The Promise of the False

Some information on the thinking behind my exhibition: The Aviary

Blue Carrier Pigeon,
from Fulton’s Book of Pigeons (1880)

The origin of this project lies in my reading of Martin Heidegger’s analysis of Plato’s Theaetetus, a dialogue which seeks to answer the question “what is knowledge?” Knowledge, in this context, is understood as the “possession of truth,” yet, somewhat paradoxically, the figure of truth’s opposite, the false, takes centre stage in Heidegger’s account.

According to Gilles Deleuze, in his essay “Plato and the Simulacrum,” the aim of many of Plato’s dialogues is “to hunt down the false…,” in order to keep it “chained in the depths.” For Heidegger the significance of the Theaetetus is that for the first (and last) time the false is released from its chains, allowing it to demonstrate its capacity to “disturb and amaze.” It is a capacity that will lay dormant, until Deleuze, in the twentieth century, re-imagines the false as a force of philosophical and artistic creation.

The Aviary – the role of memory, the realm of doxa
This project builds on these foundations in order to explore the promise that the false holds for artistic practice. Initially this will be done through an exhibition; The Aviary, which will take as its starting point two sensory images, two similes that appear in the Theaetetus: the wax mass (slab) and the aviary. Taken together these images symbolise memory as a faculty, through which we have access to all of our past perceptions, stored as imprints in wax and as birds in an aviary. We can have these perceptions in two ways; as disregarded possessions, or we can make them present again, by actively bringing them to mind.

What these similes ultimately point to is that the same thing can be both present and absent and by extension true and false. This is the realm of the simulacrum, the false image, in front of which we make a decision on what we see, not only from what is before us, but also from what we have stored within us. I can therefore see what is present before me as that which is absent, and vice versa. This ambiguity finds its expression in doxa, a seeing aided by memory, intrinsic to which is the capacity to be mistaken. The seeing of doxa is never true or false, instead it operates in a sphere of free-play, it twists and turns, sometimes seeing what is false and sometimes not.  In other words what is seen can seem like one thing and it can seem like another. This leads Socrates to say that “doxa has two faces,” that which we encounter in doxic seeing can be both true and false.

Derek Hampson

Further Reading
“Socrates’ Question” posts 1 – 12 of my commentary on Heidegger’s interpretation of the Theaetetus
“The Second Answer” posts 13 – 24 of my commentary on Heidegger’s interpretation of the Theaetetus
My commentary on Gilles Deleuze’s essay “Plato and the Simulacrum” (in progress)

Theaetetus Posts
Deleuze Posts