Friday, 9 April 2010

The truth will out

The time of election is upon us: and, if truth is the first casualty of war, then it is the second or third casualty of election campaigns.

The US Masters is also upon us, and the sportsman Tiger Woods returns to his professional endeavours after the hiatus caused by the revelation of some truths that derailed his previously serene progress towards sporting immortality.

What kind, and what extent of truth do we demand, expect, require from our public figures? From our peers and friends and families? From ourselves?

We set hypocritical benchmarks. We call for standards of truthfulness from politicians that have no bearing on their ability to take, on our behalf, the decisions that politics requires. In so doing, we deter innumerable people whose contribution could dwarf that of those that currently put themselves forward for office (honourable though, I suspect, most of them actually are). We judge mere sportsmen – golfers, footballers – as if they were paragons of virtue rather than hypertrophied teenagers with over-developed hand-eye co-ordination.

I look to myself and I ask: how can I live with a degree of truth – to self, to others, to some Kantian ideal – sufficient to provide a platform from which, not to throw stones, but to in honour propose a benchmark for others?

I am going on holiday for a week and I am gathering my reading. It’s going to be heavy:

• ‘Living in Truth’, Vaclev Havel, which I read in pre-1989 days and need to re-visit
• ‘What’s the use of truth’, Richard Rorty, the muscular American philosopher
• ‘Language, Truth & Logic’, Freddie Ayer, Spurs fan and founder of logical positivism
• ‘Truth & Truthfulness’, Bernard Williams, his last great work
• ‘Concealment & Exposure’, my most recent purchase from Thomas Nagel, my favourite philosopher

It’s going to personal, political, philosophical and – by the looks of things – too much. My hope is that I make sufficient progress to be able to report with some coherence in a week or two’s time on an insight or two that has so far eluded me.

Other than that, “All we ever look for” by Kate Bush, “A night like this” by The Cure and, for Malcolm McLaren, “Anarchy in the UK” by the Sex Pistols (which, if Kropotkin was even half right, is about as true as it gets).

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