The Decay Of Lying – An Observation" is an essay by Oscar Wilde and in this essay there is a certain defence of fabulation.
If we turn to Nietzsche he avers '‘Convictions,’are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies.’ Elsewhere, he went even further, arguing for the paradoxical need ‘to recognise untruth as a condition of life’
Nietzsche’s point about the necessity of lying, or at least, the relativising of truthfulness, warrants a closer look in the arena where Trump or Clinton’s mendacity has been most consequentially practised and ruthlessly exposed: that of politics
.he most trenchant consideration of this issue is probably to be found in Hannah Arendt’s celebrated, if controversial essays of 1968 and 1971, ‘Truth and Politics’ and ‘Lying in Politics’. ‘The deliberate falsehood and the outright lie, used as legitimate means to achieve political ends,’ she soberly notes in the latter, ‘have been with us since the beginning of recorded history. Truthfulness has never been counted among the political virtues, and lies have always been regarded as justifiable tools in political dealings.’
But rather than allow this history to justify a withdrawal from the corrupt world of the politics, it may well be a source of one of that world’s strengths. For if politics belongs to the realm of action, and thus involves the capacity to begin something new that was not the case in the past, it also requires a capacity for counter-factual imagination, which is a mark of our freedom. ‘Hence, when we talk about lying, and especially lying among acting men, let us remember that the lie did not creep into politics by some accident of human sinfulness. Moral outrage, for this reason alone, is not likely to make it disappear
Arendt’s brief for lying as being akin to imagination, which echoes without acknowledgment Wilde’s argument in ‘The Decay of Lying’, may seem a bit whimsical, but it is buttressed by a more fundamental concern, which she calls the ‘despotic character of truth’ when it enters the political realm.
For truth ‘peremptorily claims to be acknowledged and precludes debate, and debate constitutes the very essence of political life.
The modes of thought and communication that deal with truth, if seen from a political perspective, are necessarily domineering; they don’t take into account other people’s opinions, and taking these into account is the hallmark of all strictly political thinking.’
Thus ever since Plato ridiculed the role of mere doxa, or unsubstantiated and contingent opinions, in political life, defenders of the truth have portrayed politics as the realm of expediency, compromise, hypocrisy, manipulation and mere appearances.
Whether in the form of philosopher-kings, historical vanguards or technocratic élitists, they have sought to still the unruly turbulence of the public sphere and bring order into chaos. Claiming to know either the general will or the mandate of history, they haveTo put the matter somewhat differently, politics is not corrupted by rhetoric, image-making, surface appearances and public relations spin; rather, it is constituted by them.
Its fragile and shifting consensuses are based on the arts of persuasion, not logical deduction or scientific demonstration. Political judgment is not the same as the subordination of concrete cases under abstract rules or principles; it operates instead by comparing individual cases, reasoning more analogically and metaphorically than subsumptively ( to include or place within something larger)
The semantic play in political language cannot be exorcised in the name of perfect congruence between word and thing. In fact, as the arts of diplomacy and legislation make abundantly clear, the ability of words to generate multiple interpretations is, for good or ill, the lifeblood of an ongoing political discourse that cannot be reduced to the faithful duplication of an unequivocal original meaning. Clinton’s much ridiculed defence in his impeachment deposition ‘that it depends on what the meaning of “is” is’ is thus more in touch with the catachrestic, polysemic nature of political language than the simple-minded (and hypocritically self-serving) appeal to ‘just the facts’ made by Kenneth Starr.
Ironically, one of the most time-honoured techniques of political rhetoric is the appeal to truth and the accusation of base mendacity levelled against one’s opponents. Think of how off putting it is to witness the rhetorical ploy; (Obama as a prime example) its tone is that of someone supremely confident in his possession of the unvarnished truth. belief and strongly held opinions than hard, dispassionately presented knowledge, a
Fabulation, must allow a thousand mendacious flowers to bloom. It must cultivate a public sophisticated in its ability to pick and choose among the slanted versions of the world presented to them, capable of distinguishing between lies that are forgivable and those that are not.