Adam I. Gerard

Truth and The State

It's interesting to think about the many dimensions of philosophy (the activity), its many historical roles (priests of the ancient Greek religions, magi or state intelligence, kingmakers, academic founders, kings, military leaders, justifiers of ideologies, and so on), and the many dimensions of a single philosophy.

When we think of recent "philosophies" (I use quotes here since they have not been defended in professional philosophy but rather have come into parlance elsewhere) like "Post-truth" we see at once the many dimensions at play:

  1. For despotic leaders, an ideology masking lies or falsehoods is quite useful.
  2. From a national security or military standpoint creating a shield of misinformation can be at times useful (the U.S. invasion of Normandy in 1944 was presaged by numerous intelligence feints).
  3. Inaccurate demographic data leading up to the election through polled telephone calls. Called people may simply have misrepresented their true beliefs and intentions.

Three dimensions to a poorly articulated philosophy in use. One decidedly good (2) the others, less so. And, even despite that, we see the immense impact that such a poorly articulated and undesireable "philosophy" has had.

What about more famous philosophies? Are they to be read solely from a historical lens? Solely from a cultural critique lens? Solely from a descriptive lens - (i.e. as an assertion of facts about the world)?

I argue not. Beliefs and the reasons they come into being and persist are due to many causes and from the sophisticated intersection of many intentions and plans.

The State

Consider the notion of Truth (capital T). What dimensions does it play? Clearly there is something like Truth regardless of what we call it or what we disagree about some conception of it (the act of disagreement involves just that notion in the first place).

But, Truth is essential to Justice, to Religion, to Military planning. It is quite difficult to implement a campaign without it (of any kind). It is also difficult for one's enemies to mount a threat if they are deprived it too.

In the New York Times bestseller The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama alludes to Nietzsche's aphorisms - specifically, "Everything the State says is a lie, and everything it has it has stolen."

Of course, every German soldier marched off to the First World War with a copy of his book in knapsack. (Of course, horribly altered by his sister and used to justify the expansion of the Second and Third German Reichs).

We also forget that Administration and Management involves handling of information just as much as it involves coordinating currencies or determining plans (all of which involve Truth).

The motto of the CIA is "The Truth Shall Set You Free".

We too forget that the ancient Greek philosophers were also priests of the State Religion, high advisors to the myriad Greek kings, and military intelligence officials (transferring suggestions through their cryptic Oracle) of the Polis.

These dimensions reveal the instrumental character that Truth tends to take on in such considerations.

Truth of Nations and Divine Truth

John chapter 18, verse 38 of the Gospel of John, is often referred to as "jesting Pilate" or "What is truth?", of Latin Quid est veritas?

In it, Pontius Pilate questions Jesus' claim that he is "witness to the truth" (John 18:37).

There's another translation in which Christ replies, "No, what is reality - it is I".

On that reading Pontius Pilate asks, "What is Truth?" To which Christ replies, "No, what is Reality..."

Both translations, I think, contrast two conceptions of Truth:

  1. Truth as represented in the symbol of (and through the) henchman of the Roman Empire:

i. Independence as impotent and independent truth as impotent truth

ii. Truth as the dismal reality of all-encompassing oppression

iii. Truth as wholly contingent on and in complete obeisance to the personal power of Caesar

iv. Truth as the ultimate victory of depraved cruelty (and its worldly instruments) through which the personal power of Caesars are conveyed

v. Truth as the manifestation of unfettered Nihilistic carnage

Here, the image of a "boot heel on a human face, forever" (Orwell's 1984) and Dostoevsky's Grand Inquisitor all come to mind.

  1. Truth as transcendence and revelation (and revelry in transcendence) in and espoused by Christ (while being tortured on the Cross by Pilate):

i. A separate, independent Truth, that cannot be vanquished through imperial whim or fiat

ii. Truth that contradicts, constrains, and is victorious against unchecked political power

iii. A sublime, transcendental, and Ultimate reality accessible by humans (but ultimately unalterable by violence)

iv. Truth as radiance in the mirrored reflection of an immaculate and divine reality ...

v. And, elevated above the pathetic comprehension of mere brutes and their brutality

And, is it not revealing that it was the Cross that became the symbol of Christianity?

And, too, is it not revealing that Christianity became the symbol of the Romans?