Monday, January 13, 2020

Resolving the Quandary

Yesterday I posed the following question:
Let's say something happened which caused many, many people to feel greatly inspired and happy. (No further effects beyond that.) And let's say one were to find out that it didn't actually happen, or that it actually happened in a way that wasn't so inspirational. Should one tell people?
The question wasn't theoretical; it was regard to something that actually happened recently. It received an enormous amount of responses, on the blog and especially on Facebook.

Some people didn't even appreciate the question. They said that truth is obviously the most important thing, and that's that.

Personally, I disagree strongly with that approach. Certainly within classical Judaism, truth is not the most important value (there's a long out-of-print book by my cousin's cousin, called Lying for Truth, which discusses that). And if one is talking from a non-religious perspective, who's to say that truth is more important than happiness and inspiration?

Other people said that it's more complicated, and there are all kinds of different factors to consider. For example, if it's something that is part of religious faith, then discrediting it has all kinds of effects to consider. I tried to preempt that in the way that I phrased the question, when I wrote that in this case there are no further effects to consider.

Eventually, after reading the comments and thinking the matter through further, I came to the following realization: There is no such question. That is to say, there is no real-life scenario in which one is choosing simply between inspiration/happiness and truth. There are always going to be further ramifications. Sometimes even disillusionment can have positive effects, as well as negative effects.

In the particular situation that I was thinking of, there are certainly ramifications. Right now, people are feeling inspired and happy about a certain event, in several different aspects. If I reveal certain truths about the event, one of those aspects will be blown out of the water. But on reflection, I think it's an aspect that deserves to be negated. On the other hand, other aspects, which still deserve to be a source of inspiration, will naturally suffer a hit. Yet at the same time, I think that I can provide a report of another event which will provide comparable inspiration. All things considered, I am leaning towards it. But I haven't reached a final decision yet.


27 comments:

  1. Should we Always tell the Truth?

    Some people are convinced that the truth should be told even if it may offend, for it is ultimately good for the person. The truth is the truth. Yet others feel that people generally cannot understand the truth. In his book, Ibn Tufayl explains that philosophers should refrain from expressing their true views because most people cannot deal with the truth and are threatened by it.

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    1. Following God's example there are times that prevarication is the order of the day.

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  2. I think it would be easier to contribute an opinion if we knew exactly what the situation you are referencing is, but I guess that would defeat the purpose haha.

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  3. Should we Always tell the Truth?

    Some people are convinced that the truth should be told even if it may offend, for it is ultimately good for the person. The truth is the truth. Yet others feel that people generally cannot understand the truth. In his book, Ibn Tufayl explains that philosophers should refrain from expressing their true views because most people cannot deal with the truth and are threatened by it.

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    Replies
    1. Col. Nathan R. Jessep said almost the exact same thing as Ibn Tufayl in a landmark court case in the 90's.

      Delete
  4. “The question wasn't theoretical; it was regard to something that actually happened recently. It received an enormous amount of responses, on the blog and especially on Facebook.”

    Why so cryptic? Why are you afraid to discuss what happened recently that received so much attention on Facebook? What happened?

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    1. This is typical Orthodox mentality: evasion, obfuscation, equivocation, lying. Anything but the simple truth. Yes,tons of books are written on how not to tell the truth. Probably more than on how not to tell a lie.

      I like Yoga Sutras and its 5 (only 5!) Yamas and 5 Niaymas. Ahimsa (do no harm) and Satya (Truthfulness), like all yamas and niyamas, should be observed in harmony. It's a balance that everyone should strive for in his life. Do they have volumes on how not to tell the truth and justify lying? Maybe, but I haven't heard of it so far.

      Generally, dishonesty has been a feature of our religious practice for a very long time and it's very upsetting.

      Yakov

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    2. Yakov, I agree that it is good to study yoga and other vedic text, along with Judaism and Greek philosophy, for Maimonides taught to seek the truth no matter who says it. It is why he enjoyed the philosophy of Greek pagan Aristotle. In fact, Maimonides explains in the introduction of the Guide that he, a Jew, will be sharing many opinions from the Greek philosophers since "the truth is the truth no matter what its source," even if it comes from the Greek pagan Aristotle. I think Maimonides, therefore, would be okay with Indian philosophy, accepting what he thinks is true while rejecting what he knows to be false, such as reincarnation and mysticism, it is not an all or nothing acceptance.

      As far as the lies go, I do not think Orthodox rabbis lie, at least not on intentionally. But as you know, Maimonides felt the need to help people and so he often told "essential truths" or what some call "Plato's noble lie." Noble because while untrue, it helps people get on with their lives. To be clear, Maimonides composed his works for two audiences, those who are intellectual and for the multitude, people who don't or cannot handle the truth. This technique is not partial to orthodoxy alone. Jewish philosopher, Spinoza also taught necessary beliefs for the masses. I'm sure the Yoga Sutras are no exception to this rule since most people cannot deal with the truth and feel threatened by it.

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    3. I actually practice the Hatha, my interest in the Sutras is recent and I would want to state my opinion at this point. I'm not sure how good it is though. One day feeling frustrated with the galling materialism and duplicity around me, I just walked into a studio on a whim and the rest is history, as they say. I've been hooked on yoga ever since.

      I didn't mean the Rambam, I meant that the society in general is built on avoiding the truth.

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  5. Do you realize that this cloying, teasing, will I-won't I nonsense is extremely annoying?

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    Replies
    1. Yes it is. And completely unnecessary to boot.

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    2. I agree. Rabbi Slifkin, what happened?

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  6. If a personal quandary is posed to the comment section of a blog for a resolution, I think there are more pressing issues than "bursting peoples bubble".

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  7. Mark Twain Was it Heaven? Or Hell?

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  8. The question of whether to reveal or conceal is an old one, usually arising with biographers. It came up 25 years ago, with the RJJ Shachter controversy, and then a few years later again with the MOAG case. I found the best treatment of these issues in the writings of your countryman, Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784). Since he was extremely devout, but also wholly devoted to the truth; and since he was both a famous biographer and the subject of a famous biography, and other articles already in his lifetime - he thus has a unique perspective on the subject. Email me if you're interested.

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  9. $160 bucks on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Lying-truth-understanding-deception-Yitzchak/dp/1568711069. Wow.

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  10. Rav Natan,

    Are you, like me, a little horrified that the Rabbinic establishment creates forgeries?

    Is this something new, or is at as least as old as the Zohar?

    Is the Talmud any different? When rabbis attribute their ideas to earlier characters or to Moses on Sinai.

    I think pseudoepistography is the technical term.

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  11. This seems so improper to me. It's like you are saying, "Some event just happened that people are using to justify their belief and emunah, but they don't realize how they are viewing the event isn't what really happened. And I don't want to tell the truth about the event because someone might decide to lose their Judaism over finding out their impression wasn't true" Where is the integrity in that approach, to refuse to describe the event honestly because it might ding someone's emunah?

    Did people really not have any belief or emunah before this event? And revealing the facts about the event is going to make them quit Judaism? Really? I don't think Judaism started recently on facebook.

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  12. This is all too abstract and theoretical until you spill the beans...

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  13. If truth means living an honest life in harmony with others, sometimes being "truthful" is actually a lie.

    E.g. if I'm truthful about my arbitrary bad (undeserved) feelings about you,its not just bad middos, it's a form of lying. "It's not truthful to how you're trying to live."


    If I tell you I had a bad thought about you yesterday, it's far from being truthful. It's revealing what shouldn't be revealed. It's a form of lying. We all implicitly naturally know this.

    Putting things in their proper place, and not Causing more harm than good should be a guide.


    Philosophers already established that many times (using the pragmatism school of thought at least).

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  14. Not everyone may know that you are your cousin's cousin you mention and that would then be a lie as to who wrote Lying for Truth.
    The usual YA

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    Replies
    1. It was written by Nosson Slifkin, not Natan Slifkin.

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  15. When you say "reveal" do you mean you have exclusive information that most people aren't privy to?
    Or do you just mean you can point to something that was already in public view but highlight it in a way that most people may have missed.

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  16. Incoming headline: "Rationalist Judaism blog reveals shocking truth about Daf Yomi Siyum: Locusts served on menu were not Kosher"

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  17. I am pretty sure I know what you are referring to. Its not such a huge deal either way.

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  18. There has been a discussion recently on the Soferet authors' forum about a similar situation - whether a seemingly uplifting story should be questioned. In the situation you propose, I think it depends on the person, whether or not to reveal the truth to him. But surely it should be possible to find verifiable stories that would make the same point? I value Emes highly and wouldn't want to be "inspired" by a lie.

    ReplyDelete

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