Enough : Jacques Lezra

Mathematical logic since Gödel distinguishes formal languages that can be incomplete from others for which the criteria of “completeness” or “determination” are not appropriate on the grounds that the first possess, and the second does not, a “sufficient amount” of “elementary arithmetic.” That is, a formal system may said to be able to make a claim to “completeness” (and also to be “incomplete” in the technical sense that accompanies that claim) if, in addition to being consistent, the language of the formal system either includes the language of elementary arithmetic, or the “function symbols and relation symbols of elementary arithmetic are definable” in that language.9

These are not the senses in which Tutu intends the notion of “sufficiency” or of the “enoughness” of truth, of the truth or of truths in the plural. When Tutu writes that, “We should accept that truth has emerged,” his word “should,” which as we saw does not fit either into the positive register of the fact (i.e., it is a fact that there were murders) or into the subjective, doxological register of the opinion (i.e., “we may . . . be reaping the harvest of the campaigns to make the country ungovernable”), also alerts us to the fact that the Commission is operating on an injunctive, almost a hortatory level: for there to be a rainbow-nation, it is precisely not “sufficient” that the truth should emerge, or that “enough” truth or truths should emerge.

It could be that “enough of the truth” has emerged for there to be consensus, and yet that consensus is not achieved. Something additional to the “emergence” of truth is required, something of the order of work, or “belief,” or conviction, or fabrication, perhaps even of violence, in order for the “sufficiency” of the emergent truth to take place. Hence the need for a Constitution; hence the need for something like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The emergent “truth” is “enough,” there may be “enough” truths at hand, but that in itself is not “sufficient”: it does not bring about the accomplishment of the rainbow nation, to use the Austinian rather than the logical register. In other words, the “enough-ness” of the emergent truth is not to be confused with a logical sufficiency or with felicity conditions that make the pronouncing of a truth, or of enough truth or truths, a performative accomplishment.

Provisionally, we could call this a deflationary position on “sufficiency” or “enoughness,” or we could say that we understand “sufficiency,” or “enoughness,” to always require a social or an instituting supplement. From this point of view, we would want to refer not to a single, but to twin principles, a principle of sufficiency or “enoughness” (the truth is a truth enough, or enough truths, for something to emerge) and a principle of insufficiency or not-enough-ness (the sufficient truth that emerges as the cause for or basis upon which something else is to be built, consensus or a nation, that enough-truth-for, is never sufficient; it is never enough; we can always demand more, and we always do).

Both of these twin, contradictory principles, the principle that truth is “enough” and the principle that the truth is, until and unless it is effective, not-enough, appear to have an axiomatic shape that make me worry immediately—and makes me immediately want to provide a correction by saying, for example, that “sufficient, emergent truth is never, in itself, sufficient”—in part, because it is not to be conceived as possessing or as being characterized by an “in-itself-ness.”

I think one could make a broader point in this context. Whatever else it might be, the principle of sufficient and of insufficient truth, and of sufficient and insufficient truths, is not a “principle”; these are not “principles” understood in the sense of axioms, of grounding propositions, or of an origin, a principium veritatis that would be exempt from the test of truth that it imposes. Whatever else it or they might be, however else they or it are to be evaluated, the principle or principles of sufficient and insufficient truth, the principle that “enough truth” is useful “for” the construction of forms of life and that such “sufficient truths” are true only inasmuch as they can be said to make possible the “emergence” of forms of life, this principle or principles is (or are) not axiomatically true. The principle or principles of sufficient and insufficient truth are neither “true or false,” nor the ex-pression or shining-forth of a pre-fabricated or subsisting situation.

In what way, then, can Tutu’s “principle of sufficient or enough truth” become an ethical principle, or even more to the point, in what way can it serve, not just as a political concept, but as the concept by means of which the truthfulness, or the sufficiency, or the “enoughness” of the field of political concepts can be drawn and assessed?

9. The classic location is Kurt Gödel, “Über formal untentscheidbare Sätze der Principia mathematica und verwandter Systeme I,” Monatshefte fü̈r Mathematik und Physik 38 (1931), 173-198. Available in English as Kurt Gödel, “On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I,” Kurt Gödel Collected Works Volume I: Publications 1929-1936, trans. Jean van Heijenoort (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 144-195. On “sufficient” amounts of elementary mathematics in formal systems, see the clear exposition by Hannes Leitgeb, “Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics,” Journal of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Special Issue on “Logic and Philosophy Today,” 27:2 (2010), 129–154 and especially 135-7. Available online at staff.science.uva.nl/~ssimon/indjournal/contents.html, where the appropriate page range is 6-8.

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