Truth and Understanding

We inhabit three different realms of cognition: MATERIAL, POETIC, SPIRITUAL. Maybe they are not three separate sets but a continuous spectrum. Either way, the problems we face and the tools used to face them fall in either one of the three. Modernity has evolved in such a way that most problems it tries to solve are of the MATERIAL kind. Problems which, obviously, need a material understanding, a material language to communicate them and material techniques to execute the needed changes.

Unfortunately the human mind is not naturally predisposed to convey the material and resorts to POETIC metaphors, similes, exaggerations, etcetera. I see this every single day in my work in marketing: “We need to transform our brand into a lovebrand”. “The consumer really loved our product”. “I’m very loyal to this brand”. I do not know about them, but my relationships with people are very unlike those I have with brands. I would even go as far as to say that I do not relate to brands or products. I just use them. Something that would be very sad if I did with people. A pet peeve of mine is when people claim to be understood, as if that could in any way help better understand the receiving end of the conversation. “You know what I mean?”. “Have I made myself clear?”. No I do not. No you have not. Comprehension does not work that way. But most people just shut up and keep going without understanding. Or even worse, fooling themselves into believing they have understood.

In his essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense”, Nietzsche says truth is the following:

A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms—in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.

Unlike postmoderns, I do not believe this is some sort of justification of the disconnect between truth and reality. I firmly believe in truth. Nietzsche is presenting here the limitations of the human mind to apprehend and communicate truth. Something which the scientific knowledge (MATERIAL) has proved with the discovery of the “Rhyme-as-reason Effect” (for an example see “Rhyme as reason in commercial and social advertising” – PETRA FILKUKOVA and SVEN HROAR KLEMPE). It is not a matter of truth not existing but us humans being limited to its grasp. I could make Nietzsche’s definition mine if instead of using it for truth, I used it for understanding, or for how men fool themselves into thinking they understand. The Gay Science Book 2 Chapter 84, also describes an early intuitive grasp of the Rhyme-as-reason effect.

This effect I understood quite well when I read “Cyclonopedia” by Reza Negaristani. A truly mystical experience. Most of the text is impenetrable and convoluted. Very few of the paragraphs make any sense. But there are certain ideas very thinly spread throughout the book which, due to the POETIC nature of the text, eventually stick in your head.

( )hole complex.

Axis of evil-against-evil.

Petropolitics.

Dracolatry.

Hypercamouflage.

So whatever your struggle: driving reason and science into a marketing organization or transforming the metapolitical reality we live in, don’t forget the limitations of the mind. Don’t neglect the POETIC. But don’t stride too far away from the MATERIAL either.

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