Sunday, July 2, 2023

#183 / Let's Talk About Truth (And Politics)


Plato, at least according to one telling of the story, "invented truth because of a distrust of opinion." But... "What Is Truth?

For those not up on Biblical references, this was the question that Pontius Pilate posed to Jesus, just before Pilate washed his hands and sent Jesus off to be crucified. You can click this link to see what I had to say about that encounter, back in 2019. 
I am revisiting the subject of "Truth" because of an essay by Roger Berkowitz, published in Amor Mundi, the online blog/bulletin of The Hannah Arendt Center For Politics And Humanities. Berkowitz' essay is titled, "On Truth And Power." I think it is absolutely worth your time. If you are reading this blog posting, I hope you will click on the link, and see what Berkowitz has to say. 
Among other things, Berkowitz says this:

So many today want to tear [our] institutions down, to sacrifice what [Jonathan] Rauch calls The Constitution of Truth. Many of my students began [my recent] class believing that if one side lies and cheats to get what they want, it is foolish to hold oneself to norms of truth. Some held to that view throughout the course. If the right-wing press embraces alternative facts, the left-wing press should respond in kind as part of the resistance. It is of course true that the Supreme Court is not only a legal but also a political body, but if we treat it fully as a political body and pack the court to serve our interests, we lose the very idea of legal authority that lends our politics authority and stability. And it is true that the liberal rules-based world order does serve the interests of America and its allies, but to abandon that order to regional power bases would end the decades of peace and global integration many of us are used to. What the course brought [my students] to see is that they are right in their critiques of journalistic standards, legal neutrality, and international law as lies that inform and protect certain interests; but it also forced them to see that it may be deeply dangerous to simply tear down the institutional constitutions of truth that our liberal institutions embody (emphasis added).

"Tearing down the institutional constitutions of truth that our liberal institutions embody" is precisely what I addressed in this blog, yesterday. I am nervous about what I sense is an increasing perception that our "politics" is so totally rotten and corrupt that we - self-governing citizens - should be willing to "blow it all up." 

Berkowitz, and Hannah Arendt, would counsel against that!

And so do I!

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