The Virtues of Mendacity: On Lying in Politics (Richard Lectures)

By Martin Jay

When Michael Dukakis accused George H. W. Bush of being the "Joe Isuzu of yank Politics" through the 1988 presidential crusade, he asserted in a very American tenor the near-ancient concept that mendacity and politics (and probably advertisements, too) are inseparable, or at the least intertwined. Our reaction to this phenomenon, writes the well known highbrow historian Martin Jay, has a tendency to vacillate—often impotently—between ethical outrage and amoral realism. within the Virtues of lying, Jay resolves to prevent this traditional framing of the talk over mendacity and politics through studying what has been stated in aid of, and competition to, political mendacity from Plato and St. Augustine to Hannah Arendt and Leo Strauss. Jay proceeds to teach that every philosopher’s argument corresponds to a specific belief of the political realm, which decisively shapes his or her perspective towards political lying. He then applies this perception to a number of contexts and questions on mendacity and politics. unusually, he concludes through asking if mendacity in politics is admittedly all that undesirable. The political hypocrisy that american citizens particularly periodically decry can be, in Jay’s view, the simplest replacement to the violence justified through those that declare to understand the truth.

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Habermas and the Public Sphere (Cambridge, Mass. , 2002). seventy seven. As Jenny Davidson notes, “It may still now not be mind-blowing that particular defenses of hypocrisy still tend to be affiliated with the conservative end of the political spectrum. ” Hypocrisy and the Politics of Politeness: Manners and Morals from Locke to Austen (Cambridge, 2004), 172. seventy eight. Bok, Lying, 169–70. seventy nine. Alterman, When Presidents Lie, 22. eighty. Ibid, 314. eighty one. This is no longer to say, to be sure, that these who rigidity outcomes as opposed to principles always defend lying as a necessary expedient. studying 4 situations of presidential mendacity—Roosevelt after Yalta, Kennedy and the Cuban missile crisis, Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin incident, and Reagan and the Iran-Contra scandal—Alterman tries to demonstrate in When Presidents Lie that lying produces unanticipated negative political consequences. eighty two. This is not to claim utter originality. Among the recent political theorists and critics whose work I will draw on to make a case for political mendacity are Hannah Arendt, Judith Shklar, Ruth Grant, and Jenny Davidson. More general, if nuanced, defenses of lying can be found in the work of David Nyberg, Loyal Rue, John Vignaux Smyth, and David Livingstone Smith. For illuminating arguments on either aspects of the question, see the symposium in thought and occasion ninety four (2006), with articles by way of Andrew Norris, Linda Zerilli, Richard Flathman, Tracy Strong, and Jeremy Elkins. 1 ON LYING A note on the epigraphs: The passage from Psalms, to be sure, reads in full “I said in my haste, all men are liars,” which implies that the psalmist thinks that some men in fact are not and that lying can be avoided. The Petronius saying is sometimes also attributed to Sebastian Franck or Quintus Mucius Scaevola Pontifex. 1. See, for example, Ernst Bloch, normal legislations and Human Dignity, trans. Dennis J. Schmidt (Cambridge, Mass. , 1986). 2. It has long been recognized that defining “nature” is a daunting task. For recent discussions of its different usages around the world, see Nadia Tazi, ed. , Keywords/Nature: For a Different Kind of Globalization (New York, 2005). three. Martin Buber, Good and Evil: Two Interpretations (New York, 1952), 7. four. For a discussion, see unswerving Rue, through the Grace of Guile: The function of Deception in Natural History and Human Affairs (New York, 1994), 108–9. five. Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (New York, 1936), 666. 6. For an array of examples, see David Livingstone Smith, Why We Lie: The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind (New York, 2004), chap. 2. For still others, see Rue, By the Grace of Guile, chap. 2. 7. The factor of nature’s alleged cunning, which encouraged Lamarckian challengers to Darwin like Samuel Butler, is discussed in Jeremy Campbell, The Liar’s Tale: A background of Falsehood (New York, 2001), chap. 2. Rue indicates that “the rejection of intentionality as an essential feature of deception does not, however, prevent us from speaking of deceit as purposeful behavior.

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