True-False : Right-Wrong = Desire : Intention — Işık Barış Fidaner

There is a certain transitivity between the True and the Right: Saying ‘Right!’ can mean ‘Yes, that’s true!’, or calling something True can automatically imply that someone (or something) is Right. Similarly, there is also a certain transitivity between the False and the Wrong: A Falsity can automatically imply the Wrongness of something or someone. But despite their transitivities the concepts are not confused: In their linguistic functions, True-False and Right-Wrong remain to be clearly separate concept pairs. How can we discern the functions of these two signifier pairs [1]? How can we describe the dialectics of this fourfold of signifiers?

In Turkish language, my mother tongue, there is no corresponding fourfold. The common practice is to translate (1) both True and Right as ‘Doğru’, (2) both False and Wrong as ‘Yanlış’ [2]. This is why an ordinary Turkish speaker doesn’t have the linguistic means to discern the fourfold dialectic that exists in English, and (s)he is totally immersed in the transitivities True-Right and False-Wrong that we described above. This situation is worse than the English speaker, who can at least switch the words to designate some difference, although (s)he remains unconscious of the significance of this difference.

Speaking both languages, I am stuck (or if you prefer, ‘strategically positioned’) between the specific ignorance of the Turkish speaker who is totally immersed in these transitivities, and the specific ignorance of the English speaker who unconsciously uses (or perhaps, ‘is used by’) the fourfold dialectic. This special position forces me to discern and articulate the significance of this fourfold dialectic.

So what differentiates True-False from Right-Wrong? Commonsense discerns them through ‘facts vs. opinions’. Something being True-False is factual and invariable, whereas something or someone being Right-Wrong depends on opinions and is variable. I think this definition is a false one. The true dialectic of this fourfold is as follows: Being True-False means deserving (or not) of desire, whereas being Right-Wrong means deserving (or not) of intention.

The word ‘deserve’ perfectly fits in this redefinition because of its positive/negative ambivalence. The word ‘desire’ marks the properly psychoanalytical field of the unconscious that transcends intentional control. That’s why ‘desire’ is the proper word to discern the field of (what appears to be) ‘invariable facts’ from the conscious field of intentional access and control, which discerns the field of ‘variable parameters’. This makes it obvious that the discernment ‘Science vs. Technology’ is also based on ‘desire vs. intention’. This allows us to speak of Truth-Falsity in art, and the function of desire in the emergence/revelation of Truth-Falsity in the courts of justice.

So when I say that the commonsensical discernment of ‘True-False vs. Right-Wrong’ based on ‘facts vs. opinions’ is False, I mean that this method of discernment is not deserving of our desire. And when I say that the new uncommonsensical discernment of the same fourfold based on ‘desire vs. intention’ is True, I mean that it is deserving of our desire [3]. This way of discerning this fourfold dialectic also allows a new approach to the fashionable topic of ‘Alternative Facts’ and ‘Post-Truth’.

The first conclusion that emerges from (or, is revealed by) this new approach is the following: The field of True-False emerges (or, is revealed) through (the return of) what is repressed from the field of Right-Wrong. We intend for something, but something escapes us, and this ‘line of flight’ (Deleuze & Guattari) determines the pathways of our desire, and thereby the Truth.

Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] True-False and Right-Wrong are two pairs of symbolic scissors. See “The Rock of Reality, The Paper of Truth, The Scissors of Semblances”

[2] As two translators, we invented, proposed and initiated an alternative translation practice for properly discerning True-False (Sahi-Fol) from Right-Wrong (Doğru-Yanlış) in Turkish: “Çevirmenler, True’ya Doğru demeyelim, Sahi diyelim” (Fidaner, Ayanoğlu)

[3] Uncommonsense emerges from the analytical defusal (which relies on the hysterical refusal) of the moral bomb of commonsense. Without analysis, hysteric’s refusal merely re-fuses the bomb: “Refusing and Defusing The Moral Bomb”

The title alludes to Slavoj Žižek’s 1997 paper “Desire: Drive = Truth: Knowledge”


  1. Many thanks, your article is very stimulating reading. I was by chance reading yesterday Lavoisier’s Preface to “Elements of Chemistry”, and think it could be of interest to you in this context.

    Liked by 1 person

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