Thursday, November 16, 2006

Truth, lies, permitted lies and forbidden truths.

Whilst researching the previous post I found myself occasionally in unsavory company. It is natural that the Neo-Fascist groups occupying the margins of political debate make use of revisionist history and I dare say that revisionist historians find the currency of such audiences just as welcome as that of any other.
I should therefore state that I have no sympathy for the far right. To the contrary, I am somewhat left leaning by today’s standards and a multi-culturalist.
My primary interest is truth. I am a “truth and damn the consequences” sort of fellow.

Since gaining access to the wide range of thought that the internet provides, I have discerned a measure of relativism among younger bloggers. This was particularly evident during the debate over the Bush so-called “torture” legislation.
The argument was usually put like this:
“You know a strike is imminent and one man possesses the information needed to avert the attack. Torture is therefore justified.”
The answer to this unlikely scenario is, of course, that if extreme measures are called for, the correct response is to break the law then, the emergency being over, stand up and plead extenuating circumstances. Our judicial system has the flexibility to pardon offenders in a just cause.

That such measures as the suspension of Habeas Corpus are now enshrined in American law indicates that relativism or situation ethics is now acceptable to the majority.

Another label that might be applied is “post-modern”. My understanding of the term is that it informs that there is no paradigm of art or beauty - that which is beautiful is that which the individual finds to be so.
This philosophy seems to have been extended to truth and justice.

Diametrically opposed to the Neo-Fascist blogs, one would suppose, are the Orthodox Jewish blogs. I was interested to find:

....a Jewish Issues blog by Rick Richman whose articles have appeared in The American Thinker, The Jewish Press, and the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

In a review of Rabbi Telushkin’s book [“A Code of Jewish Ethics: You Shall Be Holy”], Richman says:

“I came across a point I thought was particularly insightful -- that the way to do unto others the way you would have them do unto you is to tell them the truth, rather than simply what you think they might want to hear. You would be doing them the favor that you yourself would want in that same situation.”

I wondered if this might be the musing of someone so deeply immersed in the Post-Modern ethos that the imperative of truth was, to him, something requiring insight. As New York seems to be the epicenter of such thought and as the philosophy that gave rise to the Neo-cons came from Strauss and Holstedder, I began to wonder if there was not something in the Jewish epistemology that lies at it’s heart.

Richman goes on to discuss Telushkin’s concept of “Truth, Lies, and Permitted Lies” which he says “is a vastly more intricate subject than I had thought”. Furthermore, Richman says that: “to be an ethical person in the Jewish tradition, ..... requires almost a lifetime of Jewish learning”.

It seems to me a very short step from this philosophy to one of “ends justify means”.

Thus, if Richman is giving us insight into the Jewish mind, we might understand how lies told by the State, suppression of inconvenient truth, State atrocities (so long as they are not committed against one’s own) and the torture of aliens can be compatible with a system of ethics.

Personally, I remain an ardent Classicist.

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