25 Sep 2020

Breeur (2.0) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.2.0, “Introduction”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.2

Alternative Facts and Reduction to Stupidity

 

2.0

“Introduction”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(2.0.1) We noted before that “A lie has the same ambivalence as a fact, a duplicity between the real and the possible.” (31) (A fact has a duplicity between the real and the possible, because insofar as a fact is a given, we cannot change it (it is real); but, insofar as it is something we work toward altering, by means of our imagination and freedom, it is a possible. See section 1.2.) Liars exploit this duplicity (by imagining alternatives to the facts (simulation) and concealing the real facts (dissimulation) (see section 1.3.5).) But in our times, the distinction between what is real and false has broken down (see section 1.6). Facts have lost their normal power of truth in our public discourse. Institutions are no longer able to establish truth from falsehood, resulting in our indifference to what the truth may happen to be. “this deceptive strategy of dissimulation and simulation breaks down in circumstances where the distinction between what is real and what is false is blown up. This is the situation in which, to use the words of Katherine Viner, “the currency of facts ha[s] been badly debased.”31 Facts don’t work, they are often reduced to what someone feels to be the case. When trust in institutions (the “gatekeepers of truth”) crumbles, any criterion hoping to impose any limit between facts and falsehoods is weakened. This weakness creates – whether intentionally or unintentionally – a generalized indifference to truth” (31-32). (2.0.2) Liars and imposters need us to believe that what they are saying is the truth and not something false (which in fact it is). (But in our post-truth era, we noted, that distinction breaks down, and probably-false statements are given equal presence and emphasis as probably-true ones, and we all become indifferent to truth itself. Thus,) “the so-called proliferation of alternative facts in the post-truth era profits from the general anesthesia towards it.” Social media, as gatekeeper of the truth, has instead equalized all claims, true and false. “Facts and opinions, truths and falsehoods, are spread the same way, simultaneously, and as a consequence their synchronized proliferation suffocates any desire for discernment” (34). (So we have established that in such an environment, liars will not succeed. See section 1.6.8.) “This is not the realm or the biotope of liars and imposters, but rather, of stupidity” (34). Breeur calls this sort of Arendtian transformation of truth into opinion the “reduction to stupidity (reductio ad stupiditam)” (34). Breeur will show how this reduction results from certain factors in new media, including social media’s “information cascade” and  “the context in which ‘alternative facts’ diminish not only the status of scientifically validated truths but the difference between such truths and opinions” (34). Of course there are no such things as alternate facts (a term coined by Kellyanne Conway to elevate the truth status to the false figures for Trump’s inauguration attendance). Instead, “this term represents a contraction based on a (malicious or ignorant) conflation of facts and opinions” (34).

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

2.0.1

[The Debasement of Truth]

 

2.0.2

[Stupidity Instead of Deception]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

2.0.1

[The Debasement of Truth]

 

[We noted before that “A lie has the same ambivalence as a fact, a duplicity between the real and the possible.” (31) (A fact has a duplicity between the real and the possible, because insofar as a fact is a given, we cannot change it (it is real); but, insofar as it is something we work toward altering, by means of our imagination and freedom, it is a possible. See section 1.2.) Liars exploit this duplicity (by imagining alternatives to the facts (simulation) and concealing the real facts (dissimulation) (see section 1.3.5).) But in our times, the distinction between what is real and false has broken down (see section 1.6). Facts have lost their normal power of truth in our public discourse. Institutions are no longer able to establish truth from falsehood, resulting in our indifference to what the truth may happen to be. “this deceptive strategy of dissimulation and simulation breaks down in circumstances where the distinction between what is real and what is false is blown up. This is the situation in which, to use the words of Katherine Viner, “the currency of facts ha[s] been badly debased.”31 Facts don’t work, they are often reduced to what someone feels to be the case. When trust in institutions (the “gatekeepers of truth”) crumbles, any criterion hoping to impose any limit between facts and falsehoods is weakened. This weakness creates – whether intentionally or unintentionally – a generalized indifference to truth” (31-32).]

 

[ditto]

Hannah Arendt once complained that, in many regimes, unwelcome factual truths are often, “consciously or unconsciously, transformed into opinions”30 – as if some events (the invasion of Belgium in 1914, the existence of concentration camps, the genocides during the wars, etc.) were not a matter of historical record but of mere conjecture. Factual truths are from the start not more evident than opinions (which is why they can be so easily discredited). In our first chapter, we analyzed the internal or structural link between facts and lies: A lie has the same ambivalence as a fact, a duplicity between the real and the possible. We argued hence how the liar profits from this duplicity and reproduces it on the level of discourse or communication in order to deceive. But this deceptive strategy of dissimulation and simulation breaks down in circumstances where the distinction between what is real and what is false is blown up. This is the situation in which, to use the words of Katherine Viner, “the currency of facts ha[s] been badly debased.”31 Facts don’t work, they are often reduced to what someone feels to be the case. When trust in institutions | (the “gatekeepers of truth”) crumbles, any criterion hoping to impose any limit between facts and falsehoods is weakened. This weakness creates – whether intentionally or unintentionally – a generalized indifference to truth.

(31-32)

30 Arendt, ‘‘Truth and Politics,” p. 236.

31 Viner (2016).

(31)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

2.0.2

[Stupidity Instead of Deception]

 

[Liars and imposters need us to believe that what they are saying is the truth and not something false (which in fact it is). (But in our post-truth era, we noted, that distinction breaks down, and probably-false statements are given equal presence and emphasis as probably-true ones, and we all become indifferent to truth itself. Thus,) “the so-called proliferation of alternative facts in the post-truth era profits from the general anesthesia towards it.” Social media, as gatekeeper of the truth, has instead equalized all claims, true and false. “Facts and opinions, truths and falsehoods, are spread the same way, simultaneously, and as a consequence their synchronized proliferation suffocates any desire for discernment” (34). (So we have established that in such an environment, liars will not succeed. See section 1.6.8.) “This is not the realm or the biotope of liars and imposters, but rather, of stupidity” (34). Breeur calls this sort of Arendtian transformation of truth into opinion the “reduction to stupidity (reductio ad stupiditam)” (34). Breeur will show how this reduction results from certain factors in new media, including social media’s “information cascade” and  “the context in which ‘alternative facts’ diminish not only the status of scientifically validated truths but the difference between such truths and opinions” (34). Of course there are no such things as alternate facts (a term coined by Kellyanne Conway to elevate the truth status to the false figures for Trump’s inauguration attendance). Instead, “this term represents a contraction based on a (malicious or ignorant) conflation of facts and opinions” (34).]

 

[ditto]

Whereas liars – and, as we will see, impostors – play with our trust in the existence of that difference, the so-called proliferation of alternative facts in the post-truth era profits from the general anesthesia towards it. This is one of the effects of social media on the gatekeepers of truth. Facts and opinions, truths and falsehoods, are spread the same way, simultaneously, and as a consequence their synchronized proliferation suffocates any desire for discernment. This is not the realm or the biotope of liars and imposters, but rather, of stupidity. What Arendt claimed about the transformation of truth into opinion is a good example of what I will call the reduction to stupidity (reductio ad stupiditam). This reduction, as I will try to explain, is rampant due to, for example, the proliferation of social media, its “information cascade” and the context in which “alternative facts” diminish not only the status of scientifically validated truths but the difference between such truths and opinions. The notion of an “alternative fact” is in itself a provocation: A fact has, given its “stubborn’’ nature, per definition no “alternative.” It is what it is: A fact. As we know, the cynical term “alternative fact” was used by the U.S. counsellor to the president Kellyanne Conway during an interview in January 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statement about the attendance numbers of Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. In itself, this term represents a contraction based on a (malicious or ignorant) conflation of facts and opinions.

(34)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

.

 

 

.

Breeur (1.7) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.1.7, “Conclusion”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.1

The Last Judgment

 

1.7

“Conclusion”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(1.7.1) We started the chapter examining a scene in Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment” (see section 1.1.1). But this is just a small part of all the many other fantastical scenes of torture in the same painting. We become overwhelmed by it all and even cheerfully fascinated by all the wonderous images. “Death and torment suddenly appear as burlesque and foolish, with the carnivalesque lightness that you can see in Ensor’s paintings or in a Monty Python movie” (31). (1.7.2) All the monsters having something unique and absurd about them that captures our attention, turning the grand scene of various tortures into “into something festive, something clownish, as in a circus. In this way, they illustrate, in their own way, how a single detail can turn a tragic and intensely charged situation into something comical” (31). (So we see that something tragic can turn into something comic on the basis of an ambiguity in the imagery’s value). All facts carry this ambiguity, and “Humor also consists in using this ambiguity and exploiting it by evoking or echoing the implicit or possible in what is explicit” (31). But in the painting, Breeur notes, this “distinction between the implicit and the explicit no longer works” (31). (Perhaps the explicit is the tragic and the implicit is the comic.) For, “The tragic and the burlesque are manifested in an eternal simultaneity” (31). (The humor here would be viewed with sarcasm by the chosen ones who witness it.) This is “The sarcasm of someone like Tertullianus who, in his De Spectaculis, after having written off circus and theatre as pagan, anticipates with unambiguous enthusiasm the true spectacle: That of the last judgement, the day the pagans didn’t believe in, the day where the old world would go up into flames and we the chosen ones, finally freed from our monotonous contemplation of the Truth, would feast our starving eyes on it...” (31-32)

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.7.1

[The Lightness of Bosch]

 

1.7.2

[The Comedy and Sarcasm of the Bosch Scene]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

1.7.1

[The Lightness of Bosch]

 

[We started the chapter examining a scene in Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment” (see section 1.1.1). But this is just a small part of all the many other fantastical scenes of torture in the same painting. We become overwhelmed by it all and even cheerfully fascinated by all the wonderous images. “Death and torment suddenly appear as burlesque and foolish, with the carnivalesque lightness that you can see in Ensor’s paintings or in a Monty Python movie” (31)]

 

[ditto]

The gruesome scene in Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment,” with which we introduced the analysis of the present chapter, is of course itself only a detail within the whole panel. After a while, your attention will eventually be distracted by all those devilish creatures crawling over the scene below. When you look at it, you have no choice in being overwhelmed by some form of enthusiasm, a cheerful fascination and curiosity for all these frivolous, funny, and silly creatures. The impact of their presence is so strong that it begins to dissolve and cheer up the dramatic, heavy, or tragic atmosphere of the tortures: Death and torment suddenly appear as burlesque and foolish, with the carnivalesque lightness that you can see in Ensor’s paintings or in a Monty Python movie.

(31)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.7.2

[The Comedy and Sarcasm of the Bosch Scene]

 

[All the monsters having something unique and absurd about them that captures our attention, turning the grand scene of various tortures into “into something festive, something clownish, as in a circus. In this way, they illustrate, in their own way, how a single detail can turn a tragic and intensely charged situation into something comical” (31). (So we see that something tragic can turn into something comic on the basis of an ambiguity in the imagery’s value). All facts carry this ambiguity, and “Humor also consists in using this ambiguity and exploiting it by evoking or echoing the implicit or possible in what is explicit” (31). But in the painting, Breeur notes, this “distinction between the implicit and the explicit no longer works” (31). (Perhaps the explicit is the tragic and the implicit is the comic.) For, “The tragic and the burlesque are manifested in an eternal simultaneity” (31). (The humor here would be viewed with sarcasm by the chosen ones who witness it.) This is “The sarcasm of someone like Tertullianus who, in his De Spectaculis, after having written off circus and theatre as pagan, anticipates with unambiguous enthusiasm the true spectacle: That of the last judgement, the day the pagans didn’t believe in, the day where the old world would go up into flames and we the chosen ones, finally freed from our monotonous contemplation of the Truth, would feast our starving eyes on it...” (31-32)]

 

[ditto]

Paradise, on the other hand, seems as boring as it is pious. One wonders whether the chosen ones, in their “Grandeur” (to speak with Pascal), did not fantasize the spectacle of human misery themselves in order to be distracted from their impassive contemplation. Every monster has something unique, something singular – two large flat feet with a head on them, a dragon with a trumpet’s mouth, a flap-eared bird at which you cannot stop looking. But most of all, they turn the whole scene into something festive, something clownish, as in a circus. In this way, they illustrate, in their own way, how a single detail can turn a tragic and intensely charged situation into something comical. As we saw, this ambiguity is characteristic of every fact. Humor also consists in using this ambiguity and exploiting it by evoking or echoing the implicit or possible in what is explicit. But what strikes me most in this scene is that the distinction between the implicit and the explicit no longer works: The tragic and the burlesque are manifested in an eternal simultaneity. This is a spectacle for the chosen ones where humor makes way for sarcasm. The sarcasm of someone like Tertullianus who, in his De Spectaculis29, after having written off circus and theatre as pagan, | anticipates with unambiguous enthusiasm the true spectacle: That of the last judgement, the day the pagans didn’t believe in, the day where the old world would go up into flames and we the chosen ones, finally freed from our monotonous contemplation of the Truth, would feast our starving eyes on it...

(31-32)

29 Tertullian, Apologeticus & De Spectaculis, Trans. T.R. Glover (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), pp. 299-300.

(32)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

.

 

 

.

Breeur (1.6) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.1.6, “The Involuntary Imposter”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.1

The Last Judgment

 

1.6

“The Involuntary Imposter”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(1.6.1) (“the lie is structurally based on the ambiguity inherent in facts” (see section 1.2. The ambiguity: on the one hand, facts are things that have happened or are happening, thus they are necessary. But we also believe we can change them, and we use our imagination and freedom to dream up and act upon alternatives. Given that facts can be made alternate by means of the imagination,)  “A liar exploits this duplicity by playing with the distinction between truth and fiction” (26). (As we saw in section 1.5,) by means of the liar’s “practice, the distinction between dissimulation and simulation becomes blurred and the imagination is set adrift; it is no longer fed by anything and circles around a void” (26). Breeur now will examine how “this duplicitous exploitation of facts can inadvertently turn someone into an imposter,” along with addressing other related topics (26). (1.6.2) Normally the destruction that happens to oneself through lying happens we think as a result of their duplicitous intentions. But sometimes a person can inadvertently be turned into a swindler or imposter on account of facts developing in ways they did not foresee. (One was we see this is if political circumstances shift to change our perceptions of authorities:) “Today’s leaders are the traitors to tomorrow’s authorities” (26). Breeur will now illustrate a non-political sort of revolution like this using a gekigas (manga comic) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi. (1.6.3) Tatsumi’s story is about a photographer documenting the aftermath of the bomb in Hiroshima. He encounters an imprint of human figures on a wall. It appears it is the image of a son massaging his mother’s back just as the bomb takes them both.

The photographer takes a picture of this image, and it becomes famous, symbolizing devotion, love, and peace despite the savagery of the bomb. It was even rendered into a statue, and the photographer traveled with it around the world in the “Never Again” campaign to promote peace. (1.6.4) But as it turns out, the mother’s real son is still alive. In fact, “the boy printed on the wall was his friend, whom he had asked to kill his mother. Without knowing it, the reporter had turned a murder into a symbol of devotion and love” (27). With that now being known, the photographer becomes an imposter: “His photo, the content of which grow out into a symbol for all the orphans of the atomic bomb, is ‘false’ – not in the sense of being Photoshopped or being a ‘deep fake’ but in the sense that it has led to a misinterpretation of the facts in many parts of the world”. (This news is given even before a public appearance with the statue, so the photographer knowingly presents himself to the public falsely.) Thus now the photographer has become a person who has deceived the world, and the criminal son even tries blackmailing the photographer, threatening to expose him as a fraud. (1.6.5) Thus facts, although seemingly secure things for us to ground our claims upon, in fact can “take paths ‘behind our backs’ ” that deceive or derail our good intentions” (27). Yet,  “it is precisely this ambiguity that gives meaning to facts and the truth” (perhaps because this ambiguity is what allows a fact to be either good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, on our side or against us.) This also means that “The boundary between what is true and what is not is therefore constantly shifting” (27). We try work with the changing nature of facts so that we always stay true to them, despite their unpredictable changes, and often they change values faster than we can keep up with them, “a bit like a doctor who finds a cure for his patient who has just died” (27). (1.6.6) With new media, we have lost even the idea of dissimulation. There are two ways this can be exploited: “By openly lying or by blowing up any distinction between the true and the false” (28). Putin, for instance, openly lies, which he does “in order to embarrass and openly challenge those for whom truth still has or is some value” (28). He will lie not to get power but to demonstrate his power by showing he can state an obvious falsehood and no one can stop him from acting on that untruth: “When he told the West that there were no Russians in the Ukraine, he did not want to convince us. Above all, he wanted to claim that he had the power to humiliate the Western democracies and their media” (28). His aim was also to undermined the public’s “confidence in the value of truth and sincerity” (perhaps by showing that falsehood and insincerity are signs of greatest power) (28). “Most of all, he made us feel that our truths did not have the power possessed by his lies” (28). (1.6.7)This is double-thinking, the practice of holding two contradictory beliefs in mind while accepting them both at the same time. “When double-thinking, you claim two  at the same time with the same aplomb. In other words, you don’t even bother to dissimulate one for the benefit of the other.” We see this with Orwellian Doublespeak: “Like the slogans that appear in the novel on the front of the Ministry of Truth: ‘War is peace,’ ‘freedom is slavery,’ ‘ignorance is power.’ This paralyzing juxtaposition is the biotope of so-called ‘alternative facts’” (29). (1.6.8) This juxtaposition of opposing statements, when both are stated as true, is paralyzing. In the past, the ambiguous link that the untrue kept with the true was played upon either for cheating without lying (the Jesuits) or to “condemned any form of deception as an expression of mendacity” (Jansenists) (29). Yet, truth seems no longer relevant these days. But with this all being so, we might wonder, how would it be possible for fraudsters to persuade and deceive (if truth is no longer at issue)? Breeur says that in fact, they do not even do so, because there is no longer the need to hide something true. (So when a claim and its challenge are both equally given, there is no deceit; there is only confusion or disregard about the truth.) “How can potential fraudsters still persuade and deceive? The answer is simple: They don’t! The ability to | convince someone of something false presupposes the ability to conceal something true. But now there is nothing to hide, because the true and the false are equally explicitly and simultaneously posited or ‘posted.’ So there is nothing that can call into question the interpretation of a fact, because that question itself is already circulating along with the fact itself” (29). (1.6.9) Today, we feel “deceived and cheated – by car makers, politicians, the media, etc.” But we no longer feel like in these cases the truth is being concealed from us. Rather, every version/interpretation of the facts is floating out there. (We just are losing the means to discern which one to trust). “You’ll find an explanation for everything everywhere and a version of a fact that refutes its official interpretation” (30). This is something obscene for us.

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.6.1

[Turning to the Imposter]

 

1.6.2

[Intentional and Unintentional Imposture]

 

1.6.3

[Tatsumi’s Hell, 1: Taking the Photo]

 

1.6.4

[Tatsumi’s Hell, 2: The Real Truth behind the Image (Involuntary Imposture)]

 

1.6.5

[The Shifting Valencies of Facts and Truth]

 

1.6.6

[New Media and Lying: Putin and Lying as Demonstrations of Power]

 

1.6.7

[Double-Thinking and Double-Speaking]

 

1.6.8

[Loss of Truth and Deception]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

1.6.1

[Turning to the Imposter]

 

[“the lie is structurally based on the ambiguity inherent in facts” (see section 1.2. The ambiguity: on the one hand, facts are things that have happened or are happening, thus they are necessary. But we also believe we can change them, and we use our imagination and freedom to dream up and act upon alternatives. Given that facts can be made alternate by means of the imagination,)  “A liar exploits this duplicity by playing with the distinction between truth and fiction” (26). (As we saw in section 1.5,) by means of the liar’s “practice, the distinction between dissimulation and simulation becomes blurred and the imagination is set adrift; it is no longer fed by anything and circles around a void” (26). Breeur now will examine how “this duplicitous exploitation of facts can inadvertently turn someone into an imposter,” along with addressing other related topics (26).]

 

[ditto]

Until now, I have tried to show how the lie is structurally based on the ambiguity inherent in facts. A liar exploits this duplicity by playing with the distinction between truth and fiction. But this is playing with fire. In his or her practice, the distinction between dissimulation and simulation becomes blurred and the imagination is set adrift; it is no longer fed by anything and circles around a void. In what follows, I would like to examine to what extent this duplicitous exploitation of facts can inadvertently turn someone into an imposter. The urge to control the ambiguity probably explains our love of the truth. Claiming that truth has a sense or meaning is therefore only one possible way of supervising the limit between the true and the false and of controlling or, if necessary, manipulating possible shifts. I will conclude this chapter with a suggestion for our situation today. Through new developments in the (“social”) media, the “man in action’’ has found a better way to deal with the distinction between the true and the false: Just blow it up.

(26)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.2

[Intentional and Unintentional Imposture]

 

[Normally the destruction that happens to oneself through lying happens we think as a result of their duplicitous intentions. But sometimes a person can inadvertently be turned into a swindler or imposter on account of facts developing in ways they did not foresee. (One was we see this is if political circumstances shift to change our perceptions of authorities:) “Today’s leaders are the traitors to tomorrow’s authorities” (26). Breeur will now illustrate a non-political sort of revolution like this using a gekigas (manga comic) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.]

 

[ditto]

The previous discussion of the liar’s fate, namely the situation where someone is overtaken by his or her own lies and simulations and loses all contact with and feel for the facts, was based on the assumption that the liar’s intention is at the origin of the duplicity: He or she has exploited the ambiguity inherent to facts and fell under the spell of the pure possibilities at the expense of the truth. But facts can of themselves, through internal reorganizations, impose new possibilities and destroy existing interpretations. Situations are often so complex and intricate because of public or historical circumstances that, despite any and all good intentions, someone can still end up in a position that turns him into a swindler or an impostor. Political revolutions illustrate this fact. Today’s leaders are the traitors to tomorrow’s authorities. However, a good example of such a revolution in a not exclusively political sense can be found in the following example from a collection of gekigas (a gekiga is a comic strip for adults, a.k.a. a “manga”) by Yoshihiro Tatsumi.

(26)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.3

[Tatsumi’s Hell, 1: Taking the Photo]

 

[Tatsumi’s story is about a photographer documenting the aftermath of the bomb in Hiroshima. He encounters an imprint of human figures on a wall. It appears it is the image of a son massaging his mother’s back just as the bomb takes them both.

The photographer takes a picture of this image, and it becomes famous, symbolizing devotion, love, and peace despite the savagery of the bomb. It was even rendered into a statue, and the photographer traveled with it around the world in the “Never Again” campaign to promote peace.]

 

[ditto]

During World War II, just after the explosion of the atomic bomb, a certain Sato, at that time working for the Japanese Ministry of War, was sent by his superiors to Hiroshima. He was supposed to record the damage caused by the bomb dropped on August 6, 1945. Completely upset and armed with his camera, he made his way through the rubble and painfully crossed what was left of the city. In the middle of all the debris, he discovered two shadows printed by the flash of the bomb on the wall of a house. At the very moment that the bomb exploded, a son apparently kindheartedly and graciously was massaging his mother’s shoulders. The photograph that the reporter was able to take of this scene will become famous: A symbol of devotion, love, and peace. A statue will even be produced that will travel around the world to contribute to the “Never Again’’ campaign.

(27)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.4

[Tatsumi’s Hell, 2: The Real Truth behind the Image (Involuntary Imposture)]

 

[But as it turns out, the mother’s real son is still alive. In fact, “the boy printed on the wall was his friend, whom he had asked to kill his mother. Without knowing it, the reporter had turned a murder into a symbol of devotion and love” (27). With that now being known, the photographer becomes an imposter: “His photo, the content of which grow out into a symbol for all the orphans of the atomic bomb, is ‘false’ – not in the sense of being Photoshopped or being a ‘deep fake’ but in the sense that it has led to a misinterpretation of the facts in many parts of the world”. (This news is given even before a public appearance with the statue, so the photographer knowingly presents himself to the public falsely.) Thus now the photographer has become a person who has deceived the world, and the criminal son even tries blackmailing the photographer, threatening to expose him as a fraud.]

 

[ditto]

But the story – like all the stories in Tatsumi’s book – gets darker. The next day, the grey wall section seems to have been destroyed. The real son is still alive. As it happened, the boy printed on the wall was his friend, whom he had asked to kill his mother. Without knowing it, the reporter had turned a murder into a symbol of devotion and love. Moreover, since the confession made to him by this unworthy son, he himself has been transformed into an imposter: His photo, the content of which grow out into a symbol for all the orphans of the atomic bomb, is “false” – not in the sense of being Photoshopped or being a “deep fake” but in the sense that it has led to a misinterpretation of the facts in many parts of the world. Of the true meaning of this scene projected on the wall, there is only one witness left, the son. And he’s trying to blackmail (and intimidate) the celebrated reporter.

(27)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.5

[The Shifting Valencies of Facts and Truth]

 

[Thus facts, although seemingly secure things for us to ground our claims upon, in fact can “take paths ‘behind our backs’ ” that deceive or derail our good intentions” (27). Yet,  “it is precisely this ambiguity that gives meaning to facts and the truth” (perhaps because this ambiguity is what allows a fact to be either good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, on our side or against us.) This also means that “The boundary between what is true and what is not is therefore constantly shifting” (27). We try work with the changing nature of facts so that we always stay true to them, despite their unpredictable changes, and often they change values faster than we can keep up with them, “a bit like a doctor who finds a cure for his patient who has just died” (27).]

 

[ditto]

What is specific about “facts” is that they can take paths “behind our backs” that deceive or derail our good intentions. But at the same time, it is precisely this ambiguity that gives meaning to facts and the truth. The boundary between what is true and what is not is therefore constantly shifting. Hence our frantic efforts to get this shift under control. We then claim | the truth, often with a lot of fuss, but it is too late – a bit like a doctor who finds a cure for his patient who has just died.

(27-28)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.6

[New Media and Lying: Putin and Lying as Demonstrations of Power]

 

[With new media, we have lost even the idea of dissimulation. There are two ways this can be exploited: “By openly lying or by blowing up any distinction between the true and the false” (28). Putin, for instance, openly lies, which he does “in order to embarrass and openly challenge those for whom truth still has or is some value” (28). He will lie not to get power but to demonstrate his power by showing he can state an obvious falsehood and no one can stop him from acting on that untruth: “When he told the West that there were no Russians in the Ukraine, he did not want to convince us. Above all, he wanted to claim that he had the power to humiliate the Western democracies and their media” (28). His aim was also to undermined the public’s “confidence in the value of truth and sincerity” (perhaps by showing that falsehood and insincerity are signs of greatest power) (28). “Most of all, he made us feel that our truths did not have the power possessed by his lies” (28).]

 

[ditto]

Lies, I said, derive their power from the ambiguities present in the facts. Today, the nature of this ambiguity itself has changed considerably under the influence of the new media. Through these media, the very idea of dissimulation seems to disappear (everything is present at the same time). And this can be exploited in two ways: By openly lying or by blowing up any distinction between the true and the false. Putin’s political practice is a good example of the first. He lies in order to embarrass and openly challenge those for whom truth still has or is some value. Machiavelli thought that lies were justified in order to gain power, but for Putin, the possession of power is his justification for lying. When he told the West that there were no Russians in the Ukraine, he did not want to convince us. Above all, he wanted to claim that he had the power to humiliate the Western democracies and their media. The public display of his lies was not intended to be believed, but to undermine people’s confidence in the value of truth and sincerity, for he was well aware that we knew that what he was saying were lies. Most of all, he made us feel that our truths did not have the power possessed by his lies.24

(28)

21 Europe has still not been convinced to intervene. See Timothy Snyder, The Road to Uefreedom: Russia, Europe, America (London: The Bodley Head 2018), p. 159 sq.

(28)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.7

[Double-Thinking and Double-Speaking]

 

[This is double-thinking, the practice of holding two contradictory beliefs in mind while accepting them both at the same time. “When double-thinking, you claim two  at the same time with the same aplomb. In other words, you don’t even bother to dissimulate one for the benefit of the other.” We see this with Orwellian Doublespeak: “Like the slogans that appear in the novel on the front of the Ministry of Truth: ‘War is peace,’ ‘freedom is slavery,’ ‘ignorance is power.’ This paralyzing juxtaposition is the biotope of so-called ‘alternative facts’” (29).]

 

[ditto]

Isn’t this the practice of double-thinking to which Orwell refers in his now, again, so popular novel 1984? Myriam Revault d’Allones concludes her book on La faiblesse du vrai (“the weakness of truth’’) with the following striking description: “Pourvoir du ‘doublepenser’ – pouvoir garder simultanément a l’esprit simultanément deux énoncés contradictoires et les accepter tous les deux” (“Double-thinking – being able to keep two contradictory statements in mind simultaneously and accept them both’’).25 When double-thinking, you claim two  at the same time with the same aplomb. In other words, you don’t even bother to dissimulate one for the benefit of the other. Like the slogans that appear in the novel on the front of the Ministry of Truth: “War is peace,” “freedom is slavery,” “ignorance is power.” This paralyzing juxtaposition is the biotope of so-called “alternative facts.”

(29)

25 Myriam Revault d’Allones, La faiblesse du vrai (Paris: Seuil, 2018), pp. 128-129.

(29)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.8

[Loss of Truth and Deception]

 

[This juxtaposition of opposing statements, when both are stated as true, is paralyzing. In the past, the ambiguous link that the untrue kept with the true was played upon either for cheating without lying (the Jesuits) or to “condemned any form of deception as an expression of mendacity” (Jansenists) (29). Yet, truth seems no longer relevant these days. But with this all being so, we might wonder, how would it be possible for fraudsters to persuade and deceive (if truth is no longer at issue)? Breeur says that in fact, they do not even do so, because there is no longer the need to hide something true. (So when a claim and its challenge are both equally given, there is no deceit; there is only confusion or disregard about the truth.) “How can potential fraudsters still persuade and deceive? The answer is simple: They don’t! The ability to | convince someone of something false presupposes the ability to conceal something true. But now there is nothing to hide, because the true and the false are equally explicitly and simultaneously posited or ‘posted.’ So there is nothing that can call into question the interpretation of a fact, because that question itself is already circulating along with the fact itself” (29).]

 

[ditto]

The subject that is submitted to such a discourse, as Revault d’Allones aptly writes, “est englué dans la juxtaposition paralysante de deux positions contraires, il est littéralement pétrifié faute de duplicité, d’équivoque, d’ambiguïté” (“is stuck in the paralyzing juxtaposition of two opposing positions, it is literally petrified for lack of duplicity, equivocation, ambiguity”).26 The Jesuits manipulated the ambiguity to cheat without lying. The Jansenists condemned any form of deception as an expression of mendacity. But both played with the link that the untrue kept with the true. Today that link itself is irrelevant. “Does the truth matter anymore?”27 But then you may ask further: How can potential fraudsters still persuade and deceive? The answer is simple: They don’t! The ability to | convince someone of something false presupposes the ability to conceal something true. But now there is nothing to hide, because the true and the false are equally explicitly and simultaneously posited or “posted.” So there is nothing that can call into question the interpretation of a fact, because that question itself is already circulating along with the fact itself.

(29-30)

26 Revault d’Allones, La faiblesse du vrai, p. 130.

27 Cf. Viner (2016).

(29)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.6.9

[Our Being Cheated without Deception]

 

[Today, we feel “deceived and cheated – by car makers, politicians, the media, etc.” But we no longer feel like in these cases the truth is being concealed from us. Rather, every version/interpretation of the facts is floating out there. (We just are losing the means to discern which one to trust). “You’ll find an explanation for everything everywhere and a version of a fact that refutes its official interpretation” (30). This is something obscene for us.]

 

[ditto]

I also said, faithful to Diderot’s adage (“c’est surtout lorsque tout est faux qu’on aime le vrai”, it is in circumstances where everything seems false that we love the truth)28, that our interest in the truth is primarily if not entirely a response to feeling deceived. The driving force of that interest, at least since Descartes (“malin genie”), was doubt, suspicion, and mistrust. Today, everyone feels deceived and cheated – by car makers, politicians, the media, etc. But that feeling is no longer based on the suspicion that (a/the) “truth” is being concealed. Perhaps (a/the) “truth’’ is itself false. After all, no one can really feel deceived by anything anymore because nothing is concealed or hidden anymore. You’ll find an explanation for everything everywhere and a version of a fact that refutes its official interpretation. This brutal, simultaneous omnipresence has something of the obscene. The political scene takes advantage of this obscenity, like the liars of duplicity. Ambiguity is the driving force of humor – the obscene that of sarcasm and cynicism.

(30)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

.

 

 

.

Breeur (1.5) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.1.5, “Lies and Imposture”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.1.

The Last Judgment

 

1.5

“Lies and Imposture”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(1.5.1) Besides lying being condemned for doing damage to our relationship to ourself and to God (see section 1.4), it is also condemned for how it seems to adversely affect reality. “The unreal weakens the real” (22). And if we weaken the real by lying, we make the ground we stand on less secure. (So if we use lying to defend ourselves against accusations, then we are creating expectations about other facts that would necessarily follow from those lies. But often they will not correspond to reality either. Thus, using lies in self-defense often requires we make up more lies, further eroding the ground we stand on.) If rather we simply tell the truth, no further inconsistencies will arise by implication, and so the facts as they are, and our truthful statements about them, will suffice to secure us. This is a point made by Mark Twain and Montaigne. (1.5.2) When we lie, we substitute an imaginary version of facts for the real, given ones, thereby undermining them (As we noted before (see section 1.2)), facts, although unchangeable now, often could have been otherwise (and we discern these alternatives by imagining them. See section 1.3.) Thus, “there’s nothing that hinders you from inventing another version of them” (22). But when we do so, we encounter two problems. {1} We lose our solid ground. And {2} our urge to ignore reality worsens to an urge to destroy it. (1.5.3) By inventing false alternatives to reality, “the liar gradually loses contact with the facts” (23). Montaigne noted how by lying, liars lose their grip on the world, ultimately losing “control over the situation they themselves have created” (23). As a result, “what he or she fantasizes is a body without consistency that erases the memory of the truth against which this deceit fought” (23). (1.5.4) Thus, lying also carries with it the “ontological” danger of disrupting “the cohesion and coherence of the world we share. When lying, the risk is always too great that the simulation aspect takes precedence and makes both the liar and the interlocutor hopelessly drift away” (23). (1.5.5) (But some facts are nearly impossible to alter by means of lies. Regarding this,) Arendt tells an anecdote: Clemenceau said that historians one day certainly will not be able to claim that Belgium invaded Germany. (1.5.6) Successfully making such claim like ‘Belgium invaded Germany’ would require a massive and coordinated effort to change all the physical evidence needed to support that lie and to cover over the truth it is trying to bypass: “In order to succeed, an enormous number of traces, documents, stories, and witnesses would have to be eliminated. And to achieve this would require “no less than a power monopoly over the entire civilized world” (24). But as Breeur has noted, facts bear a fundamentally ambiguous nature. Such a task is not impossible. Moreover, “swindlers or imposters on the political scene dream of” pulling this off, and “the trademark of totalitarian states is the desire to rewrite history, and possibly even before the eyes of those who were its witnesses” (24). And what increases the chances of success for such attempts is that the public may prefer if certain lies were actually true or if they would prefer not to face certain unpleasant truths. “In short, in order to distort the truth at such a level, it is not enough to propagate a few false statements from time to time; you have to be able to impress, you have to be an actor.” (1.5.7) In order for a lie to be successful (especially a great political lie), much will be needed in addition to telling it in order to countervail the contradictions it creates among its implications and with the facts of the world: “A liar has to simulate, and therefore above all be able to play, be able to seduce and deceive, be able to set up a whole mise-en-scène and, on the basis of propaganda, enforce the false as a substitute for the true. The lie must be part of a global strategy aimed at imposing a more or less complete replacement of a part of history” (24). Yet, the problem is that truths are so well integrated with reality that these efforts require constant maintenance and supplementation in order for the lie to successfully persist: “Lies only survive as a continuous rearrangement of the untrue, never as a definitive replacement of the true” (24). (1.5.8) Lies untether the liar from reality. This causes destruction to the liar, because as the prevaricating continues, the lies come more to revolve “around emptiness,” thereby setting the liar “adrift” (25). (Liars who live false lives end up destroying their real selves and substituting them with false selves, thereby creating a new emptiness that renders what was originally there an emptiness too.) Breeur gives the example of Jean-Claude Romand, who put on an elaborate act to deceive family and friends into believing he was a doctor. (It was so thoroughgoing and long lasting that whatever real self there once was was replaced by a false non-self.) “There was nothing left, there was no ‘real’ Jean-Claude Romand. This is the fate of many lies: They drift away from what they originally wanted to dissimulate and end up gravitating around nothingness or the unreal” (25).

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.5.1

[Lies as Undermining External Reality]

 

(1.5.2)

[The Dangers of Lying]

 

1.5.3

[Lying and Losing One’s Grip on Reality]

 

1.5.4

[The Ontological Danger of Lying]

 

1.5.5

[The Enormity of the Task of Successfully Lying about Great Matters]

 

1.5.6

[Changing History with Lies and Acting]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

1.5.1

[Lies as Undermining External Reality]

 

[Besides lying being condemned for doing damage to our relationship to ourself and to God (see section 1.4), it is also condemned for how it seems to adversely affect reality. “The unreal weakens the real” (22). And if we weaken the real by lying, we make the ground we stand on less secure. (So if we use lying to defend ourselves against accusations, then we are creating expectations about other facts that would necessarily follow from those lies. But often they will not correspond to reality either. Thus, using lies in self-defense often requires we make up more lies, further eroding the ground we stand on.) If rather we simply tell the truth, no further inconsistencies will arise by implication, and so the facts as they are, and our truthful statements about them, will suffice to secure us. This is a point made by Mark Twain and Montaigne.]

 

[ditto]

Mendacity is also condemned for its effect on reality, or at least for the perception we have of it. The unreal weakens the real. By lying you deprive yourself of any solid ground. Mark Twain would have said: “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” This sentence perfectly sums up what Montaigne writes about liars in his Essays. People with a bad memory would do well not to try to lie. The truth is very precise and well-defined, it has one face. The lie doesn’t.

(22)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5.2

[The Dangers of Lying]

 

[When we lie, we substitute an imaginary version of facts for the real, given ones, thereby undermining them (As we noted before (see section 1.2)), facts, although unchangeable now, often could have been otherwise (and we discern these alternatives by imagining them. See section 1.3.) Thus, “there’s nothing that hinders you from inventing another version of them” (22). But when we do so, we encounter two problems. {1} We lose our solid ground. And {2} our urge to ignore reality worsens to an urge to destroy it.]

 

[ditto]

Lying means undermining real facts and replacing them with an imaginary version. Facts are what they are. Once they happened, you cannot get around them. But since they could have been otherwise, there’s nothing that hinders you from inventing another version of them. And this is exactly where the danger lies. On the one hand, that you yourself start to drift and lose solid ground. On the other hand, that you get | the urge to not only ignore what is fixed and what offers resistance but to destroy it, to erase or eliminate it.

(22-23)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5.3

[Lying and Losing One’s Grip on Reality]

 

[By inventing false alternatives to reality, “the liar gradually loses contact with the facts” (23). Montaigne noted how by lying, liars lose their grip on the world, ultimately losing “control over the situation they themselves have created” (23). As a result, “what he or she fantasizes is a body without consistency that erases the memory of the truth against which this deceit fought” (23).]

 

[ditto]

The danger inherent to any lie exists above all in the ingenuity or inventiveness required to simulate. While inventing all kinds of things, the liar gradually loses contact with the facts. In addition to the fact that lying is morally “un mauvais vice,” or a bad wickedness, Montaigne also condemned it for the destabilizing influence it has on our grip on the world. While concealing the true content of facts in favor of a fabrication or pure invention, the liars often break adrift (“il se desferre”), they slip and start to lose control over the situation they themselves have created. Their statements lack the gravitational power or the “stubbornness” of a true fact.19 For what he or she fantasizes is a body without consistency that erases the memory of the truth against which this deceit fought.

(23)

19 “Si, com me la vérité, le mensonge n’avait qu’un visage, nous serions en meilleure situation [par rapport à lui), car nous prendrions pour certain le contraire de ce que dirait le menteur. Mais I ‘envers de la vérité a cent mille formes et un champ sans limites” (Michel de Montaigne, “On the Liars,” Essais [Paris: Gallimard (Quarto), 2009), p. 46).

(23)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5.4

[The Ontological Danger of Lying]

 

[Thus, lying also carries with it the “ontological” danger of disrupting “the cohesion and coherence of the world we share. When lying, the risk is always too great that the simulation aspect takes precedence and makes both the liar and the interlocutor hopelessly drift away” (23).]

 

[ditto]

Hence, the lie is condemned not only for moral principles (lack of sincerity), for undermining mutual trust between people, but also for an “ontological” reason: It disrupts the cohesion and coherence of the world we share. When lying, the risk is always too great that the simulation aspect takes precedence and makes both the liar and the interlocutor hopelessly drift away.

(23)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5.5

[The Enormity of the Task of Successfully Lying about Great Matters]

 

[(But some facts are nearly impossible to alter by means of lies. Regarding this,) Arendt tells an anecdote: Clemenceau said that historians one day certainly will not be able to claim that Belgium invaded Germany.]

 

[ditto]

In her essay “Truth and Politics,” Arendt tells the following anecdote. Shortly before his death, Clemenceau would have been involved in a discussion with a representative of the Weimar Republic about the question of responsibility and guilt for the outbreak of the World War I. To the question “What in your opinion will future historians think of this troublesome and controversial issue?” he would have replied “This I don’t know. But I know for certain that they will not say Belgium invaded Germany.”20

(23)

20 Hannah Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” in: Between Past and Future (London: Penguin Books, 1977), p. 239.

(23)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5.6

[Changing History with Lies and Acting]

 

[Successfully making such claim like ‘Belgium invaded Germany’ would require a massive and coordinated effort to change all the physical evidence needed to support that lie and to cover over the truth it is trying to bypass: “In order to succeed, an enormous number of traces, documents, stories, and witnesses would have to be eliminated. And to achieve this would require “no less than a power monopoly over the entire civilized world” (24). But as Breeur has noted, facts bear a fundamentally ambiguous nature. Such a task is not impossible. Moreover, “swindlers or imposters on the political scene dream of” pulling this off, and “the trademark of totalitarian states is the desire to rewrite history, and possibly even before the eyes of those who were its witnesses” (24). And what increases the chances of success for such attempts is that the public may prefer if certain lies were actually true or if they would prefer not to face certain unpleasant truths. “In short, in order to distort the truth at such a level, it is not enough to propagate a few false statements from time to time; you have to be able to impress, you have to be an actor.”]

 

[ditto]

It goes without saying that establishing a falsehood of this magnitude requires more than the whims of a frivolous historian or “revisionist.” In order to succeed, an enormous number of traces, documents, stories, and witnesses would have to be eliminated. And to achieve this would require “no less than a power monopoly over the entire civilized world.”21 But isn’t that what some of the swindlers or imposters on the political scene dream of? Given the very conditional and ambiguous nature of facts, there is indeed nothing that could prevent a “man of action’’ from changing the story or erasing the traditional view of it. Today, we know that the trademark of totalitarian states is the desire to rewrite history, and possibly even before the eyes of those who were its witnesses. Moreover, these revisions of history often sound more convincing than reality, for they confirm what the public wants to hear and believe. Or they help to suppress collectively things that we don’t want to know. In short, in order to distort the truth at such a level, it is not enough to propagate a few false statements from time to time; you have to be able to impress, you have to be an actor.22

(24)

21 Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” p. 239.

22 Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” p. 250.

(24)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5.7

[Maintaining the False]

 

[In order for a lie to be successful (especially a great political lie), much will be needed in addition to telling it in order to countervail the contradictions it creates among its implications and with the facts of the world: “A liar has to simulate, and therefore above all be able to play, be able to seduce and deceive, be able to set up a whole mise-en-scène and, on the basis of propaganda, enforce the false as a substitute for the true. The lie must be part of a global strategy aimed at imposing a more or less complete replacement of a part of history” (24). Yet, the problem is that truths are so well integrated with reality that these efforts require constant maintenance and supplementation in order for the lie to successfully persist: “Lies only survive as a continuous rearrangement of the untrue, never as a definitive replacement of the true” (24).]

 

[ditto]

A liar has to simulate, and therefore above all be able to play, be able to seduce and deceive, be able to set up a whole mise-en-scène and, on the basis of propaganda, enforce the false as a substitute for the true. The lie must be part of a global strategy aimed at imposing a more or less complete replacement of a part of history. But that is exactly where the problem lies. Such a substitute is never finished, plus it lacks the stubbornness and firmness of the facts. And that stubbornness can never be completely overcome. There will always be a detail or an unforeseen event that can cause everything to vacillate and collapse. Lies only survive as a continuous rearrangement of the untrue, never as a definitive replacement of the true.23

(24)

23 “Far from achieving an adequate substitute for reality and factuality, they have transformed facts and events back into the potentiality out of which they originally appeared” (Arendt, “Truth and Politics,” p. 257).

(25)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.5.8

[Destruction of the Real Self by the False Self: Adrift in a Double Emptiness]

 

[Lies untether the liar from reality. This causes destruction to the liar, because as the prevaricating continues, the lies come more to revolve “around emptiness,” thereby setting the liar “adrift” (25). (Liars who live false lives end up destroying their real selves and substituting them with false selves, thereby creating a new emptiness that renders what was originally there an emptiness too.) Breeur gives the example of Jean-Claude Romand, who put on an elaborate act to deceive family and friends into believing he was a doctor. (It was so thoroughgoing and long lasting that whatever real self there once was was replaced by a false non-self.) “There was nothing left, there was no ‘real’ Jean-Claude Romand. This is the fate of many lies: They drift away from what they originally wanted to dissimulate and end up gravitating around nothingness or the unreal” (25).]

 

[ditto]

A fake version of facts can only impress thanks to repression, mutilation, or even destruction of the original. There is something violent about lying or pretending. But this unlimited destruction also affects the liar. The deceiver himself or herself often gets caught in the web of his or her own lie. However, this drifting of the imagination leads to nothing. The more the lie dismisses the facts, the more it revolves around emptiness. Being “adrift,” as we will discuss in ensuing chapters, is exactly the fate of the imposter. What usually starts with one small and innocent lie often ends in tragedy. A lie simulates in a very specific context a world that does not correspond to the facts. As a liar, you have to make all kinds of turns in order to be able to neutralize, deny, or literally eliminate that which refutes your fake story. For 15 years, the false doctor Jean-Claude Romand had been telling his family and friends that he worked as an expert for the World Health Organization in Geneva. But this was based on a fraud: He was not a doctor. He drove his car into the woods every morning and waited there until the hour that it seemed reasonable “to come home from work.” In order to preserve his lies, he always had to adapt his role. He read and became an expert in highly specialized literature in medicine. Or he had to go to conferences, so to speak. But this whole staging increasingly served less and less to hide a truth (contrary to the lies of spies, secret agents, lovers). The simulation broke loose and lost the connection with a truth that had to be repressed. The problem is exactly that behind this deceiver’s lie: There was nothing left, there was no “real” Jean-Claude Romand. This is the fate of many lies: They drift away from what they originally wanted to dissimulate and end up gravitating around nothingness or the unreal.

(25)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

.

 

 

.

18 Sep 2020

Breeur (1.4) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.1.4, “Lying and Intention”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index-tags are found on the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

[Breeur, Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory]

 

[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.1.

The Last Judgment

 

1.4

“Lying and Intention”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(1.4.1) When we are concerned with the intention of the lie (see sections 1.3.6 and 1.3.7), what matters is how the lie does damage to our relationship to ourself or to God, rather than how it might do damage to the world. (1.4.2) But if lie and honesty are all simply internal things, then why did Augustine need to make his confession? It is because “the truth may not only be claimed in the heart and the mind, but has to be communicated and spread among many witnesses” (20). However, by externalizing truth into expressed language, we “expose it to the ambiguities specific to the world, the language, and the facts” (20). Breeur provides a humorous example: “In this context, I involuntarily have to think of what a faithful friend once told me about reciting the ‘Lord’s Prayer’: He never pronounced the first sentence (‘Our Father who art in heaven’) to its end because, he said, the Devil couldn’t resist to add a blasphemous ‘F’ before the ‘art’” (20). (1.4.3) Casuists found ways to deceive without lying, where one states the truth but it is understood differently by others. Breeur notes some techniques and gives examples, including a famous one for oratio mixta: “St. Francis of Assisi, when asked by some pursuers if the fugitive they were looking for had passed his way, put his index finger in the sleeve of his mantle and said ‘he had not passed here,’ meaning through his sleeve” (21). (1.4.4)  These casuist examples show how “that the emphasis Augustinians placed on ‘intention’ and interiority was based on a subjectification of the truth according to which the final meaning of reality was sought in God and inwardness rather than in the contingent field of the world. This trend was of course continued in the 17th Century by the Jansenists and by thinkers such as Malebranche” (22). In fact, the effects of our lies are not of concern really, because under this view, neither our lies nor our truths can causally affect the world around us. Rather, lying introduces the ambiguity regarding facts and action into the realm of thought. This is conducted by means of the imagination, which dissimulates the truth and can thereby ultimately lead us astray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.4.1

[The Internal Perspective on Lie: Its Damage to the Relationship of Self to Self or of Self to God]

 

1.4.2

[Risking the Purity of Truth by Expressing it Externally]

 

1.4.3

[Deceiving without Lying]

 

1.4.4

[Lies and Inner Life]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

1.4.1

[The Internal Perspective on Lie: Its Damage to the Relationship of Self to Self or of Self to God]

 

[When we are concerned with the intention of the lie (see sections 1.3.6 and 1.3.7), what matters is how the lie does damage to our relationship to ourself or to God, rather than how it might do damage to the world.]

 

[ditto]

Emphasizing the intention of the lie means searching for its origin in the inner world, the “interior intimi meo.” In the end, it may eventually not matter what your sincerity does to the world: Apart from that collateral damage, the relationship to yourself – or, better, to the Divine in yourself – takes precedence. In the Augustinian tradition, someone like Thomassin (1693) would go so far as to say that “if the whole human species were to be exterminated, and it were possible to save it by a lie, the lie should be avoided, and the whole human species should perish.”14 The lie must be avoided because of the ambiguity or duplicity that is part of its internal structure.

(20)

14 Thomassin, Traité de la vérité et du mensonge, quoted in Benoit Timmermans, “La chair du discours à l’âge classique,” in: Mensonge, Mauvaise Foi, Mystification: Les mésaventures du pacte fictionnel (Paris: Vrin, 2004), pp. 39-55.

(20)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.4.2

[Risking the Purity of Truth by Expressing it Externally]

 

[But if lie and honesty are all simply internal things, then why did Augustine need to make his confession? It is because “the truth may not only be claimed in the heart and the mind, but has to be communicated and spread among many witnesses” (20). However, by externalizing truth into expressed language, we “expose it to the ambiguities specific to the world, the language, and the facts” (20). Breeur provides a humorous example: “In this context, I involuntarily have to think of what a faithful friend once told me about reciting the ‘Lord’s Prayer’: He never pronounced the first sentence (‘Our Father who art in heaven’) to its end because, he said, the Devil couldn’t resist to add a blasphemous ‘F’ before the ‘art’” (20).]

 

[ditto]

In his confessions, Augustine at one point asks himself why he still has to confess his whole story anyway. God already knows everything, doesn’t he? If you confess, it is because the truth may not only be claimed in the heart and the mind, but has to be communicated and spread among many witnesses. Of course, there is also a risk that as soon as you bring out the truth you finally expose it to the ambiguities specific to the world, the language, and the facts. In this context, I involuntarily have to think of what a faithful friend once told me about reciting the “Lord’s Prayer”: He never pronounced the first sentence (“Our Father who art in heaven’’) to its end because, he said, the Devil couldn’t resist to add a blasphemous “F” before the “art.”

(20)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.4.3

[Deceiving without Lying]

 

[Casuists found ways to deceive without lying, where one states the truth but it is understood differently by others. Breeur notes some techniques and gives examples, including a famous one for oratio mixta: “St. Francis of Assisi, when asked by some pursuers if the fugitive they were looking for had passed his way, put his index finger in the sleeve of his mantle and said ‘he had not passed here,’ meaning through his sleeve” (21).]

 

[ditto]

It is interesting to note the use that the casuists made of those ambiguities in order to assuage the Augustinian prohibition of mendacity. The very existence of ambiguities (see their “theory of equivocation”) created a space in which to develop techniques to deceive without lying.15 The use of these techniques was therefore subject to strict conditions, especially when telling the truth represented high danger or would lead to disaster, and not saying anything was seen as a form of betrayal.16 The casuists developed very imaginative ways of dissimulating the truth by using the ambiguity inherent to certain propositions (“not est hic,” meaning “he is not here” or “he eats not here”)17 while other casuists made use of the “restrictio mentalis,” where it was claimed that a false statement can be made true by adding a mental reservation (e.g. after speaking the words “he’s not here” you mentally add the clause “for you,” or “today,” etc.). Another famous example of what is also called the oratio mixta and appeared in many manuals and discussions on mendacity is the following: St. Francis of Assisi, when asked by some pursuers if the fugitive they were looking for had passed his way, put his index finger in the sleeve of his mantle and said “he had not passed here,” meaning through his sleeve.

(21)

13 Cf. Jean-Pierre Cavaillé, “Non est hic. Le cas exemplaire de Ia protection du fugitif,” Les Dossiers du Grihl. Available at: https://journals.openedition.org/dossiersgrihl/300.

16 Of course, dissimulation is not limited to the Christian faith. Within the branch of Islam similar doctrines of dissimulation have been developed and is called “taqiyah”, used in cases where there is some danger to the life of one’s self or family (cf. P. Zagiron, o.c., pp. 4-6).

17 Or the use of equivocation by the “libertins” in the 18th Century: “Qui craint Dieu ne craint rien.”

(21)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.4.4

[Lies and Inner Life]

 

[These casuist examples show how “that the emphasis Augustinians placed on ‘intention’ and interiority was based on a subjectification of the truth according to which the final meaning of reality was sought in God and inwardness rather than in the contingent field of the world. This trend was of course continued in the 17th Century by the Jansenists and by thinkers such as Malebranche” (22). In fact, the effects of our lies are not of concern really, because under this view, neither our lies nor our truths can causally affect the world around us. Rather, lying introduces the ambiguity regarding facts and action into the realm of thought. This is conducted by means of the imagination, which dissimulates the truth and can thereby ultimately lead us astray.]

 

[ditto]

Characteristic of these methods is the form of deception or deceit that helped to bypass the lie. Pascal, in his “provincial letters,” would fulminate: “Cest dire la vérité tout bas, et un mensonge tout haut” (to be telling the truth in a low key, and falsehood in a loud one).18 In fact, one could summarize the whole set-up of the casuists using the motto: You get the lie | that you deserve on the basis of the truth that you expect. Their theories are very relevant inasmuch as they show that the emphasis Augustinians placed on “intention” and interiority was based on a subjectification of the truth according to which the final meaning of reality was sought in God and inwardness rather than in the contingent field of the world. This trend was of course continued in the 17th Century by the Jansenists and by thinkers such as Malebranche. The meaning and effects of what we do and say are beyond our control; in the world we are seldom free because – to speak with Spinoza – we are not an adequate cause of what we set in motion. In short, the lie is condemned in the name of the ambiguity inherent in every act and fact. Lying amplifies this ambiguity and injects it into a domain that is destined to be clear and distinct (thinking). This ambiguity is precisely the work of the imagination, the simulatio. You need it in order to dissimulate the truth, but the more you call upon it the greater the risk of going astray.

(21-22)

18 Blaise Pascal, Les Provinciales, Œuvres Complètes, Tome I (Paris : Gallimard [Pléiade]), 1998, p. 679.

(22)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

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