Truth Hides

Back once again (at last)

I was in the supermarket today, and the first thing I saw was a pile of pizzas for LESS THAN HALF PRICE!!! Simultaneously, I had two thoughts:

  1. That must be actually true. They couldn’t get away with it otherwise.
  2. Or have they just gone for such a brazen lie that I’m going to think, That must be actually true. They couldn’t get away with it otherwise?

Then I thought, I doubt Goebbels runs the marketing here; let’s just buy a pizza.

[That’ll take ten minutes to heat up. Check out the Apoplexy Newsletter while you wait.]

My book Stroke opens with an Author’s Note more or less along the following lines:

Many of us stroke survivors find our way to narratives that make some sort of sense of our experiences and losses. I’ve tried my best to tell my story accurately in a way that makes sense to me. Some names and identifying characteristics have been changed and a composite character or two appears. Throughout most of this story, my brain is broken, and I hope you’ll make allowances for that.

I know, I should have had a career in politics. Here’s Big Treeza telling the poetic truth –

Posted by the people who want to make a success of Brexit, by the way. At least I’m trying to use words to convey meaning.

Thanks, Collins Dictionary!

Now, I’m as bored as anyone about people banging on about the post-truth times we live in, and fake news.

Well, as bored and at least as angry. My buddies at the BBC spend an inordinate amount of time banging on about the post-truth era and fake news and populism spread by The Internet and Russia and Your Mum. Yet, they basically created this as a Foreign Secretary:

Knut: He's turning back the tide at Dover, doncha know?
The **** Of All Media

Yeah, the Knut. He’s turning the tide back at Dover, doncha know? Then, as Theresa May prepared to put her Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to a third Meaningful* Vote, this happened:

*Words have no meaning

In the face of the seemingly endless stream of lies coming from every angle and spilling over the edge of every frame to make to the grand narratives of our lives look like Julian Assange’s room at the Ecuadorian embassy, I’ve started doing a Massive Open Online Course (or MOOC) from the University of Auckland on Logic and Critical Thinking. I’m about halfway through, and it’s been pretty good so far.

Agba is a tropical hardwood used in, inter alia, coffin-making. True fact!
Or maybe I’m bluffing…

I think what turned me on to the course was my memories of learning about critical legal studies at the University of Texas Law School in the mid 1990s. Ian Wiki summarises CLS as:

[a m]ovement in legal thought committed to shaping society based on a vision of human personality devoid of hidden interests and class domination.

Or, if you prefer, an effort to see how the law operates more clearly. For example, a person in a courtroom may speak in a way that encodes their position in society and their privileges.

And you're a bear!
Clearly he didn’t. For god’s sake, he’s a classicist, man.

As I’ve written in a previous meditation on truth, I’m attracted to the idea that truth as a value – the idea of trying to perceive a realistic view of the world so that one can make some sort of marginal effort at making it better – may be more important than a “literal truth” of the words one uses not being disprovable.

I’m thinking about the act of being a memoirist in preparation for possibly talking to some people about it. And maybe the act of writing down the events of one’s life forces one to examine it for – sometimes uncomfortable – truths. The memoirist Catherine Simpson talks about the ethics of memoir – how a story may impact the people described therein. That unlocks one of the principles discussed in my MOOC – the principle of charity in evaluating arguments.

Of course, one doesn’t have to a memoirist to unlock these secrets. There are catchier ways to do it, too. Cheers, Asian Dub Foundation.

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3 thoughts on “Truth Hides

  1. Gimme Some Truth, Mr. Lennon said. Not so simple, Johnny boy. Whose truth do you want to hear?

    I think I understand the idea of truth as a value, but no two people (okay, no two sane people) have the exact same set of values, and most people would have a hard time agreeing on what is a “realistic view of the world” and what isn’t. Hence, the need for literal truths to help govern societies (rule by law), and to avoid settling most arguments by some sort of violence. Far from perfect, mind you, and certainly possible to manipulate. But the value-based systems of governance that flout the rule of law (throughout history up to the modern day) tend to reflect the values of those with the biggest weapons and/or bank accounts.

    As a side effect of all this, my words could be used to defend lawyers, of all people. Hopefully the Stroke Bloke won’t mind. 🙂

    1. Lawyers are like real people (bear with me), in that there are good ones and bad ones; ones that use the tool that is the law for the advancement of people and those that don’t. Of course, most Scottish lawyers will have studied a couple of jurisprudence, which will equip them with the tools they need to justify their existence and the importance of whatever work they choose to do. Anyway…

      I suppose where we end up, then, is a plea for the scientific method to guide our arguments, where

      an argument is a group of statements some of which, the premises, are offered in support of another statement, the conclusion.

      Yeah? Your remarks remind me of one of the most eye-opening moments in my time as a law student. This was, learning that international public law (certainly as it was understood at that time) declared that – and I’m paraphrasing here – whoever had the biggest stick on the ground was the sovereign power and the arbiter of all domestic law. I mean, obvious when you think about it, but still.

      Maybe, then, I’m just using fancy concepts and wurdz to say, Why can’t we all be nicer to each other? How very CLS of me. On the other hand, not to let this all get too airy-fairy, I do have a practical suggestion. Make all human action subject to VAR. Yes, I know the arguments against: it’ll break up the flow of life (and we’ll probably end up watching adverts while matters are decided), and we’d have to be able to apply the system at all levels from the playground to the boardroom. It’ll change the way we watch, enjoy and play life, but maybe that’s not a bad thing.

      Unfortunately, all the third officials evaluating my actions will be Celtic and Rangers fans, but you’d have to have a heart of stone not to appreciate the scope for schadenfreude.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6TBTo6lT-o

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