Enough : Jacques Lezra

We believe we have provided enough of the truth about our past for there to be a consensus about it. There is consensus that atrocious things were done on all sides. We know that the State used its considerable resources to wage a war against some of its citizens. We know that torture and deception and murder and death squads came to be the order of the day. We know that the liberation movements were not paragons of virtue and were often responsible for egging people on to behave in ways that were uncontrollable. We know that we may, in the present crime rate, be reaping the harvest of the campaigns to make the country ungovernable. We know that the immorality of apartheid has helped to create the climate where moral standards have fallen disastrously. We should accept that truth has emerged even though it has initially alienated people from one another.4

These are the words of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the preamble to the 2003 report of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Let me draw your attention to the very patient and precise modal phrasing that Tutu employs: “[W]e believe we have provided enough of the truth,” but also “there is consensus” about certain things which we can call facts, for instance “that atrocious things were done on all sides”; “we know” certain things, that murders were committed, but “we know” that other things “may” have contributed to situations which we all “know” to be the case. Finally, “We should accept that truth has emerged,” though the force of this “should” does not settle on, is not in principle grounded in, either the side of the “fact” that we “know,” as we know that murders did indeed occur, or on the doxological side of what “may” have resulted from that fact, for instance that “we may be reaping the harvest of the campaigns to make the country ungovernable.”

“We should accept that the truth has emerged,” Tutu writes, and what he means is that the Commission’s enquiry has allowed enough truth, a sufficient amount of truth, and enough truths, enough sorts of truth and enough truthful accounts, to emerge so that a consensus may be built: truth enough to produce, to build, something—a consensus, a reconciled national imaginary, a state. He also is acknowledging the precarious circumstances of enunciation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report: it is necessary to produce “enough truth” to bring the state together, but not so much truth that the security forces and the army will feel threatened and imperil the transition to the “rainbow nation.” “Enough” here means also: “just enough” and not enough to provoke the security forces. This was the contract implicitly struck with the security forces in advance of the constitution of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I want to be explicit about two sorts of confusions that I am guilty of. In the first place, the modifiers “sufficient,” “sufficiency,” and “enoughness” are generally attached, not to the concept of “truth,” but to the concept of “reason.” My little allegory requires that we accept the marginal violence of placing the concept of “truth” where “reason” should obtain. This is defensible I think, but in any event I have been using “enough” and “sufficient” relatedly though not quite interchangeably, and too strongly.

“Sufficiency” in the strong sense is a word with two principal genealogies, one in the principium magnum whose compact formulation we owe to Leibniz, the principium rationis that Heidegger treated, famously and decisively, in Der Satz vom Grund; the second in the field of formal logic.5 (Naturally, these two principal genealogies are not distinct: in Kant’s late response to Eberhard, for instance, they come into quite close contact. It is characteristic of Kant’s approach that he prefers “determining reason”—a term borrowed from Crusius—to “sufficient reason,” thus distinguishing himself from contemporaneous, rather more encompassing notions of “sufficiency” such as Baumgarten’s, which as Beatrice Longuenesse reminds us was “reserved . . . for the reason of all determinations of a thing, that is to say, the reason of its individuation.”6 Thus phrases like “since all truth is produced by the determination of a predicate in a subject, the determining reason is not only a criterion of truth, but its source, without which there would remain many possibles, but nothing true.”7)

In the first, Leibnizian sense, the sense that echoes in the principium rationis sufficientis, or Satz vom zureichenden Grund, what we call “sufficiency” or “enoughness” means just this, in three versions given recently by Alexander Pruss: that “everything that is the case must have a reason why it is the case,” or that “Necessarily, every true or at least every contingent true proposition has an explanation,” or that “Every event has a cause.”8 We can trace the formal statement of the principle to Kant, where as “determining” reason, it stands for the basic form of entailment or predication and indicates that if A then necessarily B; that A is, is in this sense sufficient for B, or, to put it more colloquially, it is enough for there to be A, so that there is B.

4. Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of South Africa, vol. 1, available at www.justice.gov.za/trc/report/finalreport/Volume%201.pdf, 29-10-1998.

5. Martin Heidegger, The Principle of Reason (Der Satz vom Grund: Gesamtausgabe Vol. 10), trans. Reginald Lilly (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996).

6. Béatrice Longuenesse, “Kant’s Deconstruction of the Principle of Sufficient Reason,” The Harvard Review of Philosophy 9:1 (2001), 84 n.7

7. Béatrice Longuenesse, “Kant’s Deconstruction of the Principle of Sufficient Reason,” 70.

8. Alexander Pruss, The Principle of Sufficient Reason: A Reassessment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 3.

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