Politics is a complex field that concerns the relations between individuals, groups and institutions in a given society. It is often questioned whether politics is exempt from the requirement of truth or whether it is subject to the same ethical and moral standards as other areas of social life. In this article, we will examine the different aspects of this question and the implications for the understanding of politics and truth. Here is a detailed answer to the question: Does politics not require true?
Politicians are discredited. The Watergate Scandal in the United States in the 1970s is one of the most famous examples of a politician being discredited because of lying. President Richard Nixon and his administration were found to have lied about their involvement in a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex. The scandal led to the resignation of Nixon and several of his top advisers were convicted of criminal charges.
Another example is the “Climategate” scandal in 2009, where emails were stolen from the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the UK and published online. They were then used to accuse scientists of manipulating data and hiding evidence that would contradict their views on global warming. Despite investigations by several independent bodies cleared the scientists of any wrongdoing and concluded that their scientific conclusions were valid, the scandal damaged the reputations of the scientists and the credibility of the research on climate change, which led to some politicians to question the validity of the findings.
Politics: Note the feminine, which is an essential element in understanding the word “politics”. In general, politics can be defined as the art of conducting state affairs, the science and practice of state government.
Requirement: Requirement relates to duty, which is also an aspect of the philosophy program.
Truth: probably the most difficult word to determine, and one that will have to be explored throughout the development. Generally speaking, in philosophy, truth designates knowledge recognized as exact, as conforming to its object and possessing as such an absolute, ultimate value.
The question that pinpoints the problem is not the question of the question, but rather what is implied by this question, what is hidden behind this question. Indeed behind this question it is the articulation between truth and politics that is questioned, in the sense that politics would necessarily require to hide a part of the truth.
Is truth a duty which can be escaped only for political purposes? Is politics necessarily incompatible with a rigorous and exhaustive discourse of truth? How can politics be combined with a duty and a search for truth among the citizens?
The “does it escape”/“does it escape” type of subject lends itself to a dialectical plan. See the outline we have chosen in the development. However, we must keep in mind that a multitude of approaches were possible, there is no necessary answer in philosophy, there is no predefined scale on the developed ideas. Feel free to share your own outlines in the comments below.
I. Lying is sometimes necessary to be able to govern
Plato in The Republic shows the necessity that drives politicians to lie to their people, for the good of the city. But it is a “noble lie” because it is a lie of words, reserved for rulers, and which has therapeutic virtues. It allows the good of others, contrary to the lie uttered in a deliberate way which installs in the soul of the one who is deceived by the ignorance.
“What is absolutely necessary is to know how to disguise this nature of a fox, and to possess perfectly the art of simulating and dissimulation” — Machiavelli, The Prince. For Machiavelli, the prince must necessarily lie in order to direct the affairs of the country in the best way.
D’Alembert has these terse and unambiguous words about politics: “The art of war (…) is the art of destroying men, as politics is that of deceiving them
II. But a sound policy is necessarily based on truth and aims at truth
Saint Augustine radically condemns all forms of lying, including in politics. For Saint Augustine, lying, ‘consists in speaking against one’s own mind with the intention of deceiving. Now, even the lie that would be profitable to someone else does not find favor in the eyes of Saint Augustine:” mendacium iniquitas est,” there would be inequity.
Immanuel Kant refutes in an equally radical way the right of politics to lie, to escape the requirement of truth. In the article “Of a pretended right to lie out of humanity” (1797), in response to Benjamin Constant, Immanuel Kant explains that even in politics, even by a legal text, it would be contradictory to authorize lying in certain cases.“He who lies, however generous his intention in lying may be, must answer for the consequences of his lie.“
III. The articulation between politics and truth only makes sense in terms of the citizens who understand it
Blaise Pascal allows us to better understand this question of truth and politics through the perception of the people. In the Pensées, he distinguishes five categories, which are from the lowest to the highest: the people, the half-skilled, the skilled, the devout, and finally the perfect Christians.
Now each category is established according to the degree of credulity of the exam questions with regard to the policy: thus the people firmly believe that the laws of their country are more or less right, the half-skilled are “déniaisés”, i.e. they are less credulous, the skilled have understood what the half-skilled have understood, but speak like the people.
It is by education and reflection that the citizens understand this ambiguous relationship between politics and concern for truth. It is thus only through this critical relationship that they can identify what is true, what is a lie, and whether this truth or this lie is justified. It is also only through this distance that the citizen can avoid the dangers and the drifts of a politics that is too far from the truth, as Hannah Arendt theorizes: “In the political domain, where secrecy and deliberate deception have always played a significant role, autosuggestion represents the greatest danger: the dupe who dupes himself loses all contact, not only with his public, but with the real world, which cannot fail to catch up with him, because his mind can abstract itself from it but not his body.
Politics, by flying away from the demand for truth, risks ensnaring itself. It is thus a question of preserving a critical distance and of maintaining unceasingly awake this need for truth, and this distance between the citizens and politics.