14 May 2020

Breeur (Pref.) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, “Preface”, 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

 

“Preface”

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(Pref.1) We live in the “post-truth” era where the information conveyed in politics and news media is not crafted and presented with an eye to its truthfulness. (Pref.2) But the role and prevalence of deception in politics and media is neither new nor shocking. (Pref.3) The problem of truth in the post-truth era is that its lifelessness and colorlessness make it unable to command authority in an environment that favors the appeal of sensational untruths. (Pref.4) Although liars and imposters generate our beliefs in the untruths that they fashion, their methods depend upon – and ultimately affirm – truth itself, along with its distinction from falsity (liars’ dissemblances require  actual truths to conceal, and imposters use the means of distinguishing true from false to confuse the two). These deceitful operations are neither new nor what is really at issue in the post-truth era: it is not that untruths simply substitute for truths in acts of deception; rather, the very distinction between truth and falsity is no longer viable. (Pref.5) In all, the book focuses on “several aspects of the so-called ‘weakness’ of truth.” {1} Chapter one examines post-truth, which is the most radical symptom of truth’s weakness, because with it, reference to truth becomes facultative. {2} The remaining chapters examine phenomena that, although serving to “weaken or tarnish” truth’s value, nonetheless still respect it (p.8).  A central theme of the book is that “there is no freestanding, intrinsically-valuable, capital-T ‘Truth’.” Philosophy, in order to prove that it really does love truth must do so using the “imagination in order to find ways to express that which you know but lack the proper words for, that which you believe to be urgent and meaningful and wish to make manifest” (p.9).

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

Pref.1

[Post-Truth in News and Politics]

 

Pref.2

[The Non-Novelty of Deception]

 

Pref.3

[Truth & Impotence]

 

Pref.4

[Breakdown of the True/False Distinction in the Post-Truth Era]

 

Pref.5

[Preview of the Book’s Themes. Philosophy’s Proving Its Love of Truth]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

Pref.1

[Post-Truth in News and Politics]

 

[We live in the “post-truth” era where the information conveyed in politics and news media is not crafted and presented with an eye to its truthfulness.]

 

[Breeur begins by discussing an article written in The Guardian by its editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, entitled, “How Technology Disrupted the Truth” (here). (In this article, Viner examines the recent devaluation of truth in news media and politics and traces it to changes in the nature of journalism resulting from the deleterious effects of new electronic news media technologies and industrial practices (for instance, algorithmic filtering, click prioritization and baiting, “churnalistic” reuse of others’ writings, and cut-backs to journalistic staff). What we gather from this article is that we live in a new “post-truth” era full of “lies, manipulations, and deceit” (Breeur p.7).  (In these times, we either wrongly believe that false reporting is true, or perhaps we do not even care whether or not it is true. The “truthfulness” of the information we consume may no longer even be at issue for us.)]

In 2016, Katharine Viner, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, described the vote in favor of Brexit as “the first major vote in the era of post-truth politics.”1 The prefix “post,” the story goes, would point less to a temporary dimension (“What comes after...”) and more to a qualitative break with what preceded it. After post-modernism comes post-truth. Post-modernism, so to speak, pointed to the “end of the great stories.” And post-truth? To the end of the truth. So, we are said to live in an era of lies, manipulations, and deceit. “Does the truth matter anymore?”, Viner finally wondered.

(7)

1. Katharine Viner, “How Technology Disrupted the Truth,” The Guardian (2016). Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2016/jul/12/how-technology-disrupted-the-truth.

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pref.2

[The Non-Novelty of Deception]

 

[But the role and prevalence of deception in politics and media is neither new nor shocking.]

 

[ditto]

To be honest, when I read some of the documents about the Dreyfus affair at the end of the 19th Century, or the falsified reports of some of the newspapers published during the two World Wars, I wonder what we are so worried about today.2 New era? Aren’t we overestimating ourselves? Of course, the media are different. The impact of false messages is more volatile, because faster. And yes, everyone knows that Presidents are lying. We also know that it is politically worthwhile to ignore scientifically validated facts or to fight them with “alternative facts.” And today, everyone feels deceived by someone | or something (by car companies, politicians, scientists, museums, etc.). As is often remarked, “the deceived is complicit in the deception.” But is this something new? Is this a shocking and upsetting truth? No. Honestly, we have known this for a long time now.

(7-8)

2 In this context, see the excellent study of Michaël Foessel, Recidive 1938, (Paris: PUF, 2019)

(7)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pref.3

[Truth & Impotence]

 

[The problem of truth in the post-truth era is that its lifelessness and colorlessness make it unable to command authority in an environment that favors the appeal of sensational untruths.]

 

[(Breeur now makes a fascinating and profoundly insightful philosophical observation. We note that in any era, truth exhibits a sort of weakness especially in the face of liars who can make us disbelieve a truth and instead believe its false counterpart. And also under normal circumstances, “those who represent the truth” can threaten the security of truth (perhaps for instance, I wonder, by using the truth in a manipulative way (as Blake wrote: “A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent”) or perhaps otherwise for instance by trying to convey the truth incompetently, with the unintended result that this truth becomes disbelieved). But this weakness or “faiblesse” of the truth is not what characterizes the problematic aspect of truth in the post-truth era. It is not that post-truth truths are weak, it is that they are impotent; they are, in Breuur’s words, “faint, pointless, insipid, futile”. Yes, they are true. Nonetheless, they lack the seeming vitality and richness of post-truth deceptions, and, as a result, are passed over in favor of these more potent, attractive, and engaging lies. As Breeur explains, contemporary truths “contain clichés, and therefore cannot withstand the exuberant and pseudo-deepness of our contemporary liars” (8). (Lies have always existed. What is new and dangerous today is the fact that truths cannot compete with deceptions in this era where their colorlessness is grounds for ignoring them. Truth, we might say, is in danger of extinction in this new communicational environment.) With all this being the case, that means truth-tellers, despite their good intentions, further undermine the truth when they promulgate such lifeless ones (because by doing so, they only increase the competitive advantage of the more lively and potent untruths). As Breeur writes: “And yes, those who proclaim futile truths are complicit in and therefore responsible for the proliferation of untruths.”]

In a recent book, the French political philosopher Myriam Revault d’Allones talked about “la faiblesse du vrai.” “Faiblesse” can be translated as weakness. The weakness of the truth would imply that truth cannot withstand the violence of the lie. This is still too positive, however. The truth about certain facts, and the importance of those facts, is threatened both by liars and by those who represent the truth. What is new in our “era” is perhaps the fact that truth no longer has any authority. Today, the truth is not just weak but faint, pointless, insipid, futile; the truths that are proclaimed are superficial, contain clichés, and therefore cannot withstand the exuberant and pseudo-deepness of our contemporary liars. The danger of “post-truth'” lies not in the lie, then, but in the futile, weak, and shabby nature of the truth. And yes, those who proclaim futile truths are complicit in and therefore responsible for the proliferation of untruths.

(8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pref.4

[Breakdown of the True/False Distinction in the Post-Truth Era]

 

[Although liars and imposters generate our beliefs in the untruths that they fashion, their methods depend upon – and ultimately affirm – truth itself, along with its distinction from falsity (liars’ dissemblances require  actual truths to conceal, and imposters use the means of distinguishing true from false to confuse the two). These deceitful operations are neither new nor what is really at issue in the post-truth era: it is not that untruths simply substitute for truths in acts of deception; rather, the very distinction between truth and falsity is no longer viable.]

 

[There have always been liars and imposters; and their actions, while seeming to undermine the integrity of truth and the distinction between truth and falsity, really in the end depend upon these things. Liars dissimulate the truth, but this means they operate on something that really is true in the first place. Imposters make us confused about what is genuine and what is fake, but for their art to work, they need to implement “what distinguishes truth from falsehood.” (For instance, to sell a fake watch, it must have the markings that would normally authenticate a real one. So rather than neglecting those things that help us distinguish truth from falsehood, imposters instead use them like the materials of an art work.) Breeur’s claim is that what characterizes the post-truth era are thus not these usual operations of liars and imposters, which only in the end affirm the integrity of truth; rather, what is unique now is that the very distinction between truth and falsity has been put out of play.]

Liars dissimulate the truth. In that regard, they are still deferential towards it. Imposters create confusion. They like to play with what distinguishes truth from falsehood. But what if the very idea of there being a distinction between what is true and what is false has been blown up? This is what the post-truth era is all about.

(8)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pref.5

[Preview of the Book’s Themes. Philosophy’s Proving Its Love of Truth]

 

[In all, the book focuses on “several aspects of the so-called ‘weakness’ of truth.” {1} Chapter one examines post-truth, which is the most radical symptom of truth’s weakness, because with it, reference to truth becomes facultative. {2} The remaining chapters examine phenomena that, although serving to “weaken or tarnish” truth’s value, nonetheless still respect it (p.8).  A central theme of the book is that “there is no freestanding, intrinsically-valuable, capital-T ‘Truth’.” Philosophy, in order to prove that it really does love truth must do so using the “imagination in order to find ways to express that which you know but lack the proper words for, that which you believe to be urgent and meaningful and wish to make manifest” (p.9).]

 

[ditto]

In this book, I want to focus on several aspects of the so-called “weakness” of truth. Post-Truth (Chapter 1) is only one symptom of such weakness, although it is the most radical since here any reference to the truth becomes facultative. In subsequent chapters, I analyze phenomena which in their own ways still respect truth, even if only to weaken or tarnish the value that it has or represents. For, as will become clear over the course of this book, truth is no value on its own. Some truths are stupid and pointless, while some falsehoods are | very insightful and potent. Each and every truth is considered for its relevance, or its interest, or its power – there is no freestanding, intrinsically-valuable, capital-T “Truth.” If philosophy loves the truth, it needs to prove it. And you don’t prove your love by referring to “objective facts”: You prove it by using your imagination in order to find ways to express that which you know but lack the proper words for, that which you believe to be urgent and meaningful and wish to make manifest.3

(8-9)

3 Thanks to Kyle Barrowman for the insightful and stimulating editorial revision of the manuscript. Thanks also to Tomas Sinkunas for inviting me to contribute to this new and promising collection.

(9)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

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

 

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page

.

 

 

.

5 May 2020

Breeur (ED) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, entry directory

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index tabs are found at the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

[Roland Breeur, entry directory]

 

 

 

Entry Directory for

 

Roland Breeur

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

(Book Page)

(Image source: jonasirjokubas.lt)

 

 

 

Preface

[summary]

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.1.

The Last Judgment

 

1.1

Hieronymus Bosch

[summary]

 

1.2

“Contingency, Freedom, and Imagination”

[summary]

 

1.3

“Imagination and Lying”

[summary]

 

1.4

“Lying and Intention”

[summary]

 

1.5

“Lies and Imposture”

[summary]

 

1.6.

“The Involuntary Imposter”

[summary]

 

1.7

“Conclusion”

[summary]

 

 

Ch.2

Alternative Facts and Reduction to Stupidity

 

2.0

“Introduction”

[summary]

 

Appendix

“The Last Thought: An Essay on Edgar Hilsenrath’s  Novel The Story of the Last Thought”

[summary]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

 

Images taken gratefully from:

https://www.jonasirjokubas.lt/produktas/roland-breeur-lies-imposture-stupidity/

 

.

Roland Breeur (ED), entry directory

 

by Corry Shores

 

[Search Blog Here. Index tabs are found at the bottom of the left column.]

 

[Central Entry Directory]

 

 

 

Entry Directory for

 

Roland Breeur

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

 

(image source: researchgate)

 

 

 

 

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

[Entry Directory]

 

 

 

 

 

(image source: hiw.kuleuven.be)

 

 

Images taken gratefully from:

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Roland_Breeur

 

https://hiw.kuleuven.be/en/news-events/graduatestudentconference/pics/2019/prof-roland-breeur.jpg/view

 

 

.