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Hypotheses about truth/power

December 11, 2009 Leave a comment

1. Foucault’s elision of truth/power is irrefutable.  And yet, his approach is one-sided.  He thinks of truth as power (which, one can agree, it is).  But he does not think of power as truth (that is, real power as stemming from what is actually true, truly true).  Foucault’s proposition of identity, then, must be embraced.  But its significance, its power, its truth, depends on our ability to interpret it in both directions.

2. Charles Taylor restores a classical sense of the interchangeability of the transcendentals of truth and goodness, but he does so within a hermeneutical (as opposed to a metaphysical) framework.  The best possible interpretation of our existence as a whole (i.e., the truest one) will also essentially include those ethical and social features that powerfully shape it (i.e., an articulation and practice of the good).  The fact/value distinction thus becomes irrelevant, inasmuch as our facticity, taken holisitically, is value-laden.  Likewise, the sharp divide between a substantialist and a functionalist account of religion falls into obscurity: for the understanding of transcendence which “functions” for us will work only because it seems true to our experience and it will seem true (i.e., to be of “substance”) only in light of its apparently salutary effects (which may be provisionally “apparent” in the mode of hope or belief even if they remain invisible or are perpetually deferred).

3. Had Pontius Pilate been sincere, he would have been right to ask, “What is truth?”  Had Jesus said immediately and with great authority and reassurance, “I AM,” Pilate would have needed to ask the quesiton again.  The drama of salvation is this: to grasp Jesus as the truth answers, at once, everything and nothing.

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