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What is truth? Go ahead, answer it.
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Since this course is about lies, diversions, all the ways that the powerful use to avoid the truth (which, whatever tools the powerful have, at least is one our side), it seems fit to start with one. This first one is called ‘the diversion into pointless metaphysics’.
The only reason humans are able to make any kind of sense of the world is because we don’t deal with the world in all its complexity. No definite assertion holds up forever. Consider: ‘Violence is evil’ or ‘Cats have four legs’. You can find cases where violence is not evil (or at least, the lesser of evils). You can find three or four legged cats. But most of the time, when we talk to each other, we know what we mean (which is remarkable but beside the point). ‘Cats have four legs’, in the normal sense, the normal use of the word. Less violence is better than more violence, it’s almost built into the meaning of the word ‘violence’.
Definitions are important. It is important to know what we’re talking about, and that we’re talking about the same thing. But at some point there is a way of slipping from careful definition of concepts into a diversion. Here’s an example of such a diversion, a dialogue between two fictional characters, Timmy and Dini:
TIMMY: Regressive taxes harm the poor.
DINI: But what do you mean by regressive?
TIMMY: Regressive– the poorer you are, the more you pay, proportionally
DINI: What do you mean, poor?
TIMMY: If you can’t afford or can barely afford basic necessities, you’re poor.
DINI: But what constitutes a basic necessity.
It is clear that DINI wanted to steer the discussion away from taxes and towards an endless game of definition. Sometimes it is sufficient to point this out. If you are asked to define terms, give the clearest shortest definition you can. But if you’re constantly being asked to define, there’s a good chance you’re being diverted.