Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Truth in action…which sometimes precedes philosophy, or, the longue durée of nonviolent revolution in the Middle East

“The philosophical convergence between both embattled /materialist and detached idealist philosophers is captured in a short poem by René Char (14 June 1907 – 19 February 1988): Towards your frontier, you humiliated, I walk at last with confidence, warned that truth does not necessarily precede action.’ This poetical aphorism opens two windows on the eternal dialectics between truth and action, theory and practice, philosophy and politics, as I see them unfolding in the Middle East convulsions of the early twenty-first century.
Let me paraphrase the great French poet. The first part says: ‘Toward the frontier of humiliated life, in the long night of the modern Middle East age of ruthless dictators, the men and women of the revolution walk with the certainty of truth.’ In this first window into the Middle East revolution, marching is physical action, and the marching operates with confidence and inevitability in its self-consciousness. The nexus between action and philosophy, more precisely the nexus of action to truth, philosophy’s meta-object, is therefore far more intimate than both engage or detached philosophers may be ready to concede.

There is more to the poem than reckoning the revelation of truth in historic changes of mass proportions that we call revolutions. Opening the second vista, Char writes that ‘la vérité ne précède pas obligatoirement l’action’ (Truth does not necessarily come before action). Necessarily, obligatoirement, is the key qualifier of the poem. Action is sometimes forced to precede truth. Sometimes truth comes before action; sometimes it does not. Philosophical truth faces deadlocks and impasses, aporia that action resolves, sometimes. In a world where the individual is always overtaken by forces far beyond his or her practical reach, the reach itself provides and answer to the impasse. Shorn of philosophy, however, that reach misses its most important resonance in world-historic terms. Truth is also in action, which sometimes precedes philosophy.”—From Chibli Mallat’s Philosophy of Nonviolence: Revolution, Constitutionalism, and Justice Beyond the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2015)

Further reading: Nonviolent Resistance in the Middle East: A Basic Bibliography 


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home