Thinking about truth

We’ve been thinking about truth recently. Perhaps it started with that article about honesty we saw a few days ago. You know the one where the professor was advising his students that “honesty isn’t always the best policy” and  “If everything in the world says, ‘Do X,’ but you’re worried about your conscience, you’re now a slave to an irrational mental faculty.” It made us worry, not for the first time, about what students were learning at university and what professors were teaching.

Perhaps Wendy Elliott read the same article because she has been thinking about “truth from youth” and wrote about it in op-ed in The Advertiser a couple of days ago. She is not worried about what young people are learning as we are. No, she is wowed by the wisdom of the 11 year old who sang Tell Me Why. Perhaps she thinks Declan wrote it? [It’s a great song but it was written by Ian Mack and Barry Mason who have a bit of experience]. She is equally impressed by a speech made by David Suzuki’s daughter when she was 12. [We have a plot of wetland to sell her if she thinks Severn’s father didn’t have some hand in that.]

Then she praises  Christopher White who started the facebook group Canadians against Proroguing Parliament, [because that’s really, really difficult] and Bilaal Rajan who is raising money for Haitian relief, and Rachel Corrie who opposed the eviction of Palestinians in the Gaza strip .

Wendy sees these as examples of  “truth from youth”, wisdom “from the mouths of babes.” Her models tell us that Wendy agrees with the points of view these children learned to espouse early. That is her truth. We fear these young people are not champions of truth but victims of cause mongers, even perhaps Rajan who, if the money raised does actually help those he says he aims to help, can’t be faulted. Did they think for themselves? We would be more impressed, for example, if Severn had a different view than her father. This would indicate independence of mind.

Wendy thinks we should listen  and learn from these children, that if we seek truth we will find it in the voices of such as these. We just wonder. We wonder whether Christopher White really understands anything about Canadian Parliamentary History.  We wonder sadly why  Rachel didn’t know better than to stand in front of an Israeli bulldozer. We wonder whether Severn will feel bitter when she finds out that most of what she has been taught to believe is not truth but fraud.

But perhaps she will never find out and she will write op-ed pieces praising the next generation of lambs “prodigies”.

We add as an addendum [excuse the redundancy] this worthy piece by the always thought provoking David Warren titled appropriately “Perpetual adolescence” on Salinger and “adolescent narcissism”.

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3 responses to “Thinking about truth

  1. Does Wendy also still believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny? Or maybe WENDY still believes in Peter Pan.

  2. I don’t normally read your blog, but I was trying to find more blogs on NS politics so this popped up in the search.

    I’ll mention that the article on honesty was an instance of truly awful philosophy and that SMU philosophy is to real philosophy as MacDonald’s cooking is to a fine restaurant. It looks the same to an outsider and gets press, but it’s barely food. (though, really, the point of philosophy is to get you thinking — so publishing inanities like the Herald does is good if it gets its readers thinking about what honesty really is useful for)

    This old ‘honesty’ thing started in Plato’s Republic (covered in the first semester of any respectable first year philosophy course). While the prof doesn’t mention the example that Socrates does, it’s the basis for why honesty is not always the best policy.

    The example in the Republic comes around when the idea was floated that justice included telling the truth and giving each person what is theirs. So, Socrates asks: If a man lends you his sword, and comes up to you furiously angry and wants his sword back right now, do you tell him that you can’t find it or do you hand it over immediately?

    So, if a man (let’s be sexist, it’s alright) finds his wife cheating and comes over to you after lending you his hunting rifles and is red-faced and screaming because he wants to kill the both of them, are you really, honestly going to hand it right over to him?

    It’s too bad that this SMU prof is ruining things for others who study philosophy. But since it’s easier for those who read the Herald to understand SMU’s dumbed-downed views, philosophy students will continue to be seen as studying something horrendously stupid.

  3. Thank you ever so much for commenting and for bringing up Plato (and the nature of justice)

    If the aged Cephalus had stuck around instead of leaving it to Polemarchus he might have said something like – In the case of the crazy (not angry) man looking for the return of his sword couldn’t one say “Sorry, Buddy, I’m not going to give it back to you now cause I’m afraid you might do something silly with it?” If the man was not in his right mind why would a lie work better than honesty? [leaving aside the issue of the return of property which is wrapped up in this discussion – I mean, like, why did he need or want to borrow the crazy man’s sword in the first place?]
    Or, in the second scenario of the angry man which you propose – “Sure Buddy, wait right here I’ll go get it”, go inside, call 911, come out with the gun – which you have made sure is unloaded – and add “Are you sure you want to do this? Why don’t we think it over?” Is a lie like ” I can’t find it?”, or “I loaned it to Charlie” more likely to be better than an honest response?
    Is it enough to just deny the sword to the madman who then goes off and gets a spear? Or enough to deny the gun to the crazed man who then goes off and finds a knife?
    Going beyond Plato – Who is the true friend? Who is the good Samaritan? Who is the just man?
    Often a lack of honesty betrays a lack of courage, and/or perhaps laziness.
    But I do agree with you. Yes, it is a very old question and yes, that article, although poor philosophy, did get us thinking and talking, didn’t it?