April 13, 2007

On Truth and Lies; with due apologies to Harry G. Frankfurt

Calling a spade a spade does often get people in deep trouble, and could cost you some friends as well. However, the pleasure and peace that unloading a truth brings, simply by articulating it, is tremendous! Whether the end justifies the means, is the question.

Is speaking ones mind synonymous with being abrasive? Is the truth always bitter? Does being liked entail telling lies or at least half truths? Are being liked and speaking the truth mutually exclusive of each other?

Would President Bush be liked if he were to speak the truth that going to Iraq was a mistake?
Did Clinton's lying about his association or the lack thereof with Monica Lewinsky keep him in good stead with his fans? The answer to both of these questions is a very obvious, "No". Then, is it fair to conclude that telling the truth does not necessarily redeem you or place you in good light; just as the telling of lies does not guarantee loss of friends or a falling in people's eyes. In that case neither the speaking of truth or the telling of lies should be the preferred code of conduct. Thus your life can be a bunch of lies splattered with some truths every now and again, and you'll be in good company! However, this is what Harry J Frankfurt (author of "On Bullshit" and "On Truth") has to say about truth: ' Recognizing truth requires selflessness. You have to leave yourself out of it so you can find out the way things are in themselves, not the way they look to you, or how you feel about them or how you would like them to be.' That is an impossible asking so would anyone even attempt it!

A friend captured the Manhattan skyline on two different occasions but from the same vantage point; both the pictures present the Manhattan skyline. This is obviously a photographer's articulation of a reality he perceives, and he's fortunate that he doesn't have to justify the difference or have to decide which of the two is the preferred one.

However, if you were asked to choose which one of the two pictures you preferred, how and what would you decide?


Klara said...

I think sometimes the truth is so bitter n sometimes speakin ur mind can cause u real trouble..
I love the 2 pix

Anonymous said...

i would pic the first for two reasons

1) we are apeaking of truth here

2) the second lacks color which is again a distortion of what we are discussing here - truth :)

But this doesnt mean that the first pic is real. As you said, we need not justify prefernces here. these pictures are meant to be seen

Khakra said...

was that snapped from 1 River Court in Newport? my friend lives there. surely, prefer the gloomier one. look at the hudson from the manhattan side; light reflects beautifully. remembered you recently when scanning my roommate's bookshelf, she got a book called "bastard of istanbul" that seems to be related to turkish identity and diaspora, much like pamuk's book you earlier wrote about. check it out!

bharath said...

Oh. it depend. On Monday morning I prefer a clear sky. On Sundays I would prefer a foggy one. :)

to sound cheaply profound: truth is relative. :)

EXSENO said...

I also like them both. They each express something different. But I think it also depends on what kind of a mood I might be in as to which one I would feel like looking at. I think it can be compared a little to the truth and lie theory. I think it all depends on the situation. Sometimes the truth will do nothing but hurt another person. Other times the truth may serve to right a wrong. I don't think there can be any cut and dryed rule of thumb, I think it all depends upon the situation. I also think that a person should think long and hard before they open their mouth and let therir words fly where they might not belong.

Id it is said...

the pictures were taken from the Lehman Office in Jersey City
I'm glad you mentioned that book, I'd meant to read it soon after I read 'Snow', but I haven't, as yet, but now I will.

Sharique said...

For some the truth might be bitter because they were evading it for mistakes of their own (which is the situation most of the time) and for others being a iconoclastic is a means of survival :)

Its a difficult choice as both present reality but from different perspective...may be it all depends on my mood.

Protegeoflife said...

weell i wud link to second pic though dark there is light after it but anyways gr88 post of dilemma

Sanjay said...

Speaking the truth sometimes sadly does depend on the situation, but for the most part it is better to be just honest.

I liked both the pics really maybe the second one a bit more, it is dark and mysterious.

Saurabh said...

Hmm ...
Depending on what kind of person you are, telling the truth would be an easier way to go as compared to the harder one.

I mostly prefer telling the truth for the simple reason that I cannot for the life of me remember what I had lied earlier - in order to cover myself up when the situation arises later on.

Even if you do remember, lying in order to hide another lie - generally exponentially increases the guilt that comes with it.

Dunno whether this fits with the topic in discussion, but I remember reading somewhere that people wearing many masks, eventually forget which one is real.
I find this hauntingly true :)

Lisa Francisco said...


Thanks for showing my hometown! I love my home!

Well the truth is something that is real that is also at the same time somthing not tangible. It can only be felt. It feels 2 ways, good or bad. When we reveal it, it can be a good or bad feeling. It's very difficult to feel truth in both those moods because you have to reveal yourself and that is another hard step.

Nice post! :)


Sharad Mathur said...

i wil choose the second of the two pics. i dunno it just paints a better picture in my mind.


D said...

I will pic the first one. Why? Don't know but it makes me feel I'm welcome in the city. Anew city, new hopes, new life..... The second one makes me feel, I'm a part of this city and trying to figure my life. And, this is xctly what I'm doin in Delhi...lol.

And, perhaps you should read "My experiments with truth"...it is sans all the global gyaan.

2jay said...

I would pick the first photo. I feel warm, calm and confident living in it.

About the second photo... I feel cold, scared and all alone living in it.

ME said...

Yes it requires a lot to speak the truth. If the lie, as Lord Krishna said, is said to save someone then it is as good as the truth itself.

I like the 2nd pic. Misty Manhattan, romantic

Sandeep said...

The truth is overrated. The truth is not absolute. There is no 'whole truth' and not very much 'nothing but the truth'.

I like pic 1. It's bright, sunny and looks like a time to kick a football around. The spherical type, I mean.

nandi23 said...

There is a lot of beauty in the second picture, probably because mostly the buildings are somewhat hidden so it appears to be a calm and simple scene. The skyline shown in the first would give a feeling of business and being busy