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Fr. 725

July 12, 2016

Truth, it seems to me, is known only to the person who is affected by it; and if he chooses to communicate it to others, he automatically becomes a liar. Whatever is communicated can only be falsehood and falsifications; hence it is only falsehoods and falsifications that are communicate. The aspiration for truth, like every other aspiration, is the quickest way to arrive at falsehoods and falsifications with regards to every state of affairs […] We describe an object and believe that we have described it truthfully and faithfully, only to discover that it is not the truth. We make a state of affairs clear, yet it is never the state of affairs we wished to make clear but always a different one. We are bound to say that we have never communicated anything that was the truth, yet throughout our lives we have never stopped trying to communicate the truth […] What matters is whether we want to lie or to tell and write the truth […] (Thomas Bernhard, Gathering Evidence, pp. 160-161).

Given Bernhard’s upbringing with his philosophically inclined grandfather, it should come as no surprise that his literary works contain much in the way of philosophical probings of the kind seen above. Of this instance in particular, we might remark its similarity to certain Deleuzian premises on problems and thought, truth and knowledge. Recall that, for Deleuze, thought begins with a problem making itself felt to a subject who is not yet aware of the problem as such. Only through affecting the subject does the problem, over time, take on a proper, cognitive existence for the subject and develops in response to the subject’s (re)actions thereto. At length, the problem’s development will issue in a “truth” particular to that specific problem and which does not hold of necessity for any other. In this way, truth cannot be sundered from the context of a given problem.

From this exposition, it follows that, should the subject attempt to convey this truth in verbal form and as isolated from the affection, problem and context which gave rise to it, the intended recipient of the communication would not experience the truth as such. For “communicated” truth would lack the affective development of both problem and subject which it emerged in step with. In a word, the subject’s truth cannot be truth for the recipient until the recipient has herself lived that development. Hence the necessary production of falsehood and falsification in communication. Try as we might to communicate the truth and nothing but the truth, the conditions of possibility for truth and truthtelling do not obtain in instances of communication.

At this point, it proves difficult to say where Bernhard begins and Deleuze ends, so near have they drawn near one another. This observation is made all the more remarkable by the way in which it further lends credence to another Deleuzian principle, namely, that all forms of thought are free to manifest the problems and “truths” of another but will necessarily do so on their own terms. In other words, they do so lending said “truth” a shape distinctive of that form of thought.

As a final remark, we should note that while the idea of “truth as pertinent to a problem which we live and develop as affected individuals” accords well with the Deleuzian, Bernhard has writ large the conclusion’s Kantian character. That which saves failed truthtelling from mere mendaciousness is the question of the failed truthteller’s motivation. If she wants to tell the truth yet inevitably fails, there remains a commendable element in her efforts: her pure motivation.

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