Happy YEAR OF THE SHEEP. Here’s a quote from Adorno that bears some reflection, especially for those who abuse Occam’s Razor:
I do not think it is usually realized (and perhaps I may draw your attention to it here) now much the notions of so-called everyday life – what I call ‘bleating’, the ideas passed uncritically from mouth to mouth, or presented as self-evident in leading or not-so-leading articles in newspapers- how much almost all these notions are cultural assets which have sunk down from the upper stratum, to use the language of the sociology of literature. That is to say, they are simply residues of great metaphysics, of great philosophy, which, through being severed from an original context which has lapsed into oblivion, take on the character of seemingly self-evident truths. This self-evidence is only apparent, since they owe their obviousness or compellingness to the structures in which they first appeared, whereas they are now treated as matters of fact which require no further justification, and precisely thereby are transformed into untruths. Metaphysics, Lecture 11, 6 July 1965
Intuition is not a simple antithesis to logic. Intuition belongs to logic, and reminds it of the moment of its untruth. As the blind spots in the process of cognition – from which they still cannot escape – intuitions prevent reason from reflecting upon itself as a mere form of reflection of arbitrariness. In non-arbitrary memory, arbitrary thought seeks, however hopelessly, something to cure it from what it must nevertheless perpetrate.
-Adorno, from his book on Husserl- Against Epistemology: A Metacritique.
Later in the same book Adorno says:
“[Husserl] stood for the idea of a single truth, and tried to force together the unspoiled concretion of individual experience and the binding force of the concept. He never rested content with the pluralism of truth according to the realms of knowledge. That indeed accounts for the magnetic force of his starting point. But it also involves him in difficulties, which the Southwest German academic philosophers comfortably avoided.”
My feeling is that Adorno wants to rescue the kernel of Husserl’s thought from existentialism, especially the dread Digger, He Who Will Not Be Named.
Cultural relativism allows one to pretend to take a higher ground than culture itself, implying that one’s own culture has transcended culture, that one has risen above relative notions, and can now see clearly from one’s eagle-perch.
“…for Gandhi civility was a mode of individual comportment, which had the crucial feature of tying ethics to politics in a way that never allowed politics to assume an independence of purpose and instrumentality. Civility referred to that kernel of what it meant to be human. It gestured to the ember in the midst of social and political life that had the potential of flaming into demands that exceeded the contours of the social and political by pointing to something beyond them. Civility referred to the metaphysical core of what it meant to be human; for that reason it could not be abstracted from the issue of death and self-sacrifice. Ultimately, for Gandhi civility embodied the ineradicable presence and challenge of the absolute in the midst of the everyday routines of life and struggle. This is what prevents the incorporation of the Gandhian account of ethics, politics, and protest into the narratives of European modernity created by Marx, Weber, Lenin and others– those stories of ineluctable rationalization and its accompanying demands for justice, spurred by a well-organized collectivity.”
- from “Gandhi and the Burden of Civility” by Uday S. Mehta in Raritan, volume XXXIII, no. 1, p. 38
Also, there’s a relevant quote from Gandhi in the essay:
“A satyagrahi was ever ready to endure suffering and ever lays down his life to demonstrate to the world the integrity of his purpose and the justice of his demands. His weapon was faith in God and he lived and worked in faith. In his faith, there was no room for killing or violence and none for untruth. It was the only weapon with which India could be rid of the bills…”
The absolute claim that there is no absolute truth supercedes the claims of absolute truth with a more absolute absoluteness. Insofar as the claim to have access to a metaphysical absolute is impossible to substantiate, the claim that there is no such truth is even more impossible to sustain. However, the strength and courage that inures in the faithful require courage and effort, while the claim that there is no absolute truth is enervating and does not encourage resistance to exploitation or oppression. Isn’t this fact, in and of itself, suggestive that truth-orientation has more to teach us than truthlessness?
A concise depiction of my stance on Absolute Truth.
Absolute Truth is.
Any statement using language cannot be Absolute Truth. However, criticism can move thought in the direction of Absolute Truth.
The idea that “there is no Absolute Truth” is so widely promulgated that any statements about Absolute Truth now occasion a feeling of shame in the educated.
The statement that there is no Absolute Truth permits fascists to claim that truth is whatever they say it is. Although “no Absolute Truth” masquerades as a kind of anti-hegemonic, anti-colonial point of view, it actually fatally undermines any efforts to find a basis for resistance to institutional power.
It is only the acceptance that there is Absolute Truth (however inaccessible or incomprehensible to us) that is equally (in-) accessible to anyone that can allow a critic to deny the truth-claims of authoritarian institutions. The denial of any Absolute Truth necessarily endorses the acceptance of whatever relative truth claims are made by powerful institutions as being “dominant truths,” of at least equal validity to any other truths. Within the context of materialism, the idea that all truths are relative is an implicit endorsement of “the survival of the fittest,” “might makes right” and the rights of conquest.