Tuesday, February 13, 2007

You can't handle the truth

I was watching an old episode of Seinfeld the other day ("The Truth")--having just finished viewing An Inconvenient Truth and a few episodes of The Awful Truth--and I proceeded to ask myself: What is truth? Andre Gide once opined: "Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it." On the other hand, Blaise Pascal observed that "We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart." Then again, Pascal held that "There are truths on this side of the Pyrenees, which are falsehoods on the other." (I shit you not.)

"Always tell the truth," Mark Twain advised. "That way, you don't have to remember what you said." "Truth," David Hume believed, "springs from argument amongst friends." Edward R. Murrow felt that "Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit." George Eliot agreed: "Falsehood is easy, truth so difficult." Another George--Orwell--put it even more bluntly: "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act." Hence Noam Chomsky's contention that "It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies."

Truth to tell, it's not all bad news. Max Planck once declared that "It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him." For Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Truth is our element." "The truth is always exciting," said Pearl S. Buck. "Speak it, then. Life is dull without it."

I'll leave the last word to Gloria Steinem: "The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off."

(Via The Uncredible Hallq)