Why should I choose the truth over lies?

Populism - there is no democracy without truth

There is no democracy without truth

Democracy only works if responsible citizens keep the resonance space of reason open.

A text about lying that doesn't begin with "Donald Trump". With what? With the truth.

In about 1873 Friedrich Nietzsche wrote a text with the somewhat cumbersome title "About truth and lies in the extra-moral sense". There he tells of “clever animals” who “invented knowledge” and believed that they were “in possession of a truth”. Nietzsche considers this to be an illusion. Language dresses the world in arbitrary metaphors, where should something like "truth" come from? Everything is a matter of perspective. With Nietzsche it comes down to a crude criticism of all morals and finally ends with the wish that the stronger might please finally take his right.

One could - and one has - hold against Nietzsche that - if he says that everything is a lie - his statements are also lies. It would probably be doing him a favor. However, there can then no longer be any question of seriousness.

The new magic word “post-factual” suggests that “truth” and “facts”, ie “facts”, have something to do with one another. The media always like to do a “fact check” when politicians or those who want to become one have pestered each other on the screen. Hard truths would then be statements that can be substantiated with "facts" that say what is the case. This alludes to two of the most common philosophical theories of truth: on the one hand, the correspondence theory, whose central proposition comes from St. Thomas Aquinas, namely that truth is "the correspondence of insight and matter"; and second, the semantic truth theory of Alfred Tarski, who defined that it is only justified to say: "x is true" if "x is the case". That sounds a lot puzzling and at least circular, but it avoids the dilemma that there are no extralinguistic facts. Someone has to say: "That and that is the case." But he must not say it on the same level of language as "That and that is true". Otherwise the liar paradox threatens.

There is such a thing as "truth"

The philosophical crumb pecking is only intended to make it clear that there is absolutely truth. That you can't just trumpet everything out with impunity. What is a (maybe not only) philosophical problem, however, is the fact that there is no truth criterion. You cannot tell directly from a statement whether it is true or not. There is one's own conviction that what one says is also true. One can only be wrong. On the other hand, something is not simply true just because the majority thinks it is. Just as something is not true just because it is in scripture.

We have to deal with that. And we can handle it if we want. "Truth" comes about through testing. On the one hand, this means that - for us - there is no ultimate truth that can no longer be questioned. There is no ultimate justification that works. Truth is always provisional. On the other hand, it also means that we are all involved and asked when examining whether something should be considered true or not. But we have to.

Truth is something that comes about in intersubjective space. I myself can be convinced that something is true. Doesn't help me much. If I want to make it clear to someone else, I have to convince them, have to show them how I examined the truth in question and what reasons have led me to believe that truth is true. Truth is exhausting. She doesn't fall from the sky. It is the result of a serious effort. It all sounds very grandiose now. But the alternative is not desirable.

Mental indolence

Why is lying socially acceptable? Why are we talking about the “post-factual age”?

We live in troubled times for various reasons. The excitement is great. The noise too. Among other things, the burden of proof has shifted. The loudspeakers have said goodbye to their commitment to truthfulness. They have succeeded in shifting the duty of verifying the truth. You have secured a room where there is automatic applause when you say something. You say things, of course, that please the people who populate this room. One speaks of a "bubble". The much-vaunted social media are not social in this regard, but encourage the formation of bubbles. Because they are "free", they do not work according to the truth principle, but according to a gravitational principle. They attract users, the more there are already, the easier it is for new ones to be added.

Such resonance spaces are of course also intersubjective. But they do not help to find the truth, but reinforce your own perception. And the gentlemen who fill these rooms with sound also spend some effort to disguise this limitation on an obscure self. You speak of "swarm intelligence", of the "peculiar power of democracy", often also of the "people". They like to call the duty to be clear to oneself whether something is true "political correctness". Better to get rid of such things.

But doesn't «democracy» mean «people's rule»? It is called that, but its meaning is different. Their advantage lies in the fact that we are not supposed to follow someone else. Not someone who rules us. The sovereign in a democracy is not "the people", but the responsible citizen who informs himself and gives a well-considered judgment. The belief that this works is not based on “swarm intelligence” or anything like that. Not even on the intelligence of an individual. It's about the fact that we also have a resonance space in our consciousness. This is called "reason". You come to that when you think about it calmly, weigh up arguments and ask yourself what someone else would do in my place. This position of the third party not present is important. Should I expect him to let his anger run wild? That he prefers resentment to reason? That he would rather look for scapegoats than coldly try to analyze the situation? D rather not. Reason is therefore not boring.

When we govern ourselves, we want to be governed intelligently. Not from resentment-driven angry citizens. That's why we have to fight. Not against the angry citizen. But against the causes of anger.