The Four of Us Are Lying

Bill Clinton. John Edwards. Richard Nixon.

Roger Clemens.

David Vitter. Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

Here’s a couple more names…

James Frey. Jayson Blair. Stephen Glass.

Notice the pattern?

No?

How about this one:

Lance Armstrong.

Still don’t see it?

Pinocchio.

Ok. Think then-Secretary of State Colin Powell announcing to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

Got it yet?

Ok, last one: “Remember the Maine”.

Still no?

Well, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll tell. Each of these men (and one wooden boy) told lies. They were lying.

Not just little white lies, mind you. BIG LIES*.

Whoppers.

The forces-you- to-resign-from-elected-office kind of lies.

The subject of a week’s worth of stories on TMZ kind of lies.

The has to talk to Oprah in a public display of contrition kind of lies.

The kind of lies that’ll have you end up doing this:

 

 

 

 

Or this:

 

 

 

 

Yeah.

Public humiliations galore.

 

Whether we tell half-truths or little white lies, spin tall tales, rip yarns, or lay down the kind of lies that would put Goebbels to shame, the funny thing about lying is even though no one likes it when somebody tells them, everyone lies.

daria on lies

 
Don’t say you don’t. You’d be lying.

 

pants on fire

 

We’ve all lied about one thing or another. We know that lies and lying are an inevitable part of human interaction. We might even say that the occasional lie is useful.

 

good lies

 
Yet we’re offended when it happens. We don’t like it when people lie.

Especially when they lie to us.

 

louie c.k. on liars

 

It’s not even that we’re merely offended by lies – we completely flip our wigs when we discover we’ve been lied to. We’re so put off by lies and liars that anyone who’s caught in a lie not only knows they’ve messed up big time, but also know that a long journey of mea culpas on the path of liar redemption is essential if one wants forgiveness.

If all works well, all will be forgiven.

However, if you’re a regular schmo like me – you get caught in a lie it might ruin you forever.

Contrition is not my forte.

 

baby liar meme

 

 

 

But why is that?

Why do we get so butthurt when someone lies?

Emperor Butthurt

 

 
I mean, after all, even the Bible admonishes us against lying. Exodus 20:16 specifically states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.

According to the Bible there’s an especially awful kind of lie: false witness.

 

Whatever that is.

 

I don’t know. I don’t read the Bible.

That’s why I’m going to hell.

 

I‘M A PHILOSOPHER. IT’S ALMOST A GIVEN THAT I‘M DOOMED TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

I‘M A PHILOSOPHER. IT’S ALMOST A GIVEN THAT I‘M DOOMED TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

 
Alright. I remember in my English 101 class, my professor said if you introduce a term you have to define it. So it might help us a bit to get clear on what exactly a lie is.

A lie, at least according to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), has three “essential features”:

 

1. A lie communicates some information
2. The liar intends to deceive or mislead
AND –
3. The liar believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true

 

According to the BBC, if you’re not doing any of those 3 things, you ain’t lying.

 

bad luck brian lies

 
But if lying is sometimes useful, we must ask, is lying all that bad?
Before you say yes or no you might want to ask around.

 

Psalm 31:18 may say “Let lying lips be put to silence”.

Obviously God has never heard of Socrates or noble lies.

Noble lies, in case you didn’t know, are fictions told with the intent to preserve loyalty to the state and the social order.

pinocchio bitch

 

 

Wait a minute, you say. Lies are bad. Anyone who watched what followed Lance Armstrong’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs knows that lying causes nothing more than absolute misery. So why does Socrates think that lying ever serves a useful, even a good, purpose?

You see, Socrates thought that people need to be lied to because most people are too stupid to handle things.

And by people, Socrates meant people like you and me.

Socrates says in Book III of  Republic:

“Could we,” I said, “contrive one of those lies that come into being in case of need, of which we were just now speaking, some noble lie to persuade in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city?”

 

According to the late Socrates fan and political philosopher, Leo Strauss, the state may lie to the public when “an extreme situation in which the very existence or independence of a society is at stake.”

 

So according to Socrates and Strauss, so long as your lie serves a greater good for society, we should heartily approve of some lies.

 

WHO DRANK HEMLOCK AND LIKES LYING? THIS GUY!!!

WHO DRANK HEMLOCK AND LIKES LYING? THIS GUY!!!

 

 

Perhaps our anger at Colin Powell was misplaced.

 

… that’s because deposing Saddam Hussein would be good for everybody.

 

Keep that point in mind.

 

Socrates tells us so long as a lie is told by the right people for the right reasons, lying to people is perfectly fine. In fact, according to Socrates, lying to people is a necessary function of the ruling class.

Alright. Hold on a minute. Before you think Socratic noble lies gives us free rein to fib at will, remember that point I told you to keep in mind. ‘Cause you should be thinking there’s something extremely rotten in the polis.

Two points:

  • We get angry when we are lied to.
  • Even if a lie is justified, we feel that some punishment or an apology is necessary.

 

That’s why Lance Armstrong ended up on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

 

There’s a reason why we feel a sense of moral indignation when we find that someone has lied to us. There’s a reason why this guy’s nose grew every time he lied.

Pinocchio-007

 
The reason is because no matter what explanation, cause or excuse we give for telling a lie, a lying is wrong.

We feel an innate desire to hear the truth.

We prefer the company of those who tell the truth over those who tell lies.

 

This is what Aristotle wrote about people who tell the truth:

Such a man would seem to be a good man. For he who loves truth, and is truthful where nothing depends upon it, will still more surely tell the truth where serious interests are involved; he will shun falsehood as a base thing here, seeing that he shunned it elsewhere, apart from any consequences: but such a man merits praise.

 

According to Aristotle, a person who tells the truth is trustworthy. An honest person is someone of good character who we can rely on when we deal with them – we can expect that what they say is true and that by trusting them we will not experience emotional, philosophical or physical harm.

Of course, we well know that’s not what happens when someone lies.

 

OK, MAYBE ZACH MORRIS IS A BAD EXAMPLE

OK, MAYBE ZACH MORRIS IS A BAD EXAMPLE

 

Let’s remember: the second and third essential features of a lie states that the liar “intends to deceive or mislead”, and that a liar “believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true”.

Intentional deception and misleading, no matter what  justification for doing so, always deprives others (those to whom the lie is directed) of the full knowledge of a situation. If we lack full knowledge, we cannot make fully rational decisions.

Kant says this is what happens, folks, not me.

 

BLAME HIM

BLAME HIM

 

 

That means that a lie is inherently pernicious. The short-term benefit of a lie is almost always obliterated upon the discovery of the lie.

Lance Armstrong lost his Tour de France medals. Roger Clemens was tried on charges of perjury. President Clinton was impeached.

 

 

th (7)

 

 

Twelve years and we’ve still got troops in Iraq.

 

 

WILL ALWAYS BE KNOWN AS TRICKY DICK

WILL ALWAYS BE KNOWN AS TRICKY DICK

 

 

And if you read Plato’s Republic, you would know that in no way did Socrates think that average Joes and Janes like you and me could – or should – be a part of the ruling class.

 

th (8)

 

What that means for us is that a lie, no matter what noble intention the speaker may have, can do nothing other than to cause harm.

And a liar, no matter what he tells you, is almost always up to something bad.

However, songs about liars are nearly always entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* I realize there’s a matter of what exactly constitutes a lie, especially concerning the intent of the liar. I realize that instances of lying include a liar being unaware that his false statement is indeed false or when an individual tells the truth with an intention to deceive. For an example of this kind of lie, I suggest watching Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – in particular, the scene between Count Dooku and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

 

 
NOTE: Socrates details the purpose of noble lies in Book III, 414 d – 415 a-d, of Plato’s Republic.

 

 

SOURCES:
1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/lying/lying_1.shtml

2) Plato. Republic. 1968. Trans. Allan Bloom. NY: Basic Books. Bk. III, 414 b-c.

3) Leo Strauss. Natural Right and History. 1953 [1950]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 160.

4) Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. 2004 [1893]. Trans F.H. Peters, M.A. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. p.91.

Fishers of Supermen

I’ve been doing this philosophy thing for a while, now. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

I’m much better at philosophizing than I am at playing basketball or Scrabble.

I think better than I dance.

I’m better at talking about Hume than I am at gourmet cooking.

I’m pretty good at doing something with minimal money-making potential.

Hurray!

That doesn’t bother me, though. You see, philosophers don’t get into philosophy for it’s money making prospects – they do it because they love it.

We are indeed lovers of wisdom.

That kind of bugs me.

 
I used to get frustrated in my philosophy classes. I read Plato and Aristotle. I read Descartes. I read Hume and Kant.

And Rousseau.

And Russell.

De Beauvoir. Marx. Locke. Mill.

They’re all dead now.

I would sit and think how distant philosophy seemed from anything contemporary. Nothing related to how the world is now. It seemed that right now didn’t matter as much as back then. How so many philosophers seemed to hold anything popular with a fair amount of contempt.

Ancient philosophers are the only ones who know how to think.

That never worked for me.

I promised myself that when I graduated, I would write the book that I always wanted to read. I thought if there was anyone out there who thought like me, we’d find each other across the internet. We’d prove that philosophical thought didn’t stop with Socrates.

We would become a movement.

We would become a new Vienna Circle.

So I wrote a book.

I started a blog and a Facebook page.

I was to be a fisher of supermen.

It’s been a few years since then. Things are pretty much the same as they were when I started. I’m not the Oprah Winfrey of philosophy.

If I’m to believe one of my former professors, it has to do with the fact that I lack proper philosophical street cred. That is to say, philosophers think that the only people qualified to speak (or at least write) about philosophy have a PhD.

Philosophers can be kind of stingy with their wisdom.

A philosophical velvet rope.

Apparently, breaking into professional philosophy is harder than getting into Studio 54.

Alvin Plantinga is the new Steve Rubell.

The thing is, there are plenty of non-professionals writing and speaking about all sorts of topics in books, on TV, and all over the internet. Some are pretty successful.

Could it be that no one is interested in philosophy?

No. that can’t be it. I refuse to believe that it’s that no one is interested in philosophy. There are still philosophy departments on college campuses and plenty of philosophy blogs out there.

Not as many blogs as the number devoted to celebrity gossip, but they’re out there.

My blog is one of them.

There’s a problem, though.

There’s no new Vienna Circle.

All I’ve accomplished is Vienna solipsism.

One thing I have noticed is that everybody else’s stuff seems to have what my stuff lacks – an opinion.
Their stuff has a point of view.
When I write, I try to be topical. I try to humorous and down-to-earth, but it’s not connecting to my an (any) audience.

I barely have 100 likes on my Facebook page.

There are pages devoted to characters from the movie Jaws that have more likes than my page.

So it can’t be that difficult to get a like or two.

See, I think my problem is that I’ve been playing things too safe. I’m stuck on that old habit of writing that one becomes accustomed to when in college.

That damned impartial writing. My writing is passive when it should be active. I write “One” instead of “I”. I say “One may conclude” instead of “I think that”.

I try to write about philosophy but I’ve been trying to do it impartially. That ultimately is impossible to do.

My writing doesn’t have a voice.

It makes for boring philosophy. A boring blog.

A boring Facebook page.

 

I know philosophy is grounded in reason and analytical but that shouldn’t exclude taking a position on anything. Kant definitely thought deontological ethics was the way to go. And there was no convincing Ayn Rand that objectivism might not work even while she collected social security.

Bertrand Russell had an ontology, but he also wrote what he thought about damn-near everything else. Russell wrote his opinions on other philosophers and other philosophical schools of thought. He wrote on topics ranging from politics, religion, international affairs, to marriage and sex.

Here I am. Trying to be analytical.

Trying to be impartial.

Trying not to offend anyone.

Because no philosopher ever did that.

Socrates never had to drink hemlock.

Descartes Would Have Done the Maury Povich Show (Metaphysics vs. METAPHYSICS)

I finally figured out something.

After many years of soul searching and asking other people, I finally figured out why philosophy isn’t popular. Why no one ever mentions the name Immanuel Kant or says the words “virtue ethics”, even when the conversation is about deontology or virtue ethics.

Or why contemporary philosophers like Peter Singer and Slavoj Žižek are relegated to occasional appearances on NPR.

Or why Cornel West is identified as a social critic and not a philosopher. And why, when anyone discusses matters of religion, they turn to guys like Rick Warren and not to philosophers like Peter van Inwagen.

There’s a reason why the only metaphysics ever spoken about is ghost hunting and talking to the dead.

That kind of metaphysics gets its own TV show.

 

 

paranormal TV show

 

 

What I discovered is this: nobody talks to philosophers or talks philosophy because nobody likes philosophy.

It’s all pie-in-the-sky navel gazing and talking about nothing.

 

 

IF YOU SAY YOU'RE INTO PHILOSOPHY CHANCES ARE PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT SKIN CARE PRODUCTS.

IF YOU SAY YOU’RE INTO PHILOSOPHY CHANCES ARE PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT SKIN CARE PRODUCTS.

 

 

More people follow the life philosophy and ethics of Donald Trump than they follow the life philosophy and ethics of Aristotle.

That’s why this metaphysician

 

james van praagh

 

 

Sells more books than this metaphysician

 

peter van inwagen

 

 

If you told the average person you’re into metaphysics, it’s more likely that they’d think you’re into Sylvia Browne or that you’ve mastered The Secret. There’s a real problem for your field of interest when you mention the word “philosophy” and people think you’re talking about the Laws of Attraction.

If I had to put money on it, I’d bet the reason why small “m” metaphysics is more popular than capital “M” metaphysics (that is, philosophical metaphysics) has to do with the fact that when you practice small m metaphysics, you’re supposed to get things.

Practitioners of The Secret call these things “abundance”.

Mike Dooley, who is featured in The Secret, says “Thoughts become things”. According to Dooley, it’s not just that what we think influences how we perceive reality, what we think actually affects the world around us. That is to say, our thoughts can become real things in the real world. We can actualize our desires for a good job, a good home, stable, and substantive relationships with our significant others. And, we can manifest abundance.

That means lots of money.

You see, if you practice small “m” metaphysics, it can make you very rich.

I wouldn’t claim that Rhonda Byrne is infinitely more knowledgeable than Socrates or Immanuel Kant, or that James van Praagh’s Talking to Heaven is a better philosophical guide than Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. it’s just that subscribing to one philosophy is potentially more financial rewarding than the other.

It’s as simple as that.

Think of it: small “m” metaphysics tells us that we can attract things like money and happiness simply by thinking about it. On the other hand, Aristotle’s brand of happiness, eudemonia, or “flourishing”, doesn’t even require that a person be emotionally happy.

According to Aristotle, even a dead man can be happy.

In fact, according to John Stuart Mill, we should prefer to be a dissatisfied Socrates than want to be a satisfied pig.

If how our lives end is any indication of how fulfilling one’s life is (financially or otherwise), one can make an argument that being a philosopher positively sucks.

  • Socrates was condemned to death and forced to drink hemlock.
  • Isocrates starved to death.
  • Hypatia was killed by a mob of Christians.
  • Seneca was ordered to cut his own throat.
  • Descartes died from the common cold.
  • Richard Montague was beaten to death.
  • Jacques Derrida died of pancreatic cancer.
  • Leibniz died of arthritis and gout (I had no idea either one of those conditions was fatal)
  • Camus died in a car accident.
  • Foucault died from complications from AIDS.

…. It’s been rumored that Nietzsche died of syphilis.

I’d bet that none of those philosophers were blessed with “abundance”, either.

Deepak Chopra is worth an estimated 80 million dollars.

And, unlike Descartes, Deepak Chopra was on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

 

 

 
Sources:
http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/deepak-chopra-net-worth

The LAST Philosopher on Earth

Sometimes celebrities say things.

About things that are entirely not about show business.

Occasionally they think they say something smart. Sometimes they don’t. I don’t bother to check anymore. I pretty much react the same way every everyone else does whenever a celebrity says something.

Roll eyes.

Shut up and play yer guitar.

Sometimes I hear so much of what celebrities have to say about things not at all about show business that I sometimes feel like I’m the last real philosopher on earth.

Stephen Baldwin is on Piers Morgan talking about God.

50 Cent is on Oprah talking about the meaning of life.

Angelina Jolie tells me what a good person is.

If it wasn’t for Madonna I wouldn’t know how to vote.

Celebrities are the modern philosophers.

Here’s some celebrity wisdom:

“The only rule is don‘t be boring and dress cute wherever you go. Life is too short to blend in.”  Paris Hilton

“The greater your capacity to love, the greater your capacity to feel the pain.” Jennifer Aniston

“The truth is you don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. Life is a crazy ride, and nothing is guaranteed.” Eminem

“Sexiness is a state of mind – a comfortable state of being. It’s about loving yourself in your most unlovable moments.” Halle Berry

“We’re all damaged in our own way. Nobody’s perfect. I think we are all somewhat screwy, every single one of us.” Johnny Depp

How many people know this quote

All_You_need_is_love_RGB_small_1

 

More than they know this quote:

PRsll Kant quote

 

 

I didn’t even have to show you a picture of the Beatles for you to know where the first quote came from.

You’re probably hearing the song in your head right now.

This is exactly my point. We know that the Beatles tell us all we need is love but we don’t know that Bertrand Russell said this:

There will still be things that machines cannot do. They will not produce great art of great literature or great philosophy; they will not be able to discover the secret springs of happiness in the human heart; they will know nothing of love and friendship.

Or that Thomas Hobbes said this,

Love is a person’s idea about his/her needs in other person what you are attracted to.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-famous people. And I don’t mind that famous people have opinions or feel the need to share them with the public. Like I said, sometimes celebrities have something smart or wise to say.

It’s hit and miss just like with all of us.

There’s something wrong with a society that believes that being famous means entitles a person to deference that their opinions matter more than anyone else’s. That fame is an automatic qualified to speak about anything badge. I’m not so sure I should be taking sage advice from a person who got famous with a sex tape or whose opinions are deemed worthy of being preached  heard simply because that person is famous.

It’s easy to give a celebrity platform to speak on a TV show or in a magazine than to put some philosopher, thinker, social critic (or scientist or educator for that matter) on a TV show simply because we know who celebrities are. We recognize them without having to be told who they are. Everybody in the world knows who Lady Gaga is.* But how many people know the name Helene Cixous? Or Gregory Kavka? We know no one is going to tune in to see a Slavoj Žižek cultural analysis or watch Noam Chomsky’s criticism of American foreign policy on The Dr. Phil Show, but we’ll tune in to watch Matt Damon tell Charlie Rose why he’s disappointed with the Obama Administration.

At least people won’t be tuning in in the kind of numbers that networks want, anyway.

I’m sure Matt Damon is a smart guy, but was there not ONE political philosopher who’s available to talk about politics?

I mean, I’m a philosopher and I wouldn’t even watch Peter Singer chatting it up on Anderson Cooper’s CNN show.

I might DVR it, though.

 

…. yeah, while the DVR is recording I might try some yoga. I think I’ve become a little cynical.

 

 

NOTE:

* I know that not everyone is the world knows who Lady Gaga is.