot be judged – being beyond judgement, because they are true.

 

In the dialectics between the two-sided judgement that is passing values, the weak will perish. For that reason, Power (which in our society is Wealth) constantly recreates these black and white arguments. There can only be one winner, Power (Wealth) itself. This Nietzsche understood, but he failed to see the way over the dilemma; failed to see that blocking the way on the tight-rope was Power itself, and that to become the Superman, the hero had to leap, not only over the Last Man, but over Power itself. Going beyond good and evil means going beyond the judgement-passing values created by Power; going beyond the separating fundamentals of identities, so deeply rooted in human cultures. This also implies a going-beyond our misapprehension of our human nature. Division and competition is deeply rooted in our Power/Wealth forged psyches – but so are so many other types of psychological traumas fetishes and complexes. The fact that they are there, does not mean that we cannot overcome them.

But how?

To begin we must question our own identities. This means we must question the failed concept we have of ourselves as a species: question our own status as Humans. Throw the term out of the window, it is too splattered with failures and pessimism. Embrace a new clearer definition of our species: we are the Sapiens-Sapiens part of larger genus of all Sapiens beings in the Universe. We are those that know ourselves, capable of understanding the very Universe itself. This is an optimism that does not currently exist.

The way out of pessimism is optimism, but optimism itself is a very dangerous thing that has created many irrational, cruel regimes.

Any enduring optimism, therefore, must itself be rooted in meaning; in an answer to the metaphysical problem of Why?. But this raises another conundrum, because the problem of the metaphysical why is that its answer must always also be metaphysical, unprovable and a question of faith. Or at least, that is what we have been led to believe from the professionals in metaphysics; the monotheistic religions. Theirs is a messianic optimism: the gift from he who dares pronounce himself to be in possession of truth. The fact that we have had two millennia of believers demonstrates the thirst we have for optimism, which is the thirst created by the dry, hot sun of pessimism.

Optimism has been rooted in meaning, but by doing so we have also perverted metaphysics by infecting it with the mythological. This was Plato’s strategy when he created the myth of the Noble Lie[2], and that Noble Lie was itself born out of a deeply pessimistic belief in the uniqueness of intelligence – only the philosophical caste can be capable of truly understanding the metaphysical; as for the rest of them, let them eat myths.

So, if we have to root optimism in meaning, we need to ask ourselves what is the nature of that meaning? We must look at the quality of the meaning: a quality that has to be gauged according to the measuring stick of truth. But how can we approach any demonstration of the metaphysical truth if the metaphysical can’t be demonstrated?

Firstly, by admitting our limitations, that the metaphysical truth can only be an approximation until we have developed our physical understanding well enough to unveil the authentic, physical nature itself. By unveiling the truth in the grey cloud of the metaphysical, what we do in fact is kill the metaphysical component of that truth. The concept of the metaphysical truth is valuable however, because it points the sciences in meaningful directions of investigations, in order to uncover authentic purposeful directions for our Sapiens-Sapiens species to take.

In this approximation-to-truth, we have a positive stance in itself: in a belief that through investigation and the development of technology, authentic meaning can be uncovered. To embrace this in a positive way, we must assume that through thinking, observing and discovering (or, in other words, through the scientific process), we will uncover the meaning of the Universe.

 

As for the inherent dangers embedded in the truth-seeking optimisms, the danger that it will collapse into a dogmatic proclamation of a truth now found, when, in reality, nothing certain has been uncovered at all, is palliated by science’s inherent scepticism.

In scientific terms, reality can only be what we think we know, but while science still operates, or while there is still a need for science, then what we know is always open to being questioned. It is the constant questioning of what is, converting what is into what it seems to be with a sceptical suspicion that it might be something completely different, that gives science it dynamism and power. Science can only uncover whilst it is obsessed with the desire and need to search. Science, per se, does not interest itself with the metaphysical why?, and yet the scientific process is always working towards uncovering that why.

Science evolved out of the Greek philosophers’ metaphysical questions, and those same metaphysical questions have never been fully extracted from science.

 

So, for our Nihilistic Age to be overcome, we need to inject values with purposeful-truths; truths that should be derived from science and scientific investigations of philosophical or metaphysical questions of why.

[1] The Last Man (der letzte Mensch): Nietzsche introduced the concept of the Last Man in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra, as the antithesis and antagonist of the Übermensch , the Overman or the Superman. The last men are a herd-like species: tired of life, taking no risks, and seeking only comfort and security; the Overman on the other hand has a clear vision of progress, but needs to overcome the Last Man if he is to advance. In TSZ, Nietzsche created a short parable describing a funambulist crossing the rope of human evolution between animal and the Overman. On his way, an imaginary clown, or demon, comes out behind the tight-rope walker and leaps over him, causing him to fall. By taking Zarathustra into consideration, our image here images the tight-rope with the lazy Last Man perched in the middle, so one must jump over him before one can cross the rope and progress in an evolutionary way.

[2] Plato brought up the idea of the Noble Lie in the Republic. It revolved around the necessity to create a myth which would convince the people of a natural division of classes in society, created by the gods.

KAFKA AND NECESSITY

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In Kafka’s Trial, K. confronts a priest who tells him:

“‘It is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.’

‘A melancholy conclusion,’ said K. ‘It turns lying into a universal principle.’”

But in between the priest’s observation and K.’s conclusion there is another result of this acceptance – that of turning necessity into a lie. The effect of this, of course, is that real necessities can no longer be trusted. They all become suspicious. Real purpose likewise suffers from this. Action itself becomes suspect to all sorts of vanities based on dishonesty and illusion. When necessity is rendered absurd by no longer representing that which really is, nihilism sets in. From this, we can define nihilism as that which arises when necessity loses its character.

KNOWING THE LIE – CONSCIOUSNESS (3)

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Self-consciousness for the Sapiens is knowing that one truly knows, which means that one has been able to look through the isolating veils of the ideological masks of reality in order to see the true human, collective condition. Real self-consciousness is to be able to see the meaningfulness of saying “I am a human being”.

Consciousness comes from a need for consciousness. The system is only questioned by the individual when the system ceases to satisfy the individual’s needs. From the dissatisfaction comes the need for knowing. It is impossible to imagine the existence of consciousness in a Garden of Eden in which everything is satisfied and nothing seems to be lacking. The Fall was a discovery, or perhaps merely a suspicion, of lack. If we are to define Homo sapiens according to our consciousness, then our species needs lack in order to define itself. Our reason for being is to discover, uncover, rediscover and preserve reality – but never to make it unmovable. Preservation implies a consciousness of past rather than a stagnation in what is, which is a prolongation. Preservation is not prolongation but discovery. Consciousness must move backward as well as forward. Discovery can also be rediscovery.

When we see truth as that which is uncovered then we see that truth is something that we can only stand before, it is not something which can be born or borne. There can be no bearers of truth; no possessors or creators of it. Truth is that which is contemplated but never owned. In this way truth is seen as a kind of public spectacle. We can say “come and look what I have uncovered”, but we mustn’t sell tickets for the spectacle or try to sell it, or claim any ownership of it.

KNOWING THE LIE – CONSCIOUSNESS (1)

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One cannot be free unless one has the power to change one’s circumstances in a positive way. One cannot change one’s circumstances unless one can see what needs to be changed. Consciousness is therefore an a priori necessity for freedom. Dictatorship can be achieved by simply making the people it oppresses unconscious of the reality that really dominates them.

Consciousness has to be an alert force, if it is not alert it cannot be consciousness. Its power lies in its ability to see through the veil of systemic mystification. Consciousness allows us the right to be critical, sceptical, or even cynical.

Of course consciousness can also be false. False consciousness lacks clarity as it is muddied by its own ideologies: ideologies that stem from identities. For consciousness to be clear it needs to transcend all ideology-mask identities.

False consciousness could also be called misguided consciousness – a consciousness looking for a reality which is simply just not there, and probably never will be, is a misguided one. Consciousness needs to see through the masks, but that does not mean it must cut through all still surfaces. The cutting open can have negative results if the process itself does nothing but churn already clear waters and makes them no longer transparent.

Can we say that reality should be that which needs to be? What about want it to be? If we accept the validity of both possibilities, which is stronger: want or needs? Desires must be subject to needs. Desires can only be gained when needs are satisfied. Likewise, in order to uncover reality and therefore find truth, consciousness must be guided by needs at first and desires only when those needs are satisfied or safeguarded. The first thing consciousness must look for is necessity.

THE CHEATING GAME

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It is obvious that the triumph of Western liberal democracy[i] and its subsequent process of Globalisation has done very little toward bringing humanity more closely together. Quite the opposite is true: we all seem to be drifting further and further apart. But, if it has failed with humanity, what has two centuries of liberal democracy achieved with the individual? How successful has it been in its attempts to forge a society of strong-selves? If we have failed with the whole, then surely we must have succeeded with the individuals who are the antithesis of the whole?

But again it is obvious that we haven’t? In Nietzsche’s terms, we have achieved neither the Human nor the Superman, just the Last Man. The pathetic Last Man, bumbling through a cheating-game world of relativity and conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories because, whether we accept them or not, they point an accusing finger at the basic fabric of the system, undermining all responsibilities and moralities with scepticism. How can one be morally responsible in a system which is inherently corrupt? The individual, rather than standing strong and finding a good position in the competitive world, finds him or herself immersed in a society of cheats. The system has now become a cheating-game and the strong-self has to be identified in such an environment as a morally irresponsible subject.

One can only be a strong, successful player in the cheating-game by being a good cheat. This of course makes all success seem suspicious. Eventually decisions need to be made in which “honesty” is needed, but… who can we trust anymore? A strong leader is obviously a good liar and a very good cheat. This kind of leader is useful at convincing us that we are happy in a world that in reality offers us very little… Useful that is until we start to understand the truth. And the simple truth is that we are being cheated.

The first great lie is freedom as individuality and its idea of the unfettered individual along with the creation of a passion for strong individuals. Freedom is now a term used to propagate the unfettering of power: freedom to dominate; freedom to manipulate. The second great lie is democracy itself. The lie of free choice. The lie of majority rule. The lie of the individual’s capacity for achievement in the system.

The only way to combat the lie is by establishing positive, human objectives. We must look beyond the individual and the tyranny of egos in order to establish goals that are out of the cheating game. Goals without any other reward except progress towards human fulfilment. Goals that would pull us out of the cheating-game into another game with real rules that we know will really protect us and protect the world we depend on for our survival. All the rest is petty bickering, which is inevitable when you’re playing the cheating-game.

[i] See Francis Fukuyama’s thesis THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Last_Man

The Labyrinth and the Fall from Freedom

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The labyrinth as a loss of transparency, as the creation of the “world’s opacity” as Borges called it. As if a confounding net were woven over us by Chaos or some other confusion-loving Titan. In the labyrinth we are without a map, and it is so difficult to explain or understand the real reasons why things take place. Without a map and lost we are, lost from our essence, our knowing, our sapience, and, because of that, reality is very murky here.

It’s not being in the maze that is the problem, rather it’s the fact that we don’t know how to find our way around it that is disturbing; that we don’t even know what it is we are moving around in. We have been modelling a new home in here according to our own fancies, and we think this model we have created is reality itself. We are lost because, unlike Theseus, we entered the labyrinth without Ariadne’s thread to guide us.

That thread we ignored is knowledge: not a periphery knowledge or a superficial understanding of the things that we have imagined our self-created world in the labyrinth to be, but the authentic map that shows us how to move within the corridors of the real world.

From this perspective the Judaic myth of the Fall from Paradise is turned on its head. It was not the consumption of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that caused the expulsion of humanity from Eden, but rather the fact that they lost sight of the tree itself. Lost sight of it precisely because they were told to flee from it. The flight from the Tree of Knowledge, or the banishing from it, is the first anti-democratic crime in human pre-history. The Tree had to be rendered taboo to the tribe so that the king as priest could take total possession of it for himself. What is taboo for the tribe is power for the leader.

In the Greek myth of the labyrinth the Minotaur represents power in its most cruel and perverse form – the power that will demand your innocent children to be taken from you and devoured by power itself. Such a cruel power necessitates resistance. It incites rebellion, sows seeds of democratic revolution. But real democracy can only be obtained by acquiring the knowledge on which all power is based. To penetrate the labyrinth knowledge is needed, and the Spiderwoman Ariadne provides it for the hero Theseus by giving him her thread. With its aid the hero is able to kill the Minotaur, but he does not return knowledge to the people. Instead the hero clings to the Minotaur’s secret in order to increase his own power – and this has been the situation throughout human history, even unto our own imaginary democratic era. Knowledge is power whenever knowledge can be appropriated in select, closed circles; at the centre of labyrinth that everyone else is lost in.

Real democracy – democracy as a human phenomenon – is not created through the casting of votes, but through the freedom of knowledge possessed by the demos. Only by being granted access to all knowledge can a demos be considered free. Likewise, censorship and the concept of Classified Information has to be a criminal concept in democracy. Knowledge exists for the community, discovered by the community. In this way we arrive at a democratic communism of knowledge. The patent and intellectual property along with the Top Secret become inhuman crimes.

Perhaps in the information age we see a new chapter being written into the myth of the labyrinth. In this epilogue, humanity, in a world of patents and other totalitarian controls of knowledge and the power granted by its control, is finally pitied by the gods, and especially by the Titan Ariadne. Because of this a new web of knowledge is woven around the whole, allowing a free exchange of itself to all.

This new chapter is called: Ariadne’s WWW.

THE FOUR-CORNERED TRUTH

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“What is truth?” said Pilate, and washed his hands.

What the Roman Prefect understood was the enormous relativity of the concept. Even if Christ says “I am Truth” it still remains ambiguous. What does this Truth actually mean? Well, it can mean whatever you want, and that is what Christ became… whatever his promoters wanted him to be. Nevertheless the concept of Truth itself does have a meaning and a function. It is the anti-lie. If truth is relative then Truth is that which discerns the lies embedded in all relativity. For relativity can be used for honest and dishonest purposes. We have uncovered “truths” embedded in paradoxes, but we’ve also seen how the paradox is a powerful tool for covering lies[i].

Yet despite its ambiguity and elusiveness, Truth has to concern us. It is a synonym of reality and authenticity and will believe that an understanding of the triptych Truth-Reality-Authenticity is necessary for any real progress on a human level to take place. It is what really is, and this makes it the prime subject valid for humanity in the world. Truth is in the Subject and the Subject is that which encloses us. We can call it the Universe or the World. But Truth seen as the subject-world becomes a duality in which Truth has to be shared between the world and that which perceives it and brings it into true Being, and this is Intelligence. In this way we get a four-cornered truth of the World-Intelligence as Subject-Object. The world is the Subject to Intelligence because it only becomes Being if Intelligence perceives it. Likewise Intelligence is Subject to the World by perceiving and knowing and reflecting it in its brain before projecting it forward. In the same way it is also the Object of the World as it is equally dependent on the world for its own being.

Real Truth is therefore not just the Subject but the Subject-Object Uroboros. The reality of existence is that its Being depends on a Uroboric vicious circle – a paradox.  This idea, that the truth is a nasty paradox, may seem like a terrible nightmare or a liberation, but in any case it is a necessity.

The idea is not new: quite possibly, if depth-psychology theory is correct, it is the oldest idea. But though we still know it from the alchemical Uroboros and the oriental Yin-Yang, its profound relevance is not relevant to or even consciously realised by most people or their cultures.

 

That which is  not perceived does not exist. Perception illuminates that which is not and makes it that which is. Perceiving intelligence exalts that being with its knowledge. The Big Bang did not exist until intelligence made it real.  The ultimate purpose of the Big Bang, the desire behind the movement, was to create an intelligence that would evolve into something that could discover itself. Is this such a wild notion? How can a non-intelligence have desires? How could it conceive something without consciousness? Must we talk about Will or Spirit? Can we talk about these things?

Science is divided, but there are cosmologists who would have to say yes. In cosmology they now talk of the Cosmological  Constant and the Fine Tuning of the Universe. The Universe seems constructed in a deliberate way to allow life to form, and evolution on our planet would indicate that the culmination of the life forming process is “intelligence”. The intelligence that knows that it knows. If this is the truth then immediate ethical consequences can be drawn from it, the first being that our historical process of the segregation of humanity has been a totally equivocal one. From the simple idea that the Universe has a purpose rooted in the creation of and the subsequent existential partnership with Intelligence allows us to find new authenticities: a new purposefulness, a new meaning.

Our relevant beginning, our Genesis, is the beginning of the creation of the life-support system of our planet Earth. The concept of Truth as Subject-Object is a World-Humanity concept. Quality of Being depends on being perceived and “understood”. The key to our purpose is our responsibility as cognitive entities to the World-Universe that needs us for its own quality of Being.

The Big-Other narrative that we currently live in is a non-authentic one: it is a lie. The Truth is still to be discovered, but it is necessary for us to start looking for it “truthfully”, via our greatest tool for truth – science.


[i] See our article “Lacan, Poe, and the 9/11 Conspiracy Theories” published in the Australian journal Going Down Swinging, #33 http://goingdownswinging.org.au/site/showcase/going-down-swinging-33/

OUR REALITY AND HEGEL’S FRUIT

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It is the very fluid nature of human existence in the world that creates our uniquely human problem with “reality”. The human experience is enclosed within our  passage through time, our present is embedded in the historical movement through the ages of our technological development both in the past and the future. Of course this must be considered enriching, but we become so enamored by the motion of the historical phases that we lose sight of the constant and this creates a very dangerous condition: for it is when the continual is no longer consciously conceived amidst change that reality becomes a lie.

Hegel’s metaphor of the flower works here[1]. Imagine that reality is a tree. On the branch of this tree there appears a new, green bud which draws our attention to it. The tree had always seemed so dull and tedious before. Now it seems that there might be some other, more interesting, reason for its existence. This seems to be affirmed when the bud suddenly explodes into a colourful blossom, so beautiful that the flower itself refutes the significance of the bud and claims all attention for itself. The purpose of the tree is now so obviously to make this flower, we think. And in making this logical deduction we imbue the flower itself with the idea of Reality. But this is a mistake. The flower itself is merely an ephemeral phenomena and it will soon be replaced by a new truth, the manifestation of fruit.

Hegel uses the fruit metaphor to represent truth rather than reality, but if we were to implement our geometry of erroneous judgements on this (see our essay REAL DEMOCRACY AND THE LINE OF ERRONEOUS JUDGEMENT) we would be able to draw a triangle with a vertical axis of “truth” sprouting from a horizontal line of “reality” and linked by a hypotenuse of “ideology”.  Through understanding this relationship between ideology, truth and reality we can also see how Hegel’s metaphor works to describe the blossoming and fruition of ideologies that dazzle us, convincing us of themselves as the purposeful aims of humanity, until they themselves, explode, wither or just drop off. Of course it is the tree itself which is the constant source and power of all ideologies: but who can say they know now, with all the stentor, commotion and partitioning violence that the ideologies have thrown at us, what singular truth could possibly be the source of so much division? Where is the constant trunk from which all this diversity has grown?

As for our current, Western-world system it is very much a “fruit ideology”. We find it most often at the market-place and hardly ever on a tree. We may walk through a greengrocer, peruse the fruit and have no idea at all what the trees that they were plucked from may look like. We hardly even consider that the most essential component in the market is actually the trees from which the fruits were picked: we cannot see where the fruit of our reality came from any more. Reality has become too alienated from the real source.


[1] G.W. Hegel PHENOMENOLOGY OF THE SPIRIT, Forward.

 

DOXA AND ALETHEIA – TRUTH AND THE ARTIST (PART FOUR)

Time_Saving_Truth_from_Falsehood_and_Envy                                                  (Time saving truth from falsehood – François Lemoyne (1688 – 1737) )

ART AS INTRUSION

“Art should be a disclosure of truth”: an artist’s ideal, perhaps; unnecessary romanticism, perhaps; or a necessary ideal to get art back on the tracks and pull it out of the marshlands of nihilism. In any case art is an intrusion – an invasion of the imaginary into the real. It is this feeling of intrusion which makes us aware that we are perceiving a work of art and not just a copy of reality. It is a ‘positive’ invasion; most of the time a welcome distraction, but, occasionally, when there is intersubjectivity at work between our own inner reality and that of the artist, then the intrusion is a profound, soul shattering experience. We may say it works on a spiritual level, which is one way of calling the profound intersubjective experience. Afterwards we may even ‘seek’ the intrusion again. For many, it is the best and most effective way to draw themselves out of the autistic tendency of the contemplative life experience. In that way we see how art is a welcome experience – it is thrown at us, or placed before us again, but now we accept it, we want it, we need it. Or at least some of us need it. Others reject it. Perhaps there are people who have never had an intersubjective experience through art, although that it is doubtful for now there is pop-art, pop-music, pop-vehicles designed to touch the inner experiences of everyone, no matter how narrow their cultural-memory field is.

 

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POPULAR ART AND DEEP ART

But the difference between popular art and deep art lies in the kind of intrusion that is made. In popular art the intersubjective connection should be immediate, building on easily recognisable connections that have already been made: formulas or tactics that have been proven effective. And it is precisely this mimicry and copying of the provenly effective product that creates the shallowness of the pop intrusion. Of course more and more of the spectators will eventually start to say: ‘I’ve seen and heard this before,’ and will demand something new. The commercial art industry must then resort to novelty: a new way to present the same old intersubjective slogans that it reworks over and over again. Then each brief explosion of originality that the need for novelty brings is reworked, reinvented and remanufactured in the commercial art factories’ production lines of kitsch…

But isn’t this also a folding and unfolding? (SEE OUR EARLIER ENTRY “The Internet as a Deep Art experience of liberation: https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/09/18/the-internet-as-a-deep-art-experience-of-liberation/)

Does the commercial factory work in the same way we propose in deep art? If this is the case, what is the difference between the shallow and the deep?

 

The difference lies in the kind of intrusion that is being made. Popular art is a forced intersubjectivity; deep art is an invitation. Deep art knows that it requires a certain kind of spectator, willing to trust the artist, who is leaving clues for them and putting up obstacles which may deliberately turn certain spectators away. It is for this reason that the deep-art artists are often accused of being elitists. Of course they are certainly demanding: they know that to go deep there has to be a strong will to do so, and those who lack such a will will be incapable of scratching more than the surface. Deep art, in a sense, is a training ground for intersubjectivity. Its goal is to create a space in which the inner reality can be successfully communicated with a conviction that this intersubjective connection is a necessity, an essential element in human development or evolution.

And so we come back to our original premise, (SEE OUR POST: DOXA AND ALETHEIA – TRUTH AND THE ARTIST https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/doxa-and-aletheia-truth-and-the-artist-part-one/ ) that true art must be a combination of doxa (opinion/perception) and aletheia (truth/disclosure). Commercial art is buried in doxa, while a dedicated artist may lose him or herself in the autistic struggle with aletheia. Real art must use doxa to seduce a favourable opinion which will be the veneer of the work whilst leaving clues to seduce the spectator into the intersubjective realm of aletheia.

DOXA AND ALETHEIA – TRUTH AND THE ARTIST (PART THREE)

Magritte - La traicion de las imagenes

The dilemma of the artist is: I know there is something buried here, but how do we get it out? And here, the plural we must be emphasised: when the artist thinks how do I get it out, he or she is denying doxa; and without the objectivity of doxa the aim of creating true art must invariably fail.

            If doxa/aletheia is seen as reality/imagination then we also see how art is making what we can imagine become manifest in the exterior world, for reality is the exterior and our imagination can only ever be sure of its authenticity if that outside world doxa approves of its validity. But the task of art is not to say that this monster I see is real – as something that exists in the material – but rather it is a statement that we can all believe that it could exist. Here we see the conditional nature of art: this is not reality, but it could be. This is why the honesty of Magritte’s “This is not a pipe” is so comic. We all know that it is not a real pipe yet the admission is so obvious that we take it for granted and even lose consciousness of it until the artist Magritte throws it in our face. We look at his painting, see the representation of a pipe and then are told that it is not a pipe which we gradually realise is true, that it is a mere representation. But it is not the revelation here which is comic, but the absolutely pedantic statement that Magritte throws at us: “This is not reality, but it could be.” Yet this seemingly, over-pedantically absurd statement is also deeply profound. It is describing in one simple image, commentated with one simple statement, not only the essence of all art but the very essence of all human perception of reality, for the real representation is actually being projected onto the screen that everything you ever perceive is projected onto – in your mind. rene-magritte-the-false-mirror

            The aletheia in Magritte’s painting is the truthful disclosure of the lie. Perhaps it is the most revolutionary comment that one could make about art and human perception – that the truth rendered real is a lie, and yet it is a necessary illusion. The reason why we turn to art in some form or other over and over again is that this lying/truth is a fundamental part of the human condition. Not a paradox but another continuous dialectic between our two realities – interior/exterior; subjective/objective; real/imaginary; rational/irrational.

Heidegger makes the comment that disclosure is a concealing,[1] a revealing and concealing of truth at the same time. Art does this, but the spectator is always aware of the trick whenever he or she is able to appreciate that what is being contemplated is a work of art. Magritte’s over-statement is funny because no-one (with apologies to Duchamp and his urinal) had made it before. The truth is a lie, but we would prefer even the falsification of it than to ignore it. In art we see the reflection of something that we know but cannot really pin down ourselves. What surprises us in art is the fact that someone has been able to create a reflection of something which we had sensed but hadn’t been able to put our finger on before. It is not the thing that we know or imagine  internally but it seems like a good attempt at recreating it in the external of the doxa. Art is a sharing of the internal – either as presentation of what we all intuitively sense, or as a revelation of something we have never sensed before. In this way art as a presentation can be an epiphany for the observer.

The “moving” capacity that art has, is buried in the completion of a communicative cycle. When art moves us, it resonates in us. The original disclosure of the internal has now become submerged and recognised in the internal of the observer. It has become intersubjective. And so we come to a definition of art as that which creates intersubjectivity, in an albeit imperfect way, that communicates truth in a likewise imperfect way.


[1] Martin Heidegger, “On the Essence of Truth,” in Basic Writings, p. 136