Enough : Jacques Lezra

There is another way of approaching the matter. We take our cue from Barbara Cassin’s observation that the principle of “enough truth” or of “sufficient truth” is not subject to the law of non-contradiction.10 That principle would hold that there is one true, and one false, and that there is nothing of which it can be said, at the same time and in the same respect, that “truth” and “falsehood” belong to it, to paraphrase slightly Aristotle’s formulation in the Metaphysics (IV 3 1005b19–20).11 The Sophistical alternative, Cassin reminds us, is the alternative of the relative comparison—“il y a du «plus vrai» et du «meilleur pour»” (“there is what is ‘truer,’ and what is ‘better-for’”)—but in the Peri Hermeneias Aristotle does not exclude a third avenue, which strikes me as pertinent as well.

Here is Tutu’s line again: “We believe [Tutu writes] we have provided enough of the truth about our past for there to be a consensus about it.” Tutu is expressing a wish as well as a belief, and in this respect he is providing a way of testing the latter against the former. If the report of the Commission has indeed provided “enough of the truth,” then a consensus about South Africa’s past will indeed “emerge,” or be built or buildable. But the truth of the “belief” that the Commission has provided “enough of the truth” is not yet settled, either as true or as false. The expression is not yet either—it is a proposition subject to veridification at another point, in the future, when the rainbow nation will emerge or when it will not emerge, or when it will have been built or not.

Until that horizon has been achieved, we do not know whether we have indeed provided “enough of the truth for” the consensual construction of the South African democracy that is to come. In future contingent propositions of the sort “A sea-battle will take place tomorrow,” Aristotle famously remarked, the principle of bivalence is suspended.12 Propositions of the sort, “We . . . have provided enough of the truth about our past for there to be a consensus about it,” are hidden future contingent propositions: they are a form of prophetic speech. They can be analyzed to yield a core logical form that says, “A rainbow nation will emerge tomorrow, some tomorrow, at some point in the future, and it will emerge because enough of the truth was provided,” or even more starkly, “Enough of the truth will emerge tomorrow, a tomorrow we know will have come because that will be the day when consensus emerges and/or a rainbow nation emerges or is constituted.”

We ask: when are we in the position to say, “enough”? At some point we answer: “enough” time has passed; and no, now we know, it wasn’t “enough,” we need more of it, more of something, more coffee or more truth and more truths; open the tribunal doors again, we need more witnesses, we don’t have enough, we have not heard enough truth for the truth to emerge. A sort of regression is threatened: the “enough” of truth is dependent upon an “enough” of time, upon there being world enough and time enough for enough of the truth to have emerged or to be said, by consensus, to have emerged; upon there being given enough time and enough world to make sure that the conditions are right, and that yes, indeed, the “rainbow nation” has been produced, and thus we know that there was “enough” truth.

What I referred to as the apparent vulnerabilities of Tutu’s principle of the enoughness of the truth turn out to be the devices that make this principle-which-is-not-a-principle an adequate, a sufficient ground for a particular conception of politics. The vulnerabilities flow from these three observations—first, that the notion of “sufficiency” or “enoughness” is either too strong or not strong enough or not definitionally precise enough, in being neither a logical nor an ontological principle (nothing, and no statement about something, is “in itself” strong enough or sufficient to be called “true” outside of purely formal systems); second, that the principle of “enoughness” is insufficient or not-enough without a supplementary political requirement, the requirement that we account for and provide, that we fabricate, the means of fabrication of the outcome, the rainbow nation or the consensus.

Finally, that the principle of “sufficiency” or “enoughness,” as well as the supplementary, twin principle of insufficiency and not-enoughness, are projected upon a temporal horizon where practical decisions and acts of force, rather than principled decisions alone, determine whether consensus, or a state of equality, have been achieved and a rainbow nation can or has indeed been built—and hence whether the truth will, indeed, have been enough.

10. In, among other locations, the following interview: Barbara Cassin, «Je cherche ce que parler veut dire. Entretien avec Barbara Cassin», Philomag, 14 (2007). Available online at www.philomag.com/les-idees/entretiens/barbara-cassin-je-cherche-ce-que-parler-veut-dire-4573.

11. The standard English translation, in Aristotle, Metaphysics, trans. W. D. Ross (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924).

12. Aristotle, Categoriae et Liber de Interpretatione, ed. L. Minio-Paluello (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). English translation: Aristotle, The Complete Works of Aristotle, trans. Jonathan Barnes (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995). I have touched on the political aspects of this logical form in my Wild Materialism: The Ethic of Terror and the Modern Republic (New York: Fordham, 2010), esp. 88-109.

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