Friday, May 19, 2017

Is Truth Dead?

Primary Sources:

"Is Truth Dead?" Time, March 23, 2017 and (My references are to the online text as well as to the printed edition.)

"Why We Lie," National Geographic, June, 2017, p. 30.

Justin Gillis, "World's Unity On Warming Pivots on U.S.: Exit From Paris Deal Could Hurt the Poor," The New York Times, June 1, 2017, p. A1.

Michael S. Schmidt, "Trump Appealed to Comey to Halt Inquiry Into Aide: Ex-F.B.I. Chief Noted Request in Memo -- 'I hope you can let this go,'" The New York Times, May 17, 2017, p. 3.    

John Thornhill, "Lunch With the Financial Times: Daniel Dennett," Financial Times, "Weekend Edition," March 5, 2017, p. 3. 

"What is Knowledge?: Symposium," New Scientist, April 1, 2017, pp. 30-41.

"Reality Check: Humanism in the Post-Truth Era," The Humanist, March/April, 2017, pp. 12-16.

Joseph Epstein, "The Cultured Life," The Weekly Standard, March 20, 2017, pp. 26-32. (Mr. Epstein was a big fan of Gore Vidal's writings. "Book Chats and 'Chits.'")

Hadley Arkes, "The Moral Turn," First Things, May 1, 2017, pp. 29-36.

John Haldane, "MacIntyre Against Morality," First Things, May 1, 2017, pp. 49-53. (Review of Alasdair McIntyre's Ethics in the Conflicts of Modernity: An Essay On Desire, Practical Reasoning, and Narrative, Cambridge, 2017.)

Secondary Sources:

Hadley Arkes, First Things: An Inquiry Into First Principles of Morals and Justice (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1980).

Robert Audi, Ed., The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge U. Press, 1996).

Randall L. Auxier & Luis Edwin Hahn, Eds., The Philosophy of Michael Dummett (Illinois: Open Court, 2007), pp. 351-367.

A.J. Ayer, The Problem of Knowledge (London: Penguin, 1956, 1980), pp. 36-84.

Jonathan Bennett, Rationality: An Essay Towards Analysis (New York & London: Routledge & Keegan and Paul -- The Humanities Press, 1964, 1971), pp. 86-93.   

Richard Bernstein, Beyond Objectivism and Relativism (Philadelphia: U. Penn. 1983).

Richard Bernstein, "Nietzsche or Aristotle? Reflections on Alasdair McIntyre's After Virtue," Soundings, Vol. 67 (1984), pp. 6-29. 

Simon Blackburn, Mirror, Mirror: The Uses and Abuses of Self-Love (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2014).

Simon Blackburn, Truth: A Guide (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2005), pp. 166-171.

Simon Blackburn, Practical Tortoise Raising and Other Philosophical Essays (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2010), pp. 26-47, pp. 90-109.

Simon Blackburn, "Relativization and Truth," in Lewis Edwin Hahn, Ed., The Philosophy of P.F. Strawson (Illinois: Open Court, 1998), pp. 151-168, "Reply to Simon Blackburn," by P.F. Strawson, pp. 168-173.

Robert Brandom, Making it Explicit (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1994). 

Robert Brandom, "Truth and Assertibility," Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 53, (1976), pp. 137-149.

Lorraine Code, "Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing," Notre Dame Philosophy Reviews, March 13, 2008. (Available online.) ("Is clarity enough?")

Janet Coleman, "McIntyre and Aquinas," in After McIntyre: Critical Perspectives on the Work of Alasdair McIntyre (Indiana: Notre Dame U. Press, 1994), pp. 65-91 (John Horton and Susan Mendus, Editors).  

Alan Cowell, "Ian Brady, Unrepentant Killer of British Children, Dies at 79," The New York Times, "Business Section," May 17, 2017, p. B14. (Is there an objective truth to such matters? If so, what is the truth about a great crime and should we care about knowing that truth?)  

Edward Craig, The Mind of God and the Works of Man (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987).

Edward Craig, Knowledge and the State of Nature: An Essay in Conceptual Synthesis (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 1999).

Jonathan Culler, On Deconstruction: Theory and Criticism After Structuralism (New York: Cornell U. Press, 1982), pp. 85-227.

Fred R. Dallmayr, "Hermeneutics and Deconstruction: Gadamer and Derrida in Dialogue," in Critical Encounters Between Philosophy and Politics (Indiana: Notre Dame U. Press, 1987), pp. 130-159.

Donald Davidson, "A Coherence Theory of Truth and Knowledge," in Reading Rorty, pp. 120-139. (See John W. Yolton's article below.) 

Peter Dews, Logics of Disintegration: Post-Structuralist Thought and the Claims of Critical Theory (London & New York: Verso, 1987), pp. 144-220.

Gerald Doppelt, "'Justice for Hedgehogs': Book Review," Notre Dame Philosophy Reviews, August 4, 2011. (Available online.)

Ronald Dworkin, "Objectivity and Truth: You'd Better Believe it," Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Spring, 1996), pp. 87-139.

Ronald Dworkin, Justice for Hedgehogs (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 2011).

Michael Dummett, Truth and Other Enigmas (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1978).

Michael Dummett, The Logical Basis of Metaphysics (London: Duckworth, 1991). 

Anthony Flew, How to Think Straight: An Introduction to Critical Reasoning (New York: Prometheus Books, 1998), pp. 115-136.

John Foster, "The Construction of the Physical World," in Lewis Edwin Hahn, Ed., The Philosophy of A.J. Ayer (Illinois: Open Court, 1992), pp. 179-198, "Reply to John Foster," by A.J. Ayer, pp. 198-200.

John Foster, A World For Us: The Case For Pehnomenalistic Idealism (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2008).

Michael N. Foster, Kant and Skepticism (Oxford & Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 2008).

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Viking, 1973), pp. 303-343. 

Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 2005), entirety. 

Miranda Fricker, Epistemic Injustice: Power and the Ethics of Knowing (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2007).

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (New York: Crossroads, 1982), pp. 153-345. 

Hans-Georg Gadamer, "Text Matters," in Richard Kearney, Ed., States of Mind: Dialogues With Contemporary Thinkers (New York: NYU Press, 1995), pp. 262-290.

Henry A. Giroux, The Violence of Organized Forgetting: Thinking Beyond America's Disimagination Machine (San Francisco: City Lights, 2014).

Robert Giroux, The Book Known as Q: A Consideration of Shakespeare's Sonnets (New York: Vintage, 1982), pp. 3-59. 

Neil M. Gorsuch, "Law's Irony," Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 37 (2014), pp. 743-756. 

Neil M. Gorsuch, "2016 Summer Canary Memorial Lecture: Of Lions and Bears, Judges and Legislators, and the Legacy of Justice Scalia," Case Western Law Review, Vol. 66 (2016), pp. 905-920. 

A.C. Grayling, Skepticism and the Possibilities of Knowledge (London: Continuum, 2014), pp. 171-205.

A.C. Grayling, The Mystery of Things (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2004).

Susan Haack, "Dummett's Justification of Induction," Mind, 91, (1982), pp. 216-239.

Ian Hacking, "Is the End in Sight for Epistemology?," Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 77 (1980), pp. 579-588.

Ian Hacking, Why Does Language Matter to Philosophy? (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge U. Press, 1975), pp. 115-187.

David L. Hall, Richard Rorty: Prophet and Poet of the New Pragmatism (New York: SUNY Press, 1994), pp. 11-65.    

Errol E. Harris, Formal, Transcendental & Dialectical Reasoning: Logic and Reality (New York: SUNY Press, 1987).

Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (New York: Nation Books, 2009).

Jennifer Hornsby, "Truth: The Identity Theory," Proceedings of the Aristotelean Society, New Series, (1997), pp. 1-24.

Don Ihde, Hermeneutic Phenomenology: The Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur (Evanston: Northwestern U. Press, 1971), pp. 59-80 ("Phenomenology Within Kantian Limits").

Duncan Kennedy, "The Hermeneutic of Suspicion in Contemporary American Legal Thought," Law and Critique, Vol. 25 (2014), pp. 91-139.

Peter J. Lewis, Quantum Ontology: A Guide to the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2016).

Walter Lipman, A Preface to Morals (New Brunswisk: Transaction Books, 1989). (What happens to truth after the "death of God"? 1st Pub. 1929). 

William L. McBride & Clavin Shrag, Phenomenology in a Pluralistic Context (New York: SUNY, 1983), pp. 205-234 ("Phenomenology of Language").

Thomas McCarthy, Ideals and Illusions: On Reconstruction and Deconstruction in Contemporary Critical Theory (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991), pp. 11-120.

John McDowell, Mind and World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1994, 1996).

John McDowell, "Anti-Realism and the Epistemology of Understanding," in Meaning and Understanding (Berlin: de Greuyter, 1981), pp. 225-248 (H. Parrelt & B. Bouveresse, Eds.).

John McDowell, "Gadamer and Davidson on Understanding and Relativism," in J. Malpas, U. Arsnwald, J. Kertscher, Eds., Gadamer's Century: Essays in Honor of Hans-Georg Gadamer (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), pp. 173-195.

Colin McGinn, "Isn't it the Truth?," The New York Review of Books, April 10, 2003, (See Bernard Williams below.) 

Alasdair McIntyre, "Epistemological Crises, Dramatic Narrative, and the Philosophy of Science," The Monist, Vol. 60 (1977), pp. 433-472. 

Alasdair McIntyre, "Philosophy, 'Other' Disciplines and Their Histories: A Rejoinder to Richard Rorty," Soundings, Vol. 45 (1980), pp. 127-145. 

Alasdair McIntyre, After Virtue (Indiana: Notre Dame U. Press, 1981, 1984).

Steven Melville, Philosophy Beside Itself: On Deconstruction and Modernism (Minn.: U. Minn. Press, 1986), pp. 34-84.   

John William Miller, The Paradox of Cause and Other Essays (New York & London: W.W. Norton, 1978), pp. 64-74.

Christopher Norris, Against Relativism: Philosophy of Science, Deconstruction and Critical Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997). 

Christopher Norris, Truth Matters: Realism, Anti-Realism and Response-Dependence (Edinburgh: Edinburgh U. Press, 2002, 2005).

Christopher Norris, "Hawking Contra Philosophy," Philosophy Now, Issue 118 (2017), pp. 2-4. (Can philosophy be defended or justified in the age of science? Perhaps this is merely a matter of "interpretation." This essay is available online.) 

Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1980), pp. 167-291.

Christopher Peacocke, The Realm of Reason (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2004), pp. 6-51. 

Dominic Pettman, Infinite Distraction (London: Polity, 2016), pp. 1-30. ("I know why the caged bird tweets.")

Terry Pinkard, "McIntyre's Critique of Modernity," in Alasdair McIntyre (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge U. Press, 2003), pp. 176-201 (Mark C. Murphy, Editor).

Michael Polanyi, Knowing and Being (Chicago: U. Chicago Press, 1969), pp. 123-201. (Marjorie Grene, Editor and Collaborator). 

Hilary Putnam, Reason, Truth and History (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge U. Press, 1982). 

W.V. Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism," in From a Logical Point of View (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1953), pp. 20-46. 

W.V. Quine, "Let Me Accentuate the Positive," in Reading Rorty, pp. 120-139. (See Donald Davidson's article cited above.) 

Nicolas Rescher, Kant and the Reach of Reason: Studies in Kant's Theory of Rational Systematization (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge U. Press, 2000), pp. 64-99.

Paul Ricoeur, The Conflicts of Interpretation: Essays in Hermeneutics (Illinois: Open Court, 1974). (Don Ihde, Editor.) 

Paul Ricoeur, "The Function of Fiction in Shaping Reality," Man and World, Vol. 12 (1979), pp. 125-141. (See the articles by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch.) 

Richard Rorty, "Philosophy as Science, as Metaphor, and as Politics," in The Institute of Philosophy: A Discipline in Crisis? (Illinois: Open Court, 1989), pp. 13-35 (Avner Cohen and Marcelo Dascal, Editors).  

Richard Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers, Vol. I (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge U. Press, 1991).

S.D. Ross, Metaphysical Aporia and Philosophical Heresy (New York: SUNY, 1989), pp. 213-253. 

George Santayana, Skepticism and Animal Faith (New York: Dover Pub. 1955, 1st Ed., 1923), pp. 164-182. 

John R. Searle, "Truth: A Reconsideration of Strawson's Views," in The Philosophy of P.F. Strawson, pp. 385-401, "Reply to John R. Searle," by P.F. Strawson, pp. 402-404.

Gila Sher, "Introduction to and Commentary on Jennifer Hornsby's 'Truth: The Identity Theory,'" Proceedings of the Aristotelean Society, Virtual Issue, No. 1 (2013). (Available online free of charge.) 

Peter Sloterdick, Critique of Cynical Reason (Minn.: U. Minn. Press, 1987), pp. 217-326. (Michael Elred translation.)

Huston Smith, Beyond the Postmodern Mind (New York: Crossroads, 1982, 1989).

T.L.S. Sprigge, "Ayer on Other Minds," in The Philosophy of A.J. Ayer, pp. 577-598, "A Reply to T.L.S. Sprigge," by A.J. Ayer, pp. 598-607. 

T.L.S. Sprigge, The Vindication of Absolute Idealism (Edingburgh: Edingburgh U. Press, 1983).

George Steiner, Grammars of Creation (London & New Haven: Yale U. Press, 2001). 

Jeffrey Stout, Ethics After Babel: The Languages of Morals and Their Discontents (Boston: Beacon Press, 1988), pp. 60-109.

P.F. Strawson, "Knowledge and Truth," in Philosophical Writings (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2011), pp. 109-117. (Galen Strawson and Michelle Montague edited this posthumous collection.) 

The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends (New York & Paris: Semiotexte, 2015), pp. 131-167. (Distributed in the U.S. by MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.)

Peter Unger, Ignorance: A Case For Skepticism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), pp. 272-321.

Gore Vidal, "Starr Conspiracy," in The Last Empire: Essays 1992-2000 (New York: Vintage, 2001), pp. 426-431. 

Georgia Warnke, "Hermeneutics and the Social Sciences: A Gadamerian Critique of Rorty," Inquiry, Vol. 28 (1985), pp. 339-357.

Georgia Warnke, Gadamer: Hermeneutics, Tradition and Reason (Stanford: Stanford U. Press, 1987).

Bernard Weiss, Michael Dummett (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2007).

David Wiggins, "Meaning and Truth Conditions: From Frege's Grand Design to Davidson's," in A Companion to the Philosophy of Language (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), pp. 3-28 (R. Hale & C. Wright, Eds.).

Bernard Williams, Truth and Truthfulness: An Essay in Genealogy (Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 2003). ("Bernard Williams and Identity.") 

Bernard Williams, Essays and Reviews: 1959-2002 (Princeton & Oxford: Princeton U. Press, 2014), pp. 184-187, pp. 283-288.

Michael Williams, Problems of Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford U. Press, 2011).

Crispin Wright, Realism, Meaning and Truth (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986). 

Crispin Wright, Truth and Objectivity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. Press, 1992).

John W. Yolton, "Mirrors and Veils, Thoughts and Things: The Epistemological Problematic," in Reading Rorty (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), pp. 58-74 (Alan R. Malachowski, Editor).  

"I'm a very instinctual person, but my instincts turn out to be right." -- Donald J. Trump.

A recent Time magazine cover story establishes a relationship with one of the most famous covers and articles in the history of that magazine from April 8, 1966 focusing on the question "Is God Dead?" 

Not one of the commentators in this most recent discussion noticed the interconnection between the two questions examined in the magazine -- questions that are separated by a few decades concerning the alleged deaths of "God" (ontology) and "Truth" (epistemology, metaphysics).

Capitalization of the word "Truth" is essential in this discussion since it is the possibility of Truth (as an abstract universal or value) rather than particular truths (is it now raining?) that is at issue in this new version of an ancient controversy. 

We wonder whether any statement (or other use of language) is "better" or more accurate than another apart from our sometimes sinister human purposes in the realm of values (or politics) as well as in our descriptions of all empirical phenomena. 

This raises the further question, in other words, of whether there is an "ultimate" reality without a guarantor of that reality or God. ("Is it rational to believe in God?")

If there is nothing "out there" but what we decide to describe (or select) from the furniture of the universe to call "real" and if America's most celebrated philosopher in recent memory, Richard Rorty, is correct when he says that truth is merely a property of statements about the world that "says nothing about the empirical world" or objective reality -- if there are such things -- then it may be absurd even to wonder whether truth is "dead." ("Richard Rorty's Ethical Skepticism" and "Why I am not an ethical relativist" then "John Finnis and Ethical Cognitivism.") 

After all, nothing that is non-living can die. The metaphorical nature of the question concerning whether truth is "dead" may be part of the problem. ("Metaphor is Mystery" and "What you will ...") 

Given that the question as formulated is metaphorical any response will only raise hermeneutic issues. 

Truth cannot die. However, truth may (or may not) exist. As a matter of fact even if truth about an issue must exist, theoretically, it remains an open question whether we can come to know with certainty what is the truth about any subject. 

Since no definition of truth is offered by the writers of the article(s) in Time and given that different aspects of the journalists' discussion of this question assume different (and conflicting) definitions of truth it may not be possible to discern a single conclusion on the issue from this/these article(s), or even concerning what question is being discussed, nor what logical criteria (if any) are to be deployed in order to resolve the issue.  ("Is clarity enough?")

It is likely that several different essays were drafted by distinct groups of journalists at Time. An editorial effort was then made to unify the resulting articles into a single leading piece or cover story in the magazine. The resulting essay was less than entirely successful in integrating the conflicting elements. 

It may not be possible to speak accurately based on the Time magazine discussion about whether "power determines truth" -- a view that is favored by Mr. Trump perhaps -- or whether truth is "all relative" or merely a "redundant" compliment that we offer to the sentences that "work best" in allowing us to navigate empirical reality. 

The controversy about whether truth is a "correspondence" between what we say about reality and reality as such; or merely a matter of the "coherence" of our statements concerning what is so because we can never escape our languages and forms of representation; or the claim that truth is merely "whatever" works in a "pragmatic" sense; or some other best option among the various theories of truth remains unresolved -- and it is not even examined in this symposium -- but the journalists commenting on Mr. Trump's statements are persuaded that whatever truth may be Mr. Trump is a stranger to it often enough to raise problems for the rest of us in a democracy.

I was told by adversaries in an Internet debate that "it's all relative!" These adversaries failed to appreciate the implications of their own statements. 

It seemed to me during that delightful online discussion -- more so now -- that such skeptical and even nihilistic conclusions are deeply embedded in American culture for important reasons.

After the disillusions of the sixties, loss of religious beliefs for many people, collapse of authority in many institutions, triumph of seventies' "situation ethics" and the sharp decline of intellectual standards since the eighties as well as the pervasiveness of "political correctness" the arrival of someone like Donald J. Trump at the center stage of American politics should have been expected.

It is not simply that politics has become a "reality show" but that our lives have become a televisual-cinematic spectacle where illusions and lies must be expected at all times and from every quarter. 

Mr. Trump's "Tweets" give a new poignancy and meaning to the mantra of the I-phone generation: "Whatever." Indeed, Mr. Trump may be our first "Whatever" president:

"Time Editor Nancy Gibbs writes that just like [sic.] many said they believed in God in 1966, many today would say they believe in truth, and yet we find ourselves having an intense debate over [truth's] role and power in the face of a president who treats [truth] like a toy." (Time, p. 2.) 

Mr. Trump is not alone in treating truth as a tool or weapon or something infinitely malleable according to his purposes. 

Politics is often a struggle to define the agenda or decide on what the truth will be for selective purposes. 

Without objective truth neither political wisdom nor legal justice is possible. Perhaps we have given up on the values of wisdom and justice with the recent abandonment of truth. 

Truth in politics -- perhaps in law also -- is said to be about "power" often enough, or maybe what we claim (or pretend) to believe, publicly, is about power and/or self-interest, but there was a time when such "useful lies" were recognized and admitted, privately, to be what they always are, at least when this honesty became unavoidable, fictions to serve social purposes. This very recognition implies that something beyond our social purposes is not fictional. 

Few people extended this "flexibility" in epistemological matters as concerns political and legal issues to the scientific and academic controversies where it was assumed, traditionally, that truth would always be determined exclusively on the basis of logic and evidence. 

This distinction between useful fictions and objective truth was not as pristine or perfect as we may have wished, but nonetheless it seemed to hold for decades in the twentieth century and may no longer be recognized. 

After the further disillusions of the past several decades ("I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewisnsky!") and the much-discussed crisis of authority and ethics detected in our culture in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Iran-Contra, assorted Wall Street frauds and scams, together with the philosophical revolution following 1968's intellectual "happening," even elite philosophers have joined the attack on truth. ("Michel Foucault and the Authorship Question" and "Jacques Derrida's Philosophy as Jazz.")

Michel Foucault pointed out that "truth is a thing of this world" fashioned and not discovered for "human purposes" so that it should come as no surprise that a man who is unlikely to curl up at night with his copy of Derrida's Grammatology or Deleuze's and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus would find himself explaining "reality" from the White House in ever-more shifting (and shifty) terms of convenience. 

Richard Rorty has suggested that it may be time to "dispense" entirely with the concept of truth. Mr. Trump is happy to accept Rorty's advice on this issue. ("Whatever" and "'Westworld': A Review of the T.V. Series.") 

Can a society with such an attitude to truth survive? Are such trendy views livable for ordinary people in their everyday lives or, indeed, for public institutions in a democracy? ("40 Persons Arrested in New Jersey's Latest Massive Child Porn Crisis.") 

I doubt that such opinions are sustainable either for individuals or nations. ("John Finnis and Ethical Cognitivism" and "Drawing Room Comedy: A Philosophical Essay in the Form of a Film Script.") 

If we discard the concept of God and if reality is deemed to depend on the observer's wishes should we be surprised at the alterations in the statements of political "leaders" from one day to the next based on what serves their interests as opposed to our interests as a people? We cannot help wondering what is truth today? What has truth become? What do politicians assume truth to be now? Is this current assumption concerning truth's plasticity different from philosophers' theories? Are scientists' and artists' views of truth also different? Is truth something "real" independently of the motives of speakers? Are journalists defending JFK's amorous adventures and Bill Clinton's statements concerning Ms. Lewinsky really "outraged and shocked" that Mr. Trump lies about personal matters? Was Richard Nixon a more dangerous liar than Mr. Trump? Does journalistic outrage depend on the politics or affability of the liar? Do journalists and judges, attorneys and bureaucrats also lie? ("On Bullshit.") 

Some clarity and honesty about this issue may be called for if we are to answer the question of whether truth is "dead." ("Robert Brandom's 'Reason in Philosophy.'") 

Perhaps it is merely the concept of truth that needs to be reformulated for an age of new media and technological modes of discourse. 

The old notion of a marketplace of ideas and opinions may be transformed these days into the metaphor of a gladiatorial arena of ideologies and values where all of us are struggling to be heard above the din and confusion and against powerful forces for censorship and oppression. Let us return to basics:

"Truth is the quality of those propositions that accord with reality, specifying what is in fact the case. Whereas the aim of science is to discover which of the propositions possess the property of truth -- the central philosophical concern with truth is to discover the nature of that property. Thus the philosophical question is not What is true? but rather 'What is truth?' -- What is one saying about a proposition in saying that it is true? The importance of this question stems from the variety and depth of the principles in which the concept of truth is deployed. We are tempted to think, e.g., that truth is the proper aim and natural result of scientific inquiry, that true beliefs are useful, that the meaning [emphasis added] of a sentence is given by the conditions that would render it true, and that valid reasoning perceives truth. Therefore insofar as we wish to understand, assess, and refine these epistemological, ethical, semantic, and logical views, some account of the nature of truth would seem to be required. Such a thing, however, has been notoriously elusive."

Robert Audi, Ed., The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy (Cambridge, UK; Cambridge U. Press, 1996), p. 812 (emphasis in original).

"Barack Obama illegally wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 election." -- Donald J. Trump. 

Part of what makes it difficult to take seriously the recent journalistic outrage over Mr. Trump's fabrications (lies) is that the same distraught journalists and so-called "pundits" are often the most adamant defenders of their political favorites' lies in the past and even today. 

I am referring not just to Bill Clinton, but to any number of occasions when darlings of the Left have been called to account for deceptions. 

Most recently, for example, on certain officials' casual attitude to email security, or the frequent "sexting" of teenage girls by the aptly named "Mr. Wiener," and in any number of other cases the "liberal" media (if such a thing still exists) has been strangely silent about the lying of all concerned, including their own lying. ("The Naked Ape.") 

The same people denying the reality of truth immediately go on to complain of Mr. Trump's lies. The level of hypocrisy in the p.c. or self-righteous media over the "Trump-is-lying" issue is nauseating. 

Mr. Trump is a politician. 

What do politicians and lawyers do in America? 

They lie in legal or subtle ways, usually, but lying is simply what such people often do whether out of necessity or from inclination. 

No one in America is really very shocked by the fact that public figures are often caught lying just like the rest of the population. 

Much depends on the context and purpose of a falsehood in assessing the culpability (if any) in a person's choice to lie. It is never O.K. to lie under oath or from a position of public trust. 

Lying is what many American businesspersons also engage in on a daily basis as demonstrated by countless social scientists in numerous studies that are well-known to media pundits. 

The United States of America is the nation that invented the advertising industry and Hollywood movie making as entertainment and that has done very nicely indeed in both areas of endeavor where lying is not exactly unheard of or uncommon. ("On Bullshit.") 

Not only do Americans lie more than most other residents of First World nations, but there is something called "confirmation bias" which indicates that, when Americans lie, they eventually interpret all facts to conform to their lies, or come to believe their own mythology, which goes a long way towards explaining Donald J. Trump's problems with old fashioned linear-type persons -- like me -- who expect cogency and accuracy to the facts from any president's statements.  ("'This is totally amazing!' -- Donald J. Trump.")

Far more troublesome and frightening than "normal" lying is Mr. Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey and other attempts to usurp nearly dictatorial powers for the Chief Executive as well as to use the highest office in the land to make vast sums of money for himself by way of tax cuts and lucrative "deals" capitalizing on the prestige and power of the U.S. presidency that belongs to the American people as opposed to the Trump corporation.

Some liars (and lies), as I have suggested, may be more defensible than others for sound moral reasons. 

Mr. Nixon's lies were about escaping possible criminal consequences of his actions, for example, and threatened the Constitutional balance of power. It may be argued that much the same is true of Mr. Trump's canards. ("No More Cover-Ups and Lies Chief Justice Rabner.") 

I have no objection to Mr. Trump's having an affair with an intern, or advertising for "tic-tacs" when he leaves office, to say nothing of grabbing women by their private parts (which may indicate his own charming way with the ladies) then denying having done any or all of these things. 

I do object to having American institutions used for financial gain by any individual and to politicians (like Bob Menendez) who presume to exist above the law while judging the ethics of others. The most self-righteous and "holier-than-thou" types in American politics are usually the worst liars.  OAE? Debbie Poritz? John McGill? ("New Jersey's 'Ethical' Legal System.") 

Alan Dershowitz has pointed out that police officers often lie about how they obtain evidence that is allegedly "dropped" by a defendant and found "in plain sight." Translated into ordinary English this usually means that the defendant was beaten to within an inch of his life and only then disclosed the location of the evidence, or that the police conducted an illegal search after a burglary of the suspect's home. 

Judges then pretend to believe these lies by our boys and girls in blue in order help put the "bad guys" in prison. 

Police lie about feeling "threatened" by African-American young men running away from them (for which I do not blame those young men!) to excuse shooting "suspects" in the back. 

Judges pretend to believe those lies also. 

Are these police or judicial or official lies "O.K."? Is it worse if we pretend to believe Mr. Trump's lies as opposed to cops' daily lies? If we live in a culture of mendacity why should we expect that Mr. Trump will be different from other Americans? 

Gore Vidal pointed out on numerous occasions that we get the presidents we deserve in America. 

It may be that the most severe judgment on our times and the darkest mirror we are forced to look at in order to understand ourselves and our national decline (or loss of values) may be the Trump presidency. 

Are we lying about our "displeasure" or shock at Mr. Trump's lies? Do we secretly approve of Mr. Trump's brazen attitude to lying when he is "successful" as a result of his tactics? Do pro-Trump voters and "Clintonistas" see this matter differently? If so, why? 

The worst and also most compelling conclusion to draw about Mr. Trump and his disdain for "objective truth" (if there is still such a concept) may be that Trump is who we are today. 

I live in a nation devoted to commerce and military power in the same way that Renaissance Florence was devoted to the creation of artistic beauty. 

The national gift for artistic and intellectual achievement -- which is unsurpassed anywhere in the world and which I love about the U.S. -- is deemed secondary from the perspective of powerful politicians and "others" to the further accumulation of power and wealth by themselves

These things (art and scholarly or scientific achievement) are "valuable" in American society only to the extent that they lead some persons to be "successful" understood in terms of the accumulation of even more wealth and power and never as "goods" in themselves. 

Donald J. Trump has wealth and power. Therefore, Donald J. Trump is "good" in the popular culture and imagination. Worse, this means that Mr. Trump "must be smart" because "he made his money somehow." Inheritance? Luck? Theft? 

To possess great amounts of money, according to American folklore, is also to be smart and good. 

I am sure that the opposite proposition is more often true. Behind every great fortune (as one of the greatest Russian novelists insists) is a great crime. 

To follow this line of reasoning is to conclude that when Donald J. Trump says anything because he is "successful" -- however absurd the statement may be -- it must be true. If it is not true then it does not matter anyway because it "has little effect on the bottom line."

This an ideological view of reality (or what purports to be reality) and of descriptions of reality that I do not share and find puzzling, but which I have encountered and debated. 

There is no climate warming, for example, if we do not choose to accept that the climate is warming because of human (meaning anything that concerns American interests) activity or industry. 

The U.S. oil industry gets to define the climate issue because they are most affected by any possible action to reduce fossil fuel emissions. The views of other nations and the billions of persons on the planet not concerned with American economic interests who may be affected by what we do (or fail to do) are deemed "irrelevant."

"I am not the world's president," Mr. Trump announced proudly, "I am the American president." 

These attitudes among the people (with many exceptions) that are also loudly proclaimed by America's "fearless leader" are not and cannot be seen as selfish, unethical, nor even as evil, neither is the tacit epistemology and metaphysics assumed by such a visceral or subconscious world-view regarded as absurd or implausible let alone indefensible because it is dismissive of science and ethics to say nothing of international law.

Mr. Trump fails to realize that, like it or not, the President of the United States of America has global responsibilities and must be concerned with the welfare of billions of persons on the planet in addition to the American people because the interests of these billions of persons are entangled with our own welfare and flourishing as is the cause of freedom and democracy. 

Ms. Merkel may be able to instruct President Trump on this issue and many others.  

This Trump-inspired casual attitude to truth is interpreted as "rational self-interest" in the good-old pragmatist tradition. Mr. Trump is a "pragmatist" we are told. 

When other nations behave in the same manner (China, North Korea), on the other hand, we are stunned by their insensitivity to American security needs.  

"The Donald" simply provides a more undiluted version of the narcissistic, well-fed, self-absorbed American "male ego" prancing on the world stage, blustering, exaggerating, downing the occasional beer or two, enjoying professional wrestling, coming on to attractive women, associating with other adolescent males (who also happen to be middle-aged men) and refusing to play nicely with others, or to accept the reality of death and other natural limitations for persons and nations. 

"As a businessman, Trump wrote in praise of strategic falsehood, or 'truthful hyperbole,' as he preferred to call it. Sometimes his whoppers were clumsy, the apparent result of being ill informed [sic.] or promiscuous in his sources. Sometimes he exaggerated to get a rise out of his audience. But often Trump's untruths [lies?] give every sign of being deliberate and thought through. [Stuart Rabner? Chris Christie? Bob Menendez?] Trump recently bragged about a drop in the Labor Department jobless rate -- after calling the same statistic 'phony' when it signaled improvement under Obama. Trump explained the contradiction with a quip: 'They may have been phony in the past, but it's very real now.' ..." (Time, p. 5.) 

Norman Mailer commented on the "progress" of the advertising industry during his lifetime. As a young man Mailer perceived the beautiful model in a swimsuit standing before a new car as promising sex as the implicit reward for the man purchasing the car. 

Today the sexual object is the new car even as "purchasing" the vehicle has become the longed-for consummation. To purchase something expensive in America may be the equivalent of sexual intercourse.  

It was once standard practice in negotiations concerning political and legal matters to lie about the strength of one's position in order to gain advantage in "horse trading." 

Now the lying is the horse trading by which one pursues absolute advantage for one's position and ignores the needs of others as long as one has the power to do so. 

Merrick Garland is denied a vote and President Obama's confirmation power is nullified even as a vote is forced in the Judge Gorsuch nomination. Senate rules are changed to put a Republican president's Supreme Court nominee on the bench whatever the other side's concerns may be. 

All of this jockeying for power is justified with blatant public lies that their proponents admit, privately, are exactly that -- lies for public consumption. Lying by politicians is not a source of shame or a matter of ethical concern: 

"You gotta say something," Senator McConnell said and added somewhat incoherently in the Garland matter, "the people's wishes must be heard."

There seems to be a new impatience with the requirements of logic in American society or public discourse and/or debate. The point is to win. There are no awards for being accurate to the facts, telling the truth, sincerity, fairness to an opponent, concern for the less fortunate billions of persons in the world, or for those unrepresented in any discussion in Washington, D.C. and/or in the U.S. courts.

"Winning" or being a "winner" means that you are "right." 

Mr. Trump explains to interviewers: "I am the president and you are not." 

Mr. Trump responds to pesky journalists expressing reservations concerning some of his statements by explaining that:

"Donald Trump won the election." 

This means that Donald Trump must be telling the truth. He must be right: 

"Get over it, Democrats!" 

I am always troubled when a politician begins to refer to him- or herself in the third person. 

Americans persuaded by Hollywood and trendy academics that "it's all relative" find it easy to agree that gender, race, sexual-orientation and reality itself are subject to what is called "reassignment," so that all moral judgments can only be "subjective," while truth is (and can only be) "whatever" you decide is true for you, or something like that. Whatever. ("Why I am not an ethical relativist.")

The observation that such slogans are absurd (or self-contradictory) simply cannot be accepted and may be irrelevant anyway. As we said in the eighties: "Just go with the flow." ("Hilary Putnam is Keeping it Real.") 

With the abandonment of God, loss of commitment to traditional religious faiths or institutions and intellectual standards -- based largely on the values developed within Western spiritual traditions -- there is a corresponding decline in respect for all public institutions, secular and religious alike (including law), together with profound confusions concerning the alleged infinite plasticity of reality (metaphysics) and knowledge (epistemology). 

This is not merely a conservative criticism of our permissive culture since socialism also depends on a firm concept of reality revealing the undeniable facts of human suffering and oppression which may be, happily, denied nonetheless by "whatever-floats-your-boat" California-style thinkers as "outdated."

Philosophical sophistication, accordingly, is found only among increasingly fewer members of the public leading to the loss of recognition of the need for truth if democracy is to work effectively in the interests of all the people. ("Why Philosophy is for everybody.") 

The real conclusion to the recent magazine discussion is expressed in a single sentence:

"Reality, for the reality-show mogul is something to be invented episode by episode." (Time, p. 5.)

If reality is something to be invented rather than discovered then how can anything one says about reality be either true or false in any objective sense? How can President Trump not lie given his ideological premise? 

Within Mr. Trump's world-view (or ideology) statements can only be true for each speaker from his or her "perspective." 

Accordingly, we are asked to accept that it is both "true" that Mr. Trump was guided by Justice Department advice when he chose to fire Mr. Comey and also "true" that whatever advice he received he was determined to fire the FBI Director anyway. President Trump has made both of these claims within 24 hours and may well make yet another totally different claim about this matter before the day is done. ("Christie and Mastro Accuse Each Other of Lying.") 

Current skepticism about truth and reality has been developing for some time and is becoming almost dogmatic in legal as well as political circles and goes way beyond President Trump: 

"Over 90% of Americans polled," Gore Vidal notes based on social science statistics that are worse today than when he wrote these words, "admit to being habitual liars." ("The Starr Conspiracy," p. 427.) 

"3 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally in the 2016 election." -- Donald J. Trump.  

As the Time magazine articles appeared expressing bafflement and frustration at a U.S. president who "lies the way most of us breathe" (to quote Mark Greene), simply as  a matter of daily existence or a way of "doing business," several other journalists in popular periodicals and elite academics in scholarly journals devoted enormous attention to the so-called "post-truth phenomenon in American culture."

Whenever such a widespread reaction to a cultural development takes place serious attention is called for and it is certainly being supplied by the media "industry." 

The debate about the "relevance" of truth now includes among others The New Scientist and First Things as well as London's Financial Times with numerous online sources joining the discussion concerning truth's role (if any) in contemporary life.

Even the terms of this debate are astonishing for those of us who wonder how anything can be discussed in a meaningful way if we discard the concept of truth. ("John Finnis and Ethical Cognitivism.")

Taken together these articles and discussions reveal a Western world that has been "Americanized" in distressing ways, according to some, where the "dumbing-down" phenomenon has reached epidemic proportions. ("Nihilists in Disneyworld.") 

What we are witnessing is less the victory of postmodernism than the dominance of American anti-intellectualism exported not only to Europe, but perhaps also to the entire planet like a new version of the Black Plague. ("America's Nursery School Campus" and "Whatever happened to the liberal arts?") 

The victory of the skeptical and irreverent or anti-authoritarian post-68 philosophy associated with thinkers such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean Francois Lyotard or Richard Rorty -- all of whom have become somewhat outdated for the "Whatever" generation -- as well as the misunderstood but influential literary essayists of an earlier generation from Norman Mailer and Gore Vidal, James Baldwin and Germaine Greer to Christopher Hitchens, David Foster Wallace and Jonathan Franzen today suggests that while "high culture" (and fashionable skepticism) is important for habitual readers it is easily ignored by the vast majority of people in U.S. media who do not read much anymore.   

We see this tension (for lack of a better word) in its most polite form even in such settings as the U.S. Supreme Court where majority opinions and dissents tend to align themselves neatly along the fault-line between adherents of Modernity's "Enlightenment" rationality (Chief Justice Roberts?) along with the values of analytical and science-respecting rigor as against more "laid-back" Rorty-style, postmodernist imagination, free-play, tolerance and hostility to gender-based and racist stereotyping (Justice Breyer?) and/or the oppression that in the eyes of some Republican justices are precisely what has made America great. ("Law and Morals.")

All of these traditional forms of discrimination and oppression as well as some new ones are favored, presumably, by "The Donald." 

" ... the U.S. has elected a president who is accelerating [the] erosion of trust in institutions, starting with the presidency itself. 'He's undermining the credibility of himself, the courts, Congress, the media. He's a one person cultural vandal,' [Professor Dennett] says." (Financial Times, "Weekend Arts," March 5, 2017, p. 3, emphasis added.)

The reporter interviewing Daniel Dennett -- whose words are quoted in the foregoing paragraph -- noted that the distinguished American philosopher is struggling to defend the IMPORTANCE of truth in U.S. society and restore the mechanisms by which truth is recognized, acquired or earned, and defended so that it can be transmitted to young people. ("Whatever" and "The First Kiss of Spring is Mine.") 

Any examination of the truth question will lead to a discussion of how we come to know what is true or are able to communicate truth. 

Joseph Epstein comments in The Weekly Standard upon the decline of liberal arts education in America that results from many factors, including academia's fondness for political correctness. 

It is instructive that the only publications in which this important issue is discussed in a serious way are politically conservative journals or magazines associated with the G.O.P. in America. 

I am not big fan of The Weekly Standard. I do not share the magazine's editorial opinion favoring the Republican agenda, but the concern about higher education is one that I certainly accept and share. The situation may be worse than Mr. Epstein suggests in this article. 

Scientific dismissals of philosophy lead to profound confusions by scientists seeking to participate meaningfully in open-ended discussions of "epistemology" and "metaphysics" (words that are confused in The New Scientist symposium) and which make the truth question far more intractable. ("Has science made philosophy obsolete?")

Not only did "scientists" in their recent discussion conflate key philosophical terms but they also began by assigning truth's definition and importance to the scientific enterprise (p. 5, p. 30) only to find quickly enough and in great frustration that the entire discussion is a "philosophical matter." 

No clear definition of truth is offered by scientists and the concepts that are discussed are dealt with erroneously. (pp. 32-33.)

"Much has been written about the post-truth world in which facts have ceased to exist, [Is that a fact?] or at least to matter. All kinds of forces have been blamed, but one that goes unremarked is that sorting truth from falsehood is actually very difficult. [There needs no scientist come from MIT to tell us this.] In an increasingly complex world, it is largely a matter of taking somebody else's word for it. [For what?] ..." (New Scientist, April, 2017, p. 5.)

This powerful insight is what science offers on such questions together with the weary observation that scientific method may be "helpless" in such matters. 

Truth for these outstanding scientists outside the scope of the scientific method -- for example, in public discourse -- is a "matter of interpretation." 

This is to speak of "hermeneutics" which will come as a great surprise to the authors of these articles who may never have heard of the term and is hardly a novel suggestion. Several of the scientists commenting on the nature of truth felt compelled to ask philosophers for help:

"Philosophers may be reluctant to enter the public square, afraid of being derided by these post-truthers as yet more 'fake news' or tarred with the pejorative term 'expert.' But epistemology [what is that?] has become one of the most relevant and urgent philosophical problems facing humanity. Philosophers really need to come out -- or be coaxed out -- of the shadows." (New Scientist, April, 2017, p. 5.)

From the political Left the call has been answered by liberal philosophers eager to enter the fray in the form of Professor Dennett and many others (like Marxist Terry Eagleton and Humean Simon Blackburn). 

From the Right of the political spectrum the call has been answered by Hadley Arkes, Roger Scruton, and many others offering the traditional insistence on the reality as well as need for truths along with Truth. 

A contrast between The Humanist and First Things illustrates the emerging consensus on the urgency of the problem of truth in our time and new-found importance of persons like the authors of these articles, that is, professional philosophers as opposed to scientists in "alternative-facts" America.

"I happen to be a person who knows how life works." -- Donald J. Trump.   

Aside from "instincts" rational persons rely on evidence and logic to determine what is truth as well as the careful use of language to explain why something is the case and how we know it to be so.

Part of what is disturbing about Mr. Trump is his willingness to rely on "gut feelings" rather than testing intuitions or impressions against known facts, historical and otherwise. 

Mr. Trump seems to regard his feelings as right because they are his feelings and not necessarily because they coincide with the evidence that emerges in, admittedly, very shadowy matters. 

Disdain for logic among politicians and judges is nothing new in my experience. 

I am often pessimistic about the capacity of the "typical male and female psyche" to look past prejudices and other biases (or cultural slants) to determine more objectively what is true. ("Good Will Humping" and "Genius and Lust.") 

We are all very fond of our hatreds along with our stereotypes of others and reluctant to surrender them unless the evidence against them is overwhelming (if then). ("Is Western Philosophy Racist?") 

Worse is the fashionable attitude I have been discussing and attributing to Mr. Trump and many others that truth is "whatever" the most powerful person in society decides to call truth (the climate warming issue is not far from my mind) because (allegedly) there is nothing that we may call "reality" in the realm of human values, law, politics, or even scientifically, perhaps, against which to measure our statements or representations of "things." 

Everything is a "language game" or "text" subject to "deconstruction" or "written under erasure" or whatever. ("Whatever.")

These opinions are absurd caricatures of sophisticated philosophical positions that are not and cannot be understood in pop-cultural terms. ("Jacques Derrida's Philosophy as Jazz.") 

"Reality" is not "what is" but only what we choose to recognize as "real" according to the chi-chi people. (Please refer to the definition of "truth" offered above.) 

I am confident that no one "really" believes this nonsense. More and more people, however, feel a need to repeat such opinions borrowed from so-called cultural elites while sipping sparkling mineral water from a tall glass crowned with a half-lemon at a party hosted by The New Yorker. ("Why I am not an ethical relativist.")  

The rationale for such opinions has something to do with the difficulties of justifying one's beliefs and/or opinions. 

How can we be sure that we know anything to be true? How indeed. But then how can we be sure that assertions of truth (or truth claims) are false? 

We have to know a great deal of truth before we can express doubts about anything -- including the concept of truth -- since we must be able to express those doubts in language with some degree of confidence that we will be understood. In a world of limited human minds and inevitable uncertainty there are collective time-tested methods for ascertaining truths, discussions of probabilities, and always the need to revise and correct all opinions and knowledge claims, unrelentingly, until confidence in epistemic matters is achieved if it ever is or can be achieved. Conservative philosopher Hadley Arkes points out against the p.c. brigade:  

"In his redoubtable comedy Jumpers, Tom Stoppard gave us a picture of the true skeptics of our age, the people who will not even concede the possibility of 'knowing' that the train for Bristol left yesterday from Paddington Station. After all, the report on the departure of the train could have been a 'malicious report or a collective trick of memory.' Nor could it be known that the same train will leave the station tomorrow, for 'nothing is certain.' The skeptics will agree that the train for Bristol leaves Paddington Station only when they themselves are there to see it leave -- and even then they will agree 'only on the understanding that all the observable phenomena associated with the train leaving Paddington could equally well be accounted for by Paddington leaving the train.' These earnest people, who tenaciously deny their capacity to know anything; let alone anything of moral consequence, may nevertheless show an inclination to vote, to raise children, and even to run for office. They get on, that is, with the business of life, in offering judgments for the raising of their children and the better ordering of their communities, even while they insist that there are no grounds on which any of these judgments for the raising of their children or the better ordering of their communities can be regarded as true and justified." (First Things, p. ix.)

There is such a thing as deliberate obfuscation and chosen ignorance. ("The Wanderer and His Shadow.") 

One can decide whether to be skeptical even about the most obvious claims, or to develop a "will to believe" in what serves "the interests of human life" to use a Jamesian language. 

There is usually much that fits the empirical evidence and comports with the principles of sound reasoning. The choice is rarely between believing nothing and accepting conventional opinions. It is more a matter of selecting among plausible options in our politics and ethics. 

We also speak truthfully when we express or admit our doubts and reservations, but nevertheless take necessary actions based on our limited knowledge because we must do something before it is too late. Daniel Dennett commented to an interviewer:

"The arms race between deliberate deception and our capacity to protect ourselves from it is hugely unbalanced and we're in danger of losing [the struggle for truth in public life.]"

Professor Dennett raises an important issue for persons trained in law and philosophy:

"I suggest that philosophers are straying into contentious territory whenever they start talking about truth, a concept that has been furiously debated for millennia. [Dennett] acknowledges that politics involves normative judgments but that decisions must be grounded in OBJECTIVE FACTS. [emphasis added] He rails against these philosophers who forget that they rely on objective truth a thousand times a day 'even postmodernists get furious if their health insurance is misrepresented to them.' They don't say: 'Oh, that's just one of those conversations, ha, ha.' They say: 'Damn it! You told me a lie, now you fix it!' ..." (Financial Times, March 5, 2017, p. 3.) 

Mr. Trump symbolizes the ideology of self-indulgence that was so prominent when he came of age in the eighties. The so-called American Psycho mentality was accompanied by a shallow moral relativism and epistemological skepticism that has been popular with privileged Americans since the Reagan era, I believe, because it licenses greed and disdain for the needs of others. The moral reality of Wall Street's one-time "Masters of the Universe" is divided into two categories "winners" and "losers" defined in financial terms. ("Innumerate Ethics" and "Law and Literature.") 

Very few serious or important philosophers as opposed to lawyers explicitly advocate a "let-them-eat-cake" attitude on the part of the rich or the "values" that brought about the 2008 Wall Street crisis. 

Lying about the seriousness of the problems that we face today will not make things easier for anyone, but the opposite is true. Lies make any agreements or cooperation between political factions more difficult and unlikely. 

Perhaps a presidential impeachment proceeding may be a dose of unpleasant reality for Mr. Trump. For the sake of America, regrettably, I can only hope that the president is not due for such a rude awakening. The frayed political fabric of our society may not survive such an impeachment "ordeal" at this time. There is still some hope that America's sense of national community will endure and outlast the Trump presidency even if Mr. Trump's legacy or "achievements" (if any) will not.          


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