In an interview from 2016, that British journalist Gabriel Gatehouse had with the Russian thinker Alexandr Dugin, Dugin is utilizing post-modern thoughts to claim the “right” to truth relative to a “people”, in this case the Russian people. What follows after the quote from this interview are my spontaneous thoughts that arose from an earlier engagement with the french thinkers Michel de Certeau and Alain Badiou. Both have belief (faith) as a core concept in their philosophical work related to truth.
“The truth is [a] question of belief. Post-modernity shows that every so-called truth is the matter of believing. We belief in what we do, we belief in what we see. And that is the only way to define the truth. The truth is the matter of belief. And that is not only our position. When I see Western media, I ask myself how the people could lie about everything in the world… after that I say to myself: Stop. That is not lie. It is their truth. They are completely convinced… It is always interpretation. There is no such things as a fact. Wittgenstein has proven that. There is only interpretation. […] You can see nothing without interpretation. What you see is interpretation. […] The truth is relative, I could accept that, but only if you accept that.”
You can see nothing without interpretation, fair enough. But this is not a sufficient condition for truth. Not any kind of interpretation leads to a truth. Belief comes with a responsibility to seek truth, to eventually connect the content that one believes with established knowledge in a context. This is what is missed by Dugin in above interview: Believing contains a search for a truth, not claiming to have it’s final form.
Believing, when we follow the work of Michel de Certeau, is a practice of everyone. It can be instrumentalised by institutions and shaped by an agenda, but only up to a point, until the common belief is misrepresented and disassociates from the agenda that co-shaped and refined it.
Let’s not underestimate, that even though common belief can be manipulated to some degree, it has it’s own power of subverting dominant powers or the confinement of notions, e.g. the notion of “the Russian people”.
This is where – next to Michel de Certeau’s studies on a sociological level – Alain Badiou’s work on truth can be useful: Truth is a fact that is believed, but cannot YET be represented as knowledge. The faithful subjects want to show how this fact interacts with already established knowledge. They are busy incorporating the fact, that they belief in, into the body of existing knowledge. This is not a harmonious activity. Belief-driven incorporation starts at a neuralgic point in a concrete historic situation and continues from there. It’s extension does not work out always, and requires multiple iterations. The specialty of this truth procedure however is, that one starting point of this truth can be taken in a different historic situation and continued from there.
It is an oversimplification to relate truth to a belief. Truth comes with demonstrations, with reference to a described situation, and efforts of applying it in different contexts. Admitted, to do that in a fragmented society – shaped by diverse powers and cultural contexts- is challenging. But who said that truths come to us easily?