Truth, Metaphor, Model

"Nature happens. No one will add to it" 

 Paul Valéry     

Only the truth of a metaphor may be defined. This is not to say that truth may be in any sense metaphoric. But simply that truth is a statement about the distance between metaphor and reality. Truth is an evaluation of the adequacy of a metaphor to reality. It would be absurd to think that truth is only that. Truth is that and nothing else. It cannot be otherwise. It has no other mode of existence. This because there is no evaluation of the adequacy of reality to reality, and besides, there is no need for it.

If this distance between metaphor and reality was ever to be suppressed, then only the "being there" would be left, perfectly adequate to itself, without any beyond, without any distance, a sort of absolute present, total chance or absolute necessity maybe, but chance or necessity, abstracted from this fundamental distance introduced by the image, the model, cannot be distinguished, and -- so to say -- are not even happening.

When you look at it closely, the "being there" stands without laws. This, because any law is an image too. A law describes a behavior, but the law is not the behavior, it only re-presents a behavior. And there are no laws in Nature, except the laws that images introduce in it, which are real, but only as images. It cannot be drawn out of this situation that Nature is chaos, nor may it be drawn out of it that Nature is order. Chaos and determinism are 2 variants of the same absence of wits. Because the mind -- when it has wits -- remembers that chaos and order are still re-presentations, models, images.
The "being there" as regards itself has no models. It is careless  and senseles. It does not have anything like a precedent and is no example for anything. As regards what we know about it, Marcel Duchamp once noted "La mariée [n'est jamais] mise à nu [que] par ses célibataires mêmes"... Magritte made quite the same remark with "Ceci n'est pas une pipe". In other words, we only get knowledge about reality through a movement by which "this" becomes absent.
"Je  dis 'une rose' et aussitôt se lève l'absente de tous les bouquets" as Stéphane Mallarmé once stated it.


What our senses show us is not reality, but only what they think of it.  Our senses are not receivers, they are not even actors. They  are actions; processes. To perceive does not mean to access reality, but more to act, to build, to construct an image, a map related to this part of reality that our senses presently have to deal with. The stimulus-response model certainly has proven to be useful,  but it is nevertheless a lie. We do not  react to external events. Our perceptive activity  builds these events. Nothing ever happens to non-living beings. What is there has no history, although it has a history for us. For us for whom having a history  has a meaning. We credit the inanimate with the sort of autonomy we have as living beings, but the inanimate has no autonomy. We see forms, shapes, patterns  in the world, things with a sort of own destiny comparable to ours, things with their own properties and reactions where it might be after all that only a monstruous wave funtion exists

We never really got out of animism. We only exchanged the "soul of things" for the "laws of Nature". And yes, it seems to work better.  But we are still going on with the same old story, along the same old road, casting our point of view as living beings onto the world and believing so deeply  into it that we always mix up the prey and the shadow  -- in other terms, the sign and the thing -- what we know of the world and what the world really is, that is to say an enigma until a better suggestion is proposed.

We never really got out of the monotheist point of view either. We still persist in thinking that there is something such as an absolute point of view about the world, a point of view that would not be the point of view of flesh, a perspective that would be independent of this condition we are in : the condition of living beings. We do not see that the concept of perspective only exists for living beings and that it is a real misuse to extend its meaning out of its original scope of validity. We stick to the belief that there is an absolute truth when truth, may only be -- is per definition -- the truth of an image.

To perceive is to work out a model. That is to say -- essentially -- an imperfection from which by a sort of strange trust, we expect a certain degree of faithfulmess (of truth). Faithfulness to what, then? Not to reality obviously, since we only know about reality by means of our sense. But faithfulness to life without any doubts, since as far as we see, we do not die that often of trusting what our senses tell us. In this, in this fragile reason, in this risk, stands all the truth of perception.


And out of this we have gained something as an understanding of the miracle. So, we are no longer surprised, as the Greeks used to be, that our senses may sometimes be misleading. What is a real surprise to us now, is that perception is, after all, relatively stable and this is the basic reason why we are still alive. And well, being alive, whatever people might say or think about how charming death may be, being alive is the fundamental surprise.

However, the "being there", this "this", that our senses are talking about, is what we do not see, what we do not hear, what we do not touch or feel, what our caress never discovers nor uncovers. This, because perception is poetry, because perception is "to do", "to make"

We have learned from recent science that perception builds maps in the brain. But a map is not a location. A map may be reliable or wrong. On the opposite, a location is absolutely exact. It has an immediate, total and inevitable exactitude. The location is not true, it is real.

From the fact that perception builds maps, it would be erroneous to derive that perception is abstract. First, perception is real and concrete in its results. The maps that it builds are real, just as real as what they represent. A map is a code. Items of a code are always  real, and they must be so, since a code must be perceived and read. But even in what seems abstract and non-immediately tangible in perception, which resides in its process, in its movement, perception belongs to this world : it happens. Before perception takes place is not the same as after. Perception emerges, springs up with the same degree of reality as a barrage crumbles down or as a flake of snow softly lands.

What we said above seems to be a confirmation of the platonicist vulgate according to which we only see shadows. However, the same movement shows that this antiphon is invalidated on a certain point, on a huge detail, which lies in the word "only". This, because to see is to produce shadows. And it appears that the light that produces these shadows does not lie beyond our reach. This light belongs to this world and this light is us. There is no other light, no other intellection than this one, this fragile and risky light of living beings. We are the fire that produces knowledge and there is no knowldege that is not produced by this uncertain fire of life.

We are now led to reformulate the quite approximative assertions we initially made. As our senses only provide images, metaphors and nothing such as an access to actual reality, the best we can reach is a certain level of consistency between what our senses let us know and these other images, metaphors, models, which our representations are made of. The problem is now to make a bit more explicit what this sort of consistency is made of.




P. Petiot
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