My own truth

One of the most valuable things that I have learned writing for Beyond the Walls is the necessity to formulate questions as a way to understand the intangible notion of truth. I do know that this post was meant to reflect on last session’s presentations and to furthermore expose the direction of my own research, however, I felt a huge need to reflect on how by writing periodically every week I did confront the importance to reflect on my personal relation to truth.

Jacques Rancière writes in The emancipated spectator (2009) that emancipation begins “when we challenge the opposition between viewing and acting: when we understand that the self-evident facts that structure the relations between saying, seeing and doing themselves belong to the structure of domination and subjection.” (Rancière 2009, p.4) Nonetheless, it seems that audiences are no longer what they were in Guy Debord’s time, with the important theoretical and practical difference being that almost no one today believes that the society of the spectacle can be reversed or used against consumer capitalism (Armitage 2010). Therefore, under these conditions, more than Rànciere “emancipation”, what comes to my mind is Michel Foucault’s seminar in 1983, in which he problematized the term parrhesia. During the seminar, Foucault proposed to understand the conception of truth (parrhesia) by the division of two major sides or aspects. One side is concerned with ensuring that “the process of reasoning is correct in ensuring if a statement is true” (Foucault 1983). And the other side is centred with the question: “What is the importance for the individual and for the society of telling the truth, of knowing the truth, of having people who tell the truth, as well as knowing to recognize them?” (Foucault 1983). Thereafter, Foucault examines parrhesia as “a kind of verbal activity where the speaker has a specific relation to truth through frankness, a certain relationship to his own life through danger, a certain type of relation to himself or other people through criticism and a specific relation to moral law through freedom and duty” (Foucault 1983).

What it has fascinated me the most during these last 7 weeks is hence the opportunity that has been given to us to reflect freely about our own thoughts in a public platform (blog). In that sense, rephrasing Foucault’s notion of parrhesia, we all have created a specific relation to truth through frankness, a certain relationship to our own ideas through the danger of being publicly exposed, a certain type of relation to ourselves or other people through self-criticism or criticism of other people, and a specific relation to moral law through understanding how freedom is ultimately also related to duty. In that sense, we have directly learned to be consequent with our own thoughts, to be critical with our own words and also, and more importantly, to understand the meaning of having free speech. Overall, the access to knowledge is in many occasions open through the formulation of questions. And here, while challenging an idea, we were able to envision unexpected and momentary conjunctions that leaded us to new and valid ways of thinking. Furthermore, we have learned that critical art theory should not limit itself to the reception and interpretation of art and should provoke analyses able to understand how the given art supports the given order. Therefore, If I am asked to write what I have learned, I would firmly argue that I have discovered how the destabilizing effect that questions produce can drive me to a curiosity which ultimately direct me to knowledge. Afterwards, it is through the process of writing that I have evaluated my knowledge and I have transformed it into valid ideas. The goal of this process has been to decide what to put aside and what to conserve, and therefore I have learned from the danger of throwing the wrong things and keep the correct ones. Thus, what I decided to keep, write and share was a great part of my personal thoughts, which were evaluated as my own truths and cannot be dissociated to my own beliefs.

What I have learned is that in order to have a voice one must previously consider the validity of what is going to be said. And here, more than the conception of emancipation, the notion of parrhesia has always been in my mind. Finally, I do really appreciate to have had the opportunity to write and to be read once a week, because it has been through producing that I have learned to question my own truth, and not the other way around. For that very reason, thanks for letting us keep it that way.

Photo: Michel Foucault in May 1968

Published in Beyond the Walls