In light of continuing to discuss Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation (1996), I wanted to focus particularly on Chapter 6’s discussion on “deception” and “truth.”
In my previous post, I made an important connection between Chapter 4-6 and the syllabus’s title of “Problematik of Otherness: An Unwanted Relative?” To that end, the “problematik” I chose to focus on was on “oppression” and “justice” as containing an “otherness can only be qualified as an idea and that ‘idea,’ as such, then, has to be bracketed as object of understanding.” I find that the same can be said of truth. Though, to some extent, I did mention in that previous journal that “truth” must be “qualified within some concrete situational context in order to proceed toward human quantification,” it is possible, however, for truth to be misconstrued through either deception or self-deception. Here, the “problematik” of truth’s “otherness” is not just the nature in which any of us arrive at truth –either by forming it into “a truth” or assuming that it is “The Truth” –but through the possibility of what Jean-Paul Sartre asserted as “bad faith.”
For Sartre, “bad faith” is about self-deception, where we develop a truth about something that we know is not entirely “true” and, in turn, through an “untruth,” find a kind of meaning in it for ourselves. In other words, it is about appropriating a faith in an untruth with the intent of deceiving oneself. Whether that deception occurs within the self or comes from outside the self, the self still must somehow conceptualize what the truth is and what the truth is not. Nevertheless, to appropriate a “bad faith” is, as Volf seems to argue, about “insert[ing] something of one’s own” into what Volf refers to as “the act of witnessing” –perhaps, more importantly, when we witness something, attempt to draw a meaning from that experience, and discover gaps or gray areas within that experience as we proceed towards ascertaining the truth, we “insert” whatever is necessary to make “truth” as full-fleshed as possible, even if that means deceiving ourselves about our situatedness with respect to the nature of the experience experienced.
Volf addresses the notion by making a particularly interesting and important connection to Michel Foucault and the idea that knowledge is power. What I would offer as a bit of nuance to Volf’s argument is that, when knowledge is power, knowledge always has a epistemological value to it, from which we empower ourselves in “knowing.” But, the question I would pose is the following: what about “ideas” that do not necessarily have a fixed epistemological value, such as “truth”? In this case, to consider “truth,” as such, as something that has an experiential epistemological value to it, I find that problem inherent in “truth” and stating “truths” is that it must always be predicated as a “truth claim,” where our subjectivity and meaning shapes what we “know” about “truth.”