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Truthiness and consequences

vastleft's picture

Harry G. Frankfurt, of "On Bullshit" fame, from his book on truth:

Surely it is apparent... that in large part we select the objects that we desire, that we love, and to which we commit ourselves, because of what we believe about them—for instance, that they will increase our wealth or protect our health, or that they will serve our interests in some other way. Hence, the truth or the falsity of the factual statements on which we rely in explaining or in validating our choice of goals and our commitments is inescapably relevant to the rationality of our attitudes and our choices. Unless we know whether we are justified in regarding various factual judgments as true, we cannot know whether there is really any sense in feeling and in choosing as we do.

For these reasons, no society can afford to despise or to disrespect the truth.

With health, wealth, and truth so plainly in the balance, I heartily agree, though society doesn't mind so much the cost of anti-truth, depending on who has to do the affording.

And I can't help but wonder if Prof. Frankfurt might be starting to rethink this assessment from his 2006 book, or at least wanting to update his caveat:

We are all aware that our society perennially sustains enormous infusions — some deliberate, some merely incidental — of bullshit, lies, and other forms of misrepresentation and deceit. It is apparent, however, that this burden has somehow failed — at least, so far — to cripple our civilization.

I guess that depends on who has to suffer the crippling....

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