Truth and politics:Hannah Arendt

 

 

Woman bending over in geometrical formshttps://idanlandau.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/arendt-truth-and-politics.pdf

“TRUTH AND POLITICS by Hannah Arendt
Originally published in The New Yorker, February 25, 1967, and reprinted with minor changes in TOriginally published in The New Yorker, February 25, 1967, and reprinted with minor changes in Between Past and Future (1968) and The Portable Hannah Arendt edited by Peter Baier (2000) and Truth:Engagements Across Philosophical Traditions edited by Medina and Wood (2005)
The subject of these reflections is a commonplace.1 No one has ever doubted that truth and politics are on rather bad terms with each other, and no one, as far as I know, has ever counted truthfulness among the political virtues. Lies have always been regarded as necessary and justifiable tools not only of the politician’s or the demagogue’s but also of the statesman’s trade. Why is that so? And what does it mean for the nature and the dignity of the political realm, on one side, and for the nature and the dignity of truth and truthfulness, on the other? Is it of the very essence of truth to be impotent and of the very essence of power to be deceitful? And what kind of reality does truth possess if it is powerless in the public realm, which more than any other sphere of human life guarantees reality of existence to natal and mortal men – that is, to beings who know they have appeared out of non-being and will, after a short while, again disappear into it? Finally, is not impotent truth just as despicable as power that gives no heed to truth? These are uncomfortable questions, but they arise necessarily out of our current convictions in this matter. What lends this commonplace its high plausibility can still be summed up in the old Latin adage “Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus” (“Let justice be done though the world may perish”) [. . .] and if we put truth in its place – “Fiat veritas, et pereat mundus” – the old saying sounds even more plausible. [. . .] it will therefore come as something of a surprise that the sacrifice of truth for the survival of the world would be more futile than the sacrifice of any other principle or virtue. For while we may refuse even to ask ourselves whether life would still be worth living in a world deprived of such notions as justice and freedom, the same, curiously, is not possible with respect to the seemingly so much less political idea of truth. What is at stake is survival, the perseverance in existence (in suo esse perseverare), and no human world destined to outlast the short life span of mortals within it will ever be able to survive without men willing to do what Herodotus was the first to undertake consciously – namely, λéγειν τα éoντα, to say what is. No permanence, no perseverance in existence, can even be conceived of without men willing to testify to what is and appears to them because it is”

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About Katherine

I like poetry and history, literature and music.
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