Live not by lies

The circle--is it closed? And is there really no way out? And is there only one thing left for us to do, to wait without taking action? Maybe something will happen by itself? It will never happen as long as we daily acknowledge, extol, and strengthen--and do not sever ourselves from--the most perceptible of its aspects: Lies. (...) And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. (...) This opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction. It is the easiest thing to do for us, but the most devastating for the lies. Because when a person renounces lies this cuts short their existence. Like an infection, they can exist only in a living organism. (...) Our path is to walk away from the gangrenous boundary. If we did not paste together the dead bones and scales of ideology, if we did not sew together the rotting rags, we would be astonished how quickly the lies would be rendered helpless and subside. (Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, Live not by lies, February 18, 1974)


a) There are three parties in the gigantomachia with two competing logics. These logics have essentially different conceptions of borders. For the giants and the gods, borders are improper and temporary and their very existence is not only questionable but wrong. Each is therefore resolved to fight with the other to death: as Plato says, "an interminable battle is always going on between the two camps".

b) In "Live not by lies", written in 1974 just before his forced exile, Solzhenitsyn describes these two sorts of borders as follows. On the one hand there is the artificial border implicated in the logic of the giants and the gods: "the gangrenous boundary" where we "paste together the dead bones and scales of ideology" or "sew together the rotting rags". Here a border serves only to throw together an illegitimate whole (one which the gods and the giants recognize only as a cause for combat and which they attempt to eradicate). On the other hand, there is the border created when we "sever ourselves from (...) Lies" which "opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction" and "cuts short their (the lies) existence". Here the border sets free by opening a transitive pathway to a different way of thought and of living.

c) Note a) above speaks of the 'logics' at origin - why not of the 'ontologies'? This is especially to be wondered when 'logic' is an obvious part of 'onto-logy'. The answer has to do with exactly this whole-part relation. The parties competing at origin, the giants, gods and child, are three different fundamental powers or fundamental shapes or fundamental ontologies. Each has a certain logic, a certain theory of borders and a certain 'identification'. The gods and the giants share the same logic and the same conception of borders: namely, they agree that "true reality" is one and that plurality is only apparent and illegitimate. But each of the two has an opposite 'identification'. The gods identify "true reality" as ideational and formal. The giants identify "true reality" as material and particular. When Plato notes that "an interminable battle is always going on between the two camps" this is because of this opposed identification - but also because of their shared logic and conception of borders! In fact, it is only on account of the latter that the former (different identification) can lead to war. This can be seen in the child. Here there is a different logic, a different conception of borders and a different mode of identification. The child holds that "true reality" is plural and that complexity is legitimate. Borders in this view both enable plurality and hold it together. The child therefore identifies both sides as "true realty". What leads to war between the gods and the giants is, therefore, not the identification they make, but the totalitarian mode of their identification!

(d) The gigantomachia can be discussed from a variety of perspectives. When it is a matter of the three contestants it is approprate to speak of ontologies. When, however, it is a matter of the properties of these ontologies, it is appropriate to speak of their logics. 'Logic' in this context speaks to the question of the structure which is attributed to "true reality" (on, onta, ontic) in the three onto-logies.

July 4, 2004 in Live not by lies, Original difference | Permalink