How we know that Francois Hollande is French

Consider the following proposition:

President Francois Hollande is French.

Is it true?

Is it objectively true?

What makes it objectively true?

Your answers to both the first questions should have been “Yes”.  Was the third a problem?  

If you had difficulty answering it then, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you: The Godess Marianne.  I can prove that She exists thuswise:

1. If The Godess Marianne does not exist then objective Frenchness does not exist.

2. Objective Frencheness does exist.

3. Therefore the Godess Marianne exists.

Ta da!  You see, if there is not a quality of transcendent Frenchness to which we are appealing when we describe someone (or something) as “French” then it would make Frenchness merely a matter of subjective opinion.  What is or is not French cannot be simply a matter of subjective opinion – you answered that second question “yes” remember?  

We must be appealing to something outside ourselves when we try to answer that question.  If not, then all you are saying when you describe Francois Holland as French is that it happens to suit your private preferences to call him French.  If  you say he is French and I disagree, how can you challenge my claim? It would be just your opinion against my opinion. 

But we all feel strongly and instinctively that it can’t be merely a matter of opinion.  That a person or a thing is French is a proposition that has a truth value and that truth must be grounded in something transcendental, not merely human opinions.  

It is no answer to say that Frenchness is simply the quality pertaining to those things which come from or belong to France.  This seems to some aMariannists to be a very clever move, but all they are doing is pushing their problem back a step.  What France is must itself be a matter of objective, transcendent truth if it is to provide the objective source of Frenchness which they are grasping for.  The answer to this gambit is to point out that France as an objective entity is simply an extension of the Godess’ own nature imprinted on the physical world.  

It is Marianne who provides the grounding for objective Frenchness.  She is the source of Frenchness.  She is not just French but she is France itself, the basis without which we would be left randomly ascribing Frenchness to whatever and whomever we pleased.  Without Her, we might call Dame Edna Evrage French.  Or Hitler French. 

Some aMariannists have suggested that Marianne does not solve the problem of objective Frenchness.  They claim that it simply leads to the questions:

  • Is someone French because Marianne declares them so?  In which case Frenchness is a mere fiat of Marianne’s and so no more objective than if we used human criteria for attributing it.
  • Or, does Marianne declare someone to be French because they are in fact French?  In which case She must be appealing to some standard outside Herself and so is not genuinely the source of Frenchness.

But this is a pseudo-dilemma because it fails to understand that Marianne is in her very nature French and we understand Frenchness only through her having hard-wired Frenchness into the world, indeed, the universe (or we might call ET French)

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m not for a moment claiming that just because someone is an aMariannist they cannot themselves be French.  Some aMariannists are very French.  But they have no grounding for describing themselves as French or describing others as non-French.  

The aMariannist is faced with a stark choice.  Either they accept that any claim they make about Frenchness is nothing more than an expression of a personal whim, or they must accept that Godess Marianne does indeed exist and is underpinning everything they say about France and every claim they make about anyone or anything being French.