I don’t know if anyone has taken note (probably someone has) that the word “trump” (although ostensibly related to the word “triumph” in some derivations) is related to a number of words meaning “to fool, to cheat, to deceive, to fabricate”, and so on. French “trompe l’oeil” means “to fool the eye”, which Wikipedia defines as “an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions. Forced perspective is a comparable illusion in architecture.” It was once used as an objection to perspectivism in art, so “gaining perspective on something” can be quite amibiguous!
I wanted to address that this morning not just in the context of Donald Trump’s bid for the U.S. presidency — life seems to imitate art in some very surprising and uncanny ways, and I’m feeling a bit mischievous this morning — but to also highlight the ambiguity of what is called “perspective” or “perspective perception”, and it is also, in some ways, connected to Jean Gebser’s critique of perspectivising rationality now become “deficient”.
In a few earlier posts, I wrote about the coincidentia oppositorum (or conjunctio oppositorum) of the goddess Athena (who is reason) and the Gorgon (who is the anti-reason) — or Minerva and Medusa — as being the two sides of one coin, as it were. Here again, in perspectivism, we find that same conjunction of the ostensible opposites or polarities in one and the same process. Perspectivism is a rationalisation of spaces — a proportionality or ratio of spaces in terms of length, width, and depth according to mathematical axioms and geometric formulas worked out by Leon Battista Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci in the Renaissance. But it is also a trompe l’oeil, the fabrication of an illusion of depth upon a flat surface. So, to be trapped in a perspective or to “keep things in perspective” is also, in some ways, to be trapped in an illusion and a veritable spider’s web of illusions.
There’s a similar double-entendre used in the movie V for Vendetta, where Evey says: “My father was a writer. You would’ve liked him. He used to say that artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use them to cover the truth up.” That is quite parallel to the paradox of perspective perception.
What Evey has stated is actually quite profound, because it’s a statement about the Platonic “Noble Lie” theory and the role of myth. For the symbolic form of thinking, myth and symbol is truth revelation, while for the mental-rational consciousness (the fundamentalist or reductionist) it is synonymous with fabrication or lie. The mythological consciousness thinks in symbols, while the mental-rational thinks in signs.
“Noble lie” theory and practice has this same relation as Athena to the Gorgon, or Minerva to Medusa, with the former perhaps described as “the politics of art” and the latter as “the art of politics”; or, the use for the revelation of truth or the use for the velation of truth, and much of what we today call “perception management” is for purposes of the latter.
So the fate of “Noble Lie” theory (as much as the doctrine of “creative destruction”) in our time is a precise reflection of the mental-rational consciousness structure now functioning in “deficient mode”, as Gebser put it. And it’s a fine example really of what I call “Khayyam’s Caution” — that “only a hair separates the false from the true”. As Gebser might put it, the Noble Lie has its effective and efficient meaning, but also a defective and deficient meaning as the sure sign of the malfunctioning of consciousness (the “ignoble lie”, as it were). So there are a lot of profound implications in what Evey states, in a few short words, in the movie V for Vendetta.
Art may reveal or art may conceal, and the broad term in Greek for “art” was techne. And I can barely scratch the surface of the full meaning of that as it pertains to “noble lie” theory. It has both a generative (genesis) side, and a nihilistic or degenerative side, and I don’t think it needs to be said which side is, today, the dominant, does it? Devaluation of values.